The Biggest Loser is a television show which focuses on overweight participants attempting to lose weight in a bid to win a cash prize. The main goal for the contestants is to lose the highest percentage of weight (or most weight) to become the Biggest Loser – hence the ambiguous title of the program. Well now that Kinect has arrived it seems developers want gamers to get fit. This is in spite of the fact that playing Kinect in general offers decent exercise in its own right, especially for most gamers more used to being glued to the chairs. Developers want to take Kinect and its functionality as a gaming device into more conventional mainstream realms. They are accomplishing this with titles such as The Biggest Loser Ultimate Workout, Your Shape Fitness Evolved, and the forthcoming Get Fit with Mel B and no doubt scores more fitness products in the future. From a gamer perspective these products are as far removed from ‘gaming’ as you can get. So, based on what the The Biggest Loser sets out to do, does the console version accomplish this task and how well does it fare against simply playing Kinect or the other fitness/dance games on offer.
The Biggest Loser Ultimate Workout (Ultimate Workout) offers a comprehensive fitness program for people who genuinely want to lose weight, just burn off a few calories or dabble in an exercise regime to suit their needs. With Bob, Jillian and Alison Sweeney from the show on hand to guide you; whatever the requirements it seems this game has it covered, right down to keeping log of what you are eating and how many calories your putting in and burning off. There’s quite a bit of depth here and so some perseverance is require at the start as you enter your details, and answer questions.
The biggest problem from the offset is the rather clumsy menu navigation and button control set-up. To be able to read what your options are, you need to hover over the icons, however, the same action activates the icon taking you to another page before you’ve had a chance to actually read the icon description. This means having to back out and start again, praying not to make the same mistake again. It’s simply way too fiddly and will probably have most getting frustrated until they learn what all the options are.
Once you’ve gained a grasp of navigation (an exercise in it’s own right), then you’re ready to start delving into the various options you have. For those wishing to be less structured, you can simply select a free play mode and take part in the main fitness groups in one tailored session. You’ve got Circuit Training, Yoga, Cardio Boxing on offer alongside being able to target specific muscle groups or regimes designed for specific areas of fitness.
The main fitness program is the game’s biggest draw as this is where you can delve deeper into what’s on offer here. To begin you’ll create an on screen representation where you can adjust facial features body size, etc. Admittedly the whole interface is incredibly tiresome and inaccurate, it’s probably safe to say that most people will want to use the default and skip the rather intrusive process. For those who do spend the time, might not reap greater rewards but will be well versed in the overly fiddly interface. Once you’ve cleared the first hurdle you’re then able to record a video diary adding a first taste of player input into the program. Once you’ve decided on what your aims are and how you’re going to accomplish them, you can then take part in the regime the program suggests for you. There’s detailed breakdowns of what you’re doing and what you’re going to be doing and what’s perhaps very neat, is being able to scan your body and track your progress. How effective this option can be is determined greatly by clothing or the lack of, and acts as a great visual representation of your progress. It’s doubtful very useful for those not aiming to lose much body mass, but certainly a useful tool for those with greater mass at the start as the result will be more profound.
The exercises of which there are some 120+ on offer, are varied and challenging although you’ll often find many repeats across numerous different routines. In fact this is just one thing that just doesn’t sit right throughout the experience. On one hand you might select doing exercises for chest and arms, but end up spending most of the session working on your legs. There’s a lot of mixing of exercises, so don’t think for one moment you won’t be doing a yoga stretch in a cardio activity.
The execution and tracking is also a little difficult to follow. Whilst your instructors do offer some audio cues, a lot of the time you will need to not be looking at the TV screen. This is fine once you’ve learned the exercises, but not so great if you’re learning and having to look on screen to not only see if you’re doing the exercises properly, but also to see what speed and posture you should adopt. The tracking also seems to be a bit poor, and requiring a lot more space than the recommended 6-8 ft especially as you’ll be spending a lot of time on the floor. The whole interaction is not very user friendly in this regard, and to make matters worse, there’s a lot of unnecessary movement from time to time, like needlessly standing up, waiting for the next program to select itself, and then being asked to sit down again.
However, when the exercises flow smoothly and you’ve reached a competent level of being able to perform them, then the program becomes more fulfilling and offers an impressive array of different forms to help you lose weight or get/keep fit.
The visuals are more organic than Ubisoft’s contemporary looking Your Shape, and so in this regard you’ll possibly feel less mechanical. The navigation icons and overall interface is functional but not very pleasing on the eye and a right royal pain to use easily. This is perhaps a case of the original controller input method being far quicker than using Kinect.
The three instructors offer quite the regime and although always encouraging, they do tend to come across as a bit hardcore at times, almost telling you off if you do something wrong. Maybe this is their hard-line approach coming through, but it can be a little off-putting if you’re hearing their quips more often. Aside from their attitudes, their audio is clear and concise, however, there’s little time or room to learn how to perform exercises before you jump right in and do them.
The program offers various tasks you can undertake based on the goals you set for yourself, and so in this regard can be tailored to suit your fitness levels indefinitely. However, what’s most likely to get dull is performing the same exercises over and over so eventually you might want to move on. The program can last as long or as short as you make it, but there’s also the issue of the presentation which could factor in your decision to try something else if it comes along.
Of all the Kinect games to date, Ultimate Workout is definitely the most concise program out there. Its serious nature and attention to detail is unrivalled at present and offers something for anyone looking to do some form of exercise. Ultimate Workout isn’t without its faults though and with awkward controls, seriously tedious navigation and a lack of tutorial for beginners brings it down a few notches. This is a shame as the potential for an ultimate fitness program for Kinect users is certainly there.