I consider myself somewhat of an expert when it comes to exercise, not because I’m in fantastic shape, or that I’m a trained professional, but because I’ve tried pretty much every fitness trend out there. When the Kinect came out, needless to say I was anxious to combine my love of gaming while getting a great workout at home, especially since I had given up my gym membership. A few games, namely Your Shape Fitness Evolved, have come close to being a great alternative, and while they provide good workout and are quite fun, I have never felt they were truly challenging enough. When Nike+ Kinect was announced at E3 earlier this year I was very optimistic that this could be the workout game I was looking for as a good alternative to going to the gym. Having used the Nike Training App for iOS in the past, I know just how hardcore their workouts can be. So, does this latest fitness game live up to my expections? Yes, but with one caveat, if you have the space to truly take advantage of it.
As I started the game and selected the personal training mode with a swipe of my hand, which was quite smooth I must say, I watched a brief introduction about how the game would work to make me “Athlete Fit”, a term that is repeatedly used throughout. The Nike Fuel Print is introduced, which is, according to Nike, “your fitness benchmark made of the core pillars of Fitness and Athleticism, and it’s calculated as a percentile”.
After selecting a personal trainer – you can choose male or female – I selected my fitness goal. You have three choices. The first choice is Get Strong, which is full of strength training drills that will help you develop a more powerful body, improve your metabolism and raise you performance levels. The second choice is Get Toned, a mix of cardio and strength drills that work every inch. The third and final choice is Get Lean, which consists of high intensity cardio drills that burn serious calories and fat. I certainly have a few pounds to lose, so I settled on Get Lean and moved on to the assessment and Fitness Challenge.
The assessment and fitness challenge is a series of drills that determined my body’s strength and weaknesses while determining what level to start my training. These drills tested balance, flexibility and endurance. This part of the game really impressed me. It was able to pinpoint my weaknesses, sensing things like my left leg being weaker then my right and that my squats needed a little work. These drills were quite tough, and this wasn’t even the start of the program! Once the assessment was complete, I found out my Nike Fuel print (which I’m not sharing!) and how it compared to others on my friends list that had played the game. You can take this assessment at any time, which is a great way to see how you’ve progressed with your workouts the more you use Nike+ Kinect.
With this information, a customized 4-week program was created based on my skill level and the time I could commit to my workout routine. I guess I am not in as great as shape as I thought I was, because it started me out at the beginner level. My program consisted of cardio and strength drills that left me red in the face and I found I was sore in muscles I didn’t even know I had! I can only imagine what the intermediate and advanced levels will bring. There are squats, box jumps, jumping jacks and numerous other cardio intensive exercises that you will perform in 20 to 30 second intervals. If I wasn’t sure how to perform a move, there was a tutorial option to show the proper position. And if you find the move down right impossible, there is also the option to skip it if needed.
As you continue to go through your routine there is also an intensity meter that increases as you do more reps or perform a move correctly. If you are doing the move incorrectly, there is text on screen that tells you where you need to improve; however, this isn’t particularly helpful if you are in plank or push-up position and not facing the TV. An audio cue would have been appreciated here. The on-screen trainer provides much encouragement, pushing you to go faster, perform more reps, telling you you’re almost there when you’re ready to give up. The session I did had three sets of these drills, with a “Hole in the Wall” style game at the end of each set, which added a fun factor to it; but if you feel like challenging yourself further, the game will ask if you want to add another set before you cool down.
Once the training session has been completed for the day the personal training option is locked in the menu until your next scheduled workout day. There are also leaderboard challenges to complete, 5-minute mini workouts and Quick Start workouts to do. You can also complete a group workout with a friend and connect via video chat. Although I did not have the opportunity to try this I don’t think I really want any of my Xbox LIVE friends seeing me sweating and gasping for breath. There is so much to do in Nike+ Kinect and I am really impressed with the wide range of exercises available. That being said, I do wish there was the option to customize and create your own workouts. You can however customize your music using tracks/albums that you may downloaded from Xbox Music or copied from CD.
I do have to say that there really is something for almost every fitness level in Nike+ Kinect; however, I do think this game is for someone who is somewhat in shape. For someone just starting out I think it might be a bit overwhelming and difficult. I consider myself to be in fairly good shape and I found myself struggling at times, even at the beginner level. It really sticks to the promise of aiming to make you “athlete fit”.
If you have a Nike+ account, you can link you Xbox LIVE Gamertag to it, and the Fuel Points (Nike’s measurement of activity) earned in game will be added to the account. The game also estimates how many calories are burned, but I don’t think it is accurate at all. Although I think it can be difficult for a game to determine the exact amount of true calories burned I think that an estimate of burning 50 calories after half an hour of working out is way off, especially considering how much I exerted myself. I’d recommend using a heart rate monitor or your Nike Fuel band to find out your true caloric burn. There is a great free app that accompanies the game, and you can check out your training schedule, leaderboards, fuel points earned and other game related stats.
If there is one problem I found with Nike+ Kinect it has to do with where you may or may not do your fitness routine. Unfortunately, if you have a small living space you will have some difficulty using this game. Despite moving furniture around, and having a 7’ to 8’ play area, I still did not have enough room to properly play. I have never played a Kinect game that required as much space as this one. There were numerous instances when I was performing a move on the floor, such as a push-up or plank, and even though I was a considerable distance away from the TV and the Kinect, the game still would not recognize me. It was rather frustrating at times to have to make numerous attempts to do the drills, only to be forced to skip it to proceed. There are also a lot of plyometric exercises, such as jumping side to side or jumping hurdles, and I often found myself crashing into the furniture because there just wasn’t enough space. So if you plan to give this a serious try you should have a lot of room. I should note though that when the Kinect could see me the motion tracking was spot on.
With a wide range of exercises, leaderboard challenges, and something for every fitness goal, I highly recommend this game to anyone looking for a challenging and rewarding workout in the comfort of their own home. Even with the issues I discovered regarding the need for space, I do consider Nike+ Kinect a fantastic workout tool and plan to use it regularly as part of my workout regime.