UFC Personal Trainer: The Ultimate Fitness System – The PS3 Attitude Review
To become a champion UFC fighter you have to be prepared to sweat buckets. They are hard as nails, some of the best conditioned athletes on the planet, because they know they have to be faster, stronger and more flexible than their opponents, otherwise they risk being on the receiving end of an ugly beating. They get there through following intense routines in the gym, but now, thanks to UFC Personal Trainer: The Ultimate Fighting System, you can get there simply through playing a game, from the comfort of your home.
THQ’s UFC Personal Trainer is a fitness title designed by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) with the help of top MMA trainers. It blends traditional exercises with MMA approved exercises to give you one of the most intense workouts available on a console. It measures your progress by tracking your movements with PlayStation Move – which, depending on the activity, will be in your hand or strapped to your leg (using the leg strap provided). The activities are scaled down to work with only one Move controller, but we highly recommend you use two controllers, because it’s highly unsatisfying having only half your movements tracked.
When you first switch on UFC Personal Trainer, it’ll take you through a fitness test (one minute each of push ups, sit ups and jumping jacks) before asking you to measure your heart rate. This data is used to decide your fitness level, which then determines the intensity of your activities. This basically means that if you perform well in the fitness test you’ll be asked to work more reps in your activities.
There are a few ways to approach UFC Personal Trainer. One is to work through pre-set or custom sessions with one of the three trainers – Mark DellaGrotte, Greg Jackson and Javier Mendez. Rachelle Leah also comes on screen occassionally to look hot and give some helpful advice. Each trainer has their own unique activities, so you’re not just doing the same things in front of different skins.
The many MMA specific activities compliment the traditional ones very well, too. DellaGrotte, for example, will teach you various striking techniques. Sure, they’re more fun than intense, but don’t worry because each trainer has full-on cardio workouts and plenty of muscle specific activities, in addition to these, to ensure that you are definitely achieving something. The game has over 70 activities, so there’s a good variety.
However, if messing around is all that interests you, you are best to drop into the Activities section, where you’ll find a selection of mini games, including hit the mitts, free striking, tire flip and speed bag. These are certainly more casual, but we found hit the mitts to be particularly enjoyable. Your trainer barks orders (“left, right, left, left, right”) and you follow these combos by punching the appropriate mitt. Free striking and speed bag are also good dip in-and-out modes, but sadly we found tire flip to be a bit of a waste of time. Without an actual tire, all you’re doing is bending down and then standing up again. Yawn. Generally speaking, you are better off avoiding UFC Personal Trainer if you’re looking for something casual.
We think users will find the Program mode most beneficial. Here you can select either a 30 or 60 day program designed to improve specific areas of your fitness (e.g. you can work specifically on your core fitness). This reviewer is currently working through a 30 day program designed to build my strength. It includes 22 training days and eight rest days with routines varying from day to day. Some sessions focus more on my lower body while others push my upper body muscles.
The sessions also vary in length. At the beginning of the month my sessions are mostly around the 20 minute mark but they get considerably longer towards the end of my program. My second to last session, for example, is a 43-minute-long beast. It features the following list of exercises:
Warm up, press ups, t-push ups, jump ropes, right knee drivers, push ups, t-push ups, quick feet, switch knees, upright rows, one arm rows, front speed hurdle hops, teeps, hurdle rows, upright rows, one arm rows, speed hurdle hops lateral, Mark DelaGrotte combo 2, push ups, t-push ups, jump ropes, right knee drivers, push ups, t-push ups, quick feet, switch knees, upright rows, one arm rows, front speed hurdle hops, teeps, upright rows, one arm rows, speed hurdle hops lateral, Mark DelaGrotte combo 2, cool down.
If I’m being honest, I’m dreading that one – but that’s a good sign, isn’t it? UFC Personal Trainer doesn’t humour you in the way that some other fitness games do – after all, you don’t get fit from playing gimmicky mini games from a sitting position. You need to get your body sweating, and UFC Personal Trainer certainly makes this happen. Also, with NASM’s involvement, as well as the involvement of well-known MMA trainers, you can be confident that the benefits of these activities have been genuinely considered.
That isn’t to say that UFC Personal Trainer is the ultimate fitness system that it claims to be. It has some fundamental issues and most of them stem from its technical limitations. Using Move to track your movements isn’t ideal; because it doesn’t offer full body tracking, it can’t tell if you’re correctly doing the activities.
This makes it very easy to cheat, if you want to, but that’s not really the big issue (you’re only cheating yourself); more of a problem is when it fails to track your movements. It’s not only frustrating, it’s a potential health risk; when you re-do your moves you instinctively overcompensate, usually in a very awkward way, to ensure the PS Eye recognises what you’re doing. This causes you to over stretch and use clumsy technique, and that can lead to injuries if you’re not careful.
Having said that, most of the activities will track adequately – even the tracking for press ups and squats is surprisingly good – and you can normally rely on anything that requires arm movement. It’s just certain activity, such as the side lunges, that cause most of the issues. It also helps considerably if you’re using two Move controllers rather than one.
The PS Eye tracks Move surprisingly well when strapped to your leg, but the actual strap itself is a nuisance. It’s not particularly comfortable and it can restrict your blood flow if you have it on too tight. Sure, you can loosen it, but then you have the issue of it slipping off.
The fact that you have to carry Move is also a nuisance and one of the reasons why the Xbox 360 Kinect version is possibly the better version. With Kinect you can add weights to activities (like the Arnold Press), which you can’t do this version because your hands are busy holding Move.
This isn’t, however, a straight-forward Kinect wins over Move scenario though; we recently tried free striking with Kinect and found that many of our punches weren’t being tracked as accurately as they are when using Move. Admitedly, the code was possibly not the finished article, but it’s something we’ve heard from other sources. So while not having to carry a controller certainly gives the Kinect version an edge, neither version is perfect.
As for design problems, we weren’t completely satisfied with the in-game feedback. The pre-activity tutorials are fine, but we could’ve done with more detailed feedback while we were actually performing the activities. Instead we got the same repetitive clichéd lines.
More advice on how to achieve good technique would’ve been appreciated, as would more warnings on the things to avoid. I wouldn’t benefit greatly from this, because I’m a relatively experienced gym goer, but a novice may not be aware that poor technique can do more harm than good. UFC Personal Trainer doesn’t give them enough guidance.
Our final complaint is with the sluggish interface. There is a ten-or-so second rest at the end of each activity; you then get taken to a performance screen that takes up another ten-or-so seconds; then you may be taken to a screen that will ask you to place Move in your strap, wasting another ten-or-so seconds; then you will be taken to a tutorial screen for the next session (which you may skip); and then there are the loading times on top. So basically, you can easily lose a minute or more from all the waiting, allowing your heart rate to slow down – something you want to avoid. The interface should be streamlined better.
Nevertheless, UFC Personal Trainer, aside from its many issues, will without a doubt give you a very good workout. The sessions are intense, varied and effective, and if you treat it like you would a massive interactive workout DVD, rather than an accurate performance tracker, you may find it hugely beneficial.
We worry that it’s maybe too intense (even on the beginner setting) for a groove-forming couch-lover; they will probably be better off going for a more casual title – sure, we mocked them earlier, but they’re certainly a less daunting entry point. The intensity, while high, probably isn’t enough to satisfy your typical hardcore fitness person either. We suspect they’d much rather lift heavy weights down at their local gym than play with Move in their living room; however, UFC Personal Trainer is still a decent light option for the days when a heavy session doesn’t sound appealing.
This, therefore, leaves UFC Personal Trainer for the middlers, the guys who want to get fit but can’t be bothered (or afford) to maintain a regular gym-going routine. These are the people who’ll likely buy the game, use it a few times before leaving it to gather dust on the shelf. We’re probably in this group, even though we’re fully committed (at this stage) to maintaining our program.
However, not all middlers are quitters like us, some will stick by it and we’re confident they’ll see the benefits well before the end of their 30 or 60 day schedule. We’re already feeling good after only a week, so it definitely gets you fit, and isn’t that the sign of a good fitness game?
One final note on the UFC branding; this isn’t limited to MMA fans. Sure, you’ll hit punching bags and listen to trainers as they enthuse about the sport and try to teach you its moves, but these MMA exercises are simply great exercises. We said at the beginning that UFC fighters are some of the best conditioned athletes around, so you’d be foolish to ignore their training routines because it’s associated with fighting. You don’t have to enjoy punching people or have a desire to be half-naked in an octagonal ring to take part. That’s simply not the case, so don’t be put off by UFC branding.
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