UK REVIEW--If you have ever doubted that video games could offer a proper physical workout, then 10 minutes on UFC Personal Trainer is all you need to be convinced. Its physically demanding exercises require dedication, and those who manage to complete its 30-day prescribed programmes should enjoy noticeable improvements at the end. However, while it certainly tests your body, the game also tests your patience in rather unwelcome ways, thanks to heavily repeated dialogue, lengthy stretching periods, crashes, and other bugs. If you're looking to drop weight or tone up, then it can definitely help, but only if you put up with plenty of annoyances along the way.
UFC Personal Trainer is hard and unforgiving right from the start. It starts with an excruciating fitness test, and then awards you a ranking based on your performance. Even at the lowest level, though, the game issues highly challenging routines and then pushes you to go beyond the target and do more reps. The exercises themselves involve aerobics, such as mountain climbers and bear walks, and strength exercises, such as upright rows and Arnold presses. Many of these exercises are well established in personal training, but the UFC connection is established through real-life trainers' trademark moves, such as the Javier Mendez uppercut cross hook combo.
The meat of the game is the programmes, which focus on dropping weight or toning your body and last 30 or 60 days depending on your level of dedication. Here, the game presents you with a calendar of workout days, with the length and type of workout varied throughout. For example, on the weight-loss plan, you may be doing aerobic exercises for 30 minutes one day and an hour's worth of strength and endurance exercises the next. Thankfully, the game also schedules rest days into the plan, and if you happen to miss a day or two, it will adapt the schedule to get you back on track.
You can also supplement your programme by completing short exercise routines with UFC trainers Mark DellaGrotte, Greg Jackson, and Javier Mendez. And if you don't like what the game has prescribed for you, you can design your own workout by selecting individual routines from a list. There's also a shorter game called Hit the Mitts, where you have to punch, knee, and kick when the game tells you, and this can be fun to play with friends.
If you're motivated and not afraid of hard work, then UFC Personal Trainer is capable of delivering great results. The increasingly challenging workouts make you sweat, and offer you new challenges as you progress. The trainers also really push you to go further, encouraging you to do around 30 percent more reps than initially prescribed. You can also introduce weights into your workout, and the game adjusts your calorie loss stats accordingly. The Kinect tracking is also good, especially when you're side-on to the camera--you really have to make large arcs during the lying leg wiper moves, for example. Like in many Kinect games, it's possible to cheat when face-on to the sensor, such as going on your knees during press-ups.
Sadly, there are also plenty of issues that spoil the experience. The trainers move awkwardly, are devoid of personality, and don't offer much in the way of contextual advice or encouragement. Instead, they bark the same few quotes at you over and over, which is slightly annoying at first but becomes absurd after the 30th day. "Let's see if you can impress me with a few more" and "Your heart should be pumping now" are a couple of the more annoying quotes, and they're frequently repeated.
Another big issue is how long it can take to get through these workouts. Warm-up and cooldown periods take seven to eight minutes each, and during the quicker sessions, this can equate to half of a workout. Unlike the main exercises, they're the same 10 routines, every time, which gets repetitive quickly. The tutorials, which precede each individual exercise, drag things out even further. You can skip each tutorial by shouting at the Kinect microphone, but this can often be difficult when you're out of breath. The only other option is to reach for a nearby controller.
The game also has its fair share of bugs. Lost days on the calendar and intermittent crashes are the most frustrating problems, and there are other, smaller annoyances. The way your performance is graded also grates. Because speed is rewarded over proper form, you're encouraged to do fast press-ups rather than ones that really engage your muscles. And while the game calculates your ideal daily calorie intake based on the values you enter, it offers no advice in terms of eating or other activities. Entering these values is also a chore--setting height, weight, and age using the Kinect is incredibly fiddly, as is navigating the menus in general.
UFC Personal Trainer also offers plenty of unlockables; you gradually open up more-difficult routines, different punching bags, and new videos from the aforementioned UFC stars. Despite the fact that the trainers use motivational cliches ("Look at yourself in the mirror… You can lie to me, but you can't lie to yourself"), their lines are passionately delivered, and seeing the result of their hard work is definitely enough to give you a little push. If it's not, issuing challenges to your friends over Xbox Live should appeal to your competitive side, especially since achievements are on offer to give you even more of an incentive to beat them. There's also the ability to post your achievements to Twitter and Facebook, but the game has a tendency to overshare, as you can only turn the updates on or off, rather than posting individual updates manually. The ability to store photographs of yourself as you progress using the Kinect camera is welcome, although it's a shame that these can't be shared. It should also be mentioned just how important it is to have a soft floor or a mat of some kind, because a lot of the stretches and exercises take place with you lying on the floor.
In terms of making you sweat and offering real results, UFC Personal Trainer is one of the better fitness games on the market. Sadly, you have to put up with a lot of annoying issues on your way to a better body, from the repetitive dialogue of personality-free trainers to some serious bugs and crashes. If you can look past the faults and approach the game with a UFC fighter's dedication, then Personal Trainer can help you get some impressive results.