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Review: Xbox Fitness

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When we reviewed Xbox Fitness prior to the Xbox One’s launch, we said the app had “the potential for greatness, if Australian internet wasn’t holding it back.”

Turns out, it wasn’t our shoddy infrastructure that was holding the app back, it was Microsoft’s pre-release servers. I haven’t changed a thing at my home, and my download, upload and ping stats are exactly the same this week as last. With that said, since playing the game, post-launch, we can happily report that we’ve not experienced any of the streaming issues encountered prior to our review. That’s amazing news as Xbox Fitness was buffering videos every two to three minutes prior to launch, making the fitness app absolutely unusable.

Sumo Digital developed Nike+ Fitness, one of the best motion-controlled fitness games of last-gen, alongside Ubisoft’s Your Shape: Fitness Evolved. This generation, Sumo is changing it up a bit.

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In Kinect 1.0 fitness games, a virtualised instructor was on your screen, coaching you through exercises as the Kinect (well, tried to) track you. Extreme light sources usually meant your legs disappeared from the screen and your virtual instructor chided you, putting you in a fit of rage as you responded — in-between gasps of air, that is — that you were doing as asked.

Xbox Fitness is a different beast, essentially playing exercise DVDs while using the newfound power of Kinect to track your movements… and, kind of creepily, your heartbeat. It’s win-win for Sumo; who needs to create a virtual Jillian Michaels to tell you how well you’re doing when Jillian herself can film an exercise program and flog it not only to Xbox gamers, but shoppers at Walmart? The change to how your instructor is noticable, but it really doesn’t impact your overall fitness regime.

Everything about Xbox Fitness is awesome. There’s a ton of routines to choose from and quite a bit of them are free-to-play. Kinect tracking is much improved over last-gen’s efforts. As mentioned before, the sensor can now track your heartbeat with little problem. An on-screen Kinect display is ever-present on your screen as you work out; as you bounce about on the floor, the display shows you how much force you’re exerting with each step. The display also ‘electrifies’ your muscles, using colour to show you just how hard each is working. Kinetic energy is also shown on the HUD, with kicks and punches throwing off hadouken-like effects that give you a warm feeling inside as you pull them off.

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Whilst the tracking is great, sometimes Xbox Fitness fails at telling you what you’re doing wrong. I was doing a “Football run” and raising my legs too high, it seems, but the app never told me that. Instead, it just gave me a 1/5 star rating on the drill, leaving me perplexed. Thankfully, that type of thing doesn’t happen too often.

On the whole, Xbox Fitness is an evolution of the fitness games many of us know and love, and one that will keep you motiviated to continue. I was so impressed with the P90X workouts that I immediately spent $26 AUD on two Jillian Michaels programs. I’m fairly certain I’m going to be “Ripped in 30” now.

A free app that helps you to get in shape? You can’t go wrong.