Platform: Xbox 360 (Kinect Required)
Developer: Sumo Digital
Nike + Kinect Training is designed for a very particular kind of person. Specifically, a motivated fitness aficionado who's already bought into Nike Plus via the Smartphone app or Fuelband. All their data, all their burned Fuel (read: calories), will feed directly into their Nike Plus website account - providing another platform to crush and a way to continue working out at home. That person will absolutely love Nike+ Kinect Training, so long as they also happen to own a Kinect sensor.
I am not that person. As a clinically-but-not-grossly overweight advocate of the sedentary lifestyle, whose daily exercise tends to begin and end at a breathless waddle to the shops, the fact that I'm the only Dealspwn staffer with a Kinect sensor borders on a cosmic joke. I'm the resident fitness game guru, apparently. By default. Here's another one.
Having spent some considerable time with Nike+ Kinect Training, I'm absolutely exhausted. Which, I'm delighted to report, is broadly a good thing.
It all starts with a basic fitness test. After some initial setup and an introduction to two virtual trainers (you have a choice of male or female), Nike+ Kinect Training wastes no time in putting users through the motions, testing both cardiovascular stamina and raw athleticism. Once a baseline has been established, you're prompted to identify a key goal such as improving your stamina or losing weight, at which point the software generates a month-long workout routine to be followed on a daily basis. A selection of one-off routines can also be accessed if you fancy a little extra punishment.
As with most Kinect fitness games, these workouts take the form of 'simon says' routines demonstrated by the on-screen instructors. Seeing your body represented as a shadowy silhouette, you'll ape their movements for a set amount of reps followed by a cooldown period. It's familiar stuff - a selection of thrusts, jerks, lunges and bends - but it's clear that Nike's instructors have worked long and hard on designing routines that genuinely expend a lot of energy and tax the targeted muscles rather than treading water. You'll frequently come away weak-kneed and buzzing with endorphins - indeed, you'll feel fitter even after a relatively short session. I certainly did.
After each workout, you'll be presented with your Fuel Print: a new metric that quantifies your raw fitness and stamina as well as your athletic prowess. Though this arcane figure will only really make sense to existing Nike Plus users, it can be uploaded to the servers, graphed and tracked over time. If you're already augmenting your workouts via the Smartphone App or Fuel Band device, Nike+ Kinect Training is likely to be a useful extra boon, especially if you get the brand new companion app on Windows phones.
Kinect's body tracking provides a wealth of potential for fitness games, and Nike+ Kinect Training wastes very little. The sensor can identify your strengths as well as your weaknesses (for example, my right hand side is apparently stiffer and less flexible than my right) allowing the software to make some intelligent workout choices to strengthen or mitigate your shortcomings. New workouts are generated every four weeks, designed to constantly improve your fitness without taxing beyond your limits. This is by far the most impressive part of the package, since you'll likely glean months of satisfying progression out of it. Not to mention useful metrics that enhance the overall Nike Plus experience.
However, Kinect's body tracking isn't perfect, and 'passing' a routine requires perfection. On the infrequent occasions that Kinect doesn't detect your motions properly, you'll have to undergo a huge number of extra reps just to proceed to the next workout without resorting to the skip button. This problem is exacerbated when you're forced to sit or stand perpendicular to the television, since posture correction prompts are only displayed as text callouts rather than audio cues, meaning that you'll sometimes have to get a crick in your neck to work out exactly why you've just done fifteen reps of a three-rep workout.
Space is also a key concern, in that you'll need a lot of it. Six to eight square feet will be a bare minimum for some of the more challenging routines, and it's a shame that Kinect can't recognise the amount of space you have available and tailor workouts to fit. If you have a narrow lounge, be aware that you'll probably have to move some furniture.
Presentation proves to be a mixed bag. Though smart and slick throughout, with some intuitive menus that make navigation a breeze, the in-game workoits take place in a bland virtual training space or a featureless field. Nike+ Kinect Training does little to distract users from the busywork and provides little in the way of interesting things to look at. If you're looking for a little flamboyance and flash, you'll be much better off with Ubisoft's Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, which manages to inject the proceedings with a welcome dose of the fantastical. If I wanted to work out in some boring interior environments, I'm not sure why I'd need to buy a videogame for the privilege.
Nike+ Kinect Training's biggest flaw is arguably inherent to the genre rather than the game itself: the issue of motivation. Unless you're already motivated to lose weight, tone up or maintain a specific level of fitness, having to clear out your lounge and set up the Kinect sensor at home can be a galling proposition. Chances are that, if you're already committed to your personal health, you'll already have a gym membership at the very least - if not a personal trainer of a home gym setup. Nike+ Kinect Training does little more than provide another way to burn a few calories at home, but can't compare to the thrill of getting out of the house for a walk or run, or hitting your local gym for an intensive workout.
Personally, I strongly feel that the 'gameification' aspect of fitness games hasn't been fully realised yet. Us gamers are willing to spend dozens of hours (if not days) chasing after arbitrary rewards and unlocks, or ploughing through an engrossing storyline. We've yet to see a fitness game that embraces the gamey side of our hobby, one that gives us a different context to working out and allows us to burn calories without realising that we're doing it.
But Nike+ Kinect Training isn't trying to be a revolution in home fitness. It's a smart piece of kit for Nike Plus users, and one that will doubtlessly prove a useful (if potentially minor) part of their daily lives over the next few months.
- Impressively exhausting workouts intelligently designed for the unique user
- Workouts updated monthly, real sense of progression
- Decent body tracking on the whole
- Only useful if you're already using Nike Plus training as a part of your training regimen
- Some body tracking issues, massive space requirements and other Kinect-specific grievances
- Unambitious presentation
The Short Version: Nike+ Kinect Training works well as a supplementary tool for motivated fitness buffs who've already invested in the Nike Plus system. So, mission accomplished. However, those not in its specific target audience will be better off with a more approachable or imaginative fitness game, if not a trial gym membership.