Time to work on my ninja skills.
I am both the best and the worst person to review UFC Personal Trainer. I play the role of the kickass ninja here at Game Revolution, but in real life, I sit in front of the computer most of the day writing and editing news, reviews, and previews (for you, dear readers). [He's being modest. I've walked in on throwing star practice before. ~Ed. Josh] Not that I fit the stereotypical uncoordinated nerd, as both DDR and Dance Central on Expert is not too much trouble for me, but as I'm writing this review, my triceps, shoulders, lower abs, and thighs are sore after several two-hour sessions of the game. And I like it.
So I can't help but think that UFC Personal Trainer was designed for people like me, who want to get into shape but don't really know where to start—but let's not get ahead of ourselves and chase dreams of becoming a world champion martial artist: UFC Personal Trainer is more like going back to gym class. The first step before you even begin working out is a fitness test, a physical check-up complete with having you input your age, height, and (likely embarassing) weight, and then getting through one minute of pushups, one minute of situps, and one minute of jumping jacks. At the end of it, you might get the urge to play some dodgeball.
The results of the fitness test determines your starting difficulty level (Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced), but you can change the difficulty in the options. The only difference between them is the duration and complexity of each exercise as well as the restriction of which medal you can earn respectively (bronze, silver, gold), though that's mainly for kicks. From there, you choose a preset or customized workout with Mark DellaGrotte, Greg Jackson, or Javier Mendez, all veteran UFC trainers complete with their uncanny likenesses, voice-over work, and unique styles translated in-game.
But really, the point is to perform the moves shown and described by the trainer on-screen and have the Kinect register your moves to keep tabs on your progress. Following each exercise, though, can be difficult at first due to the instructions not being repeated and the trainer being mirrored opposite to you if you fight orthodox and not southpaw. Preset workouts tend to be conservatively flanked by warm-up and cool-down stretching exercises, which are understandably important but take a large chunk of time out of the core workout. Thankfully, the customizable option allows you to bypass all that and string together up to ten main exercises, and then save the program for a later time. The only caveat it doesn't fix, though, is that you can't immediately restart a workout after you've finished it.
The Kinect detection works most of the time and requires that you place the Kinect near the base of the TV to detect you during exercises where you lay on the floor, but there are a few occasional hiccups. About one out of every twelve jabs or crosses I performed were counted twice, which is almost fluke-cheating for a higher score and medal, and can disrupt the flow of the exercise. This is particularly intrusive during exercises with combinations, like the jab-cross-knee, and the "Hit the Mitts" mini-game where moving back from a punch or knee can be detected as completing the next full move. It would have been better if the game was able to detect your limbs, like in Dance Central, and add some time for the player to reset to the start position.
UFC fans hoping to learn the basics of fighting will be slightly disappointed that the game doesn't focus on form and technique. Methodical explanations for how to throw a punch or kick using the correct angle, defensive stance, and weight shift for balance and power—that is, beyond just a quick demonstration with words—would have been appreciated. It doesn't feel great to punch wrong for the rest of your life. Incorporating more strike maneuvers, such as body hooks, side kicks, and back elbows, would have added more variety to the exercise list, which consists mainly of general exercises approved by the National Academy of Sports.
Otherwise, UFC Personal Trainer is among the best fitness titles around, if just for the authenticity of the UFC trainers and exercise routines. Except for the blips in hit detection, Hit the Mitts is an enjoyable and replayable mini-game where you can spar with one of your favorite UFC stars, who all motivate you to keep up the pace. The game also considers whether you use resistance weights and tracks your personal progress fairly well, except that your records are buried in several menu screens. Beyond a bit of stiffness in the character modeling and some repetitive lines of dialogue, the graphics and the sound are more than passable for a game in the fitness genre. A multiplayer mode exists, but it's nothing that needs to be considered; this is a “personal” game for a reason.
As a basic introduction to the world of fitness, it's hard to go wrong with UFC Personal Trainer. It's the type of game whose potential is based on how much you put into it. As I mentioned before, I'm resting my muscles after two long sessions of Hit the Mitts and ab-targeting exercises. Just make sure you drink lots of water and bring a pad of some kind for exercises where you have to kneel on the floor. Otherwise, get back in the octagon and sweat it out!