Nike+ Kinect Training is set up much like a personal workout class.

You see your form on the screen, in a bubble-ish frame.

You can practice any move you like, and your trainer always demonstrates it once first.

The software assesses your fitness level and individual needs (like flexibility and strength) and it customizes a workout routine to suit you.

The new Fuel Print takes Nike Fuel to a slightly more complicated next level, looking at fitness and athleticism, rather than simply activity.

The system generally works. It’s notably better than its predecessors, including even other offerings on Kinect.

But it’s definitely quirky in its UI at times. And you’ll need a lot of free space to play at home.

But it’s definitely quirky in its UI at times. And you’ll need a lot of free space to play at home.

But it’s definitely quirky in its UI at times. And you’ll need a lot of free space to play at home.

But it’s definitely quirky in its UI at times. And you’ll need a lot of free space to play at home.

Co.Design

Review: Nike+ Kinect Is The Perfect Exercise Game, With A Fatal Flaw

Who really wants to break a sweat in their living room?

When Microsoft and Nike announced Nike+ Kinect Training for Xbox 360, we said that Nike had rebranded the calorie. Nike’s proprietary Fuel measurements would now carry cross-platform, a virtual bridge that would meld real-world activity with in-game exercise.

In theory, it sounded incredible. In practice? I tried Nike+ Kinect Training in my living room—while wearing my trusty Fuelband, nonetheless!—to find out. What I learned was that this is the best exercise game yet, but after having such perfection realized before my eyes, I realize that I might not have wanted an exercise game in the first place.

Nike+ Kinect Training ($50, Xbox 360) begins with an introduction to two Nike fitness gurus, a brawny guy and a svelte pink-shirted lady (I shamelessly chose the woman). It’s this instructor who walks you through an initial fitness assessment, a battery of exercises that assesses strength and flexibility to tailor an exercise plan for you.

The information can also be sent to the central Nike+ servers, meaning you can view a breakdown of your Fuel across platforms. The additional metric, however, is called the Fuel Print, a two-figure numerical breakdown of fitness and athleticism. It’s a new addition that complicates the Fuel model. Whereas one number used to tell the whole story, now we have three to follow. It’s a somewhat necessary evolution to track more aspects of personal fitness, but it comes at the expense of not feeling so smug about hitting a daily goal. You’ll never reach 100% fitness or athleticism by design (even Nike’s trainers haven’t, at least).

The experience of the actual workout is much like an exercise class. The instructor demonstrates a move, then you repeat it for a set number of reps. Your avatar is a blocky silhouette, allowing you to check your form as you go. And for the most part, all of this works fantastically. The instructor offers encouragement. You watch your reps grow. It’s remarkable. At the end of a workout, you get a fitness score—that Fuel Print—that can be graphed over time. And the game will make smart selections from a library of exercises to tailor a workout regimen to your schedule.

The design problems kick in, however, when something goes wrong. The game’s most specific workout feedback—the "straighten your back" level information—doesn’t generally come to you verbally from the instructor. Instead, it pops up in tiny written tooltips that appear onscreen. It’s a break in the simulation that I could overlook, except, of course, for the moments you’re specifically told not to look at the screen. Doing pushups, with my body parallel to my television, I had no clue why points were being deducted. And in fact, I had no clue that I was doing anything wrong at all until my wife mentioned the feedback on the screen.

Another issue happened when doing a leg dip. Somewhere in the middle of the exercise, the Kinect stopped tracking my lower body properly. I was asked to do three reps, and I ended up doing—I don’t know how many. But I’m writing this sore enough to know that the software needs some improved mechanics to handle these problems. IR tracking still isn’t a 100% technology, especially in a smaller room, so design needs to anticipate the 1% to 10% of the time when the system breaks down. My options were skipping the exercise or taking a break, but I just wanted credit where credit was due. Could I have some sort of on-your-honor button to push, maybe?

These Kinect issues are a tough compromise. On one hand, the software was smart enough to acknowledge that the left side of my body is a bit weaker and less flexible than my right. My instructor told me we’d build a workout plan with that in mind. That’s amazing. That’s the future. And having played fitness games as far back as Nike Kinetic on the PS2, I know how far this engineering has come.

On the other, during more than one drill, the game had me jumping across my living room, straight into a couch. The Kinect sensor knows exactly what my room looks like. It sees that my couch is there. Game spaces can generally be tailored with information from the Kinect API, but Nike+ isn’t coded to make such considerations. That means most people living in apartments can’t hope to play this game. It blindly demands a lot of space.

The Flaw
But when I found myself laying face down on my carpet, out of breath, nose pressed against a Doritos shard in need of vacuuming, I realized something else: It sounds wonderfully convenient to work out from the comfort of your own home, but your home can be a pretty lousy place to actually break a sweat. Tens of millions of us bought Wii Fit thinking we’d get in shape with Nintendo, but how many of us actually did? The experience was nowhere near as smart as Nike+, but aside from that, my theory is that these games tend to sell a lot better than they’ll ever play in a living room. They’re the P90X or infomercial ab machines of the digital world: Sure, they’ll chisel away at flab, but sooner or later, you’re going to have to move the coffee table and drip all over the rug to make that six pack happen. No interface or algorithm can address that premise.

As silly as this may sound, I almost wish that my gym had Nike+ Kinect Training. It’s by far the best workout simulation I’ve ever experienced. But my gym has real classes anyway, led by flesh and bone instructors. So I guess there’s really nowhere left for me to play.

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35 Comments

  • Thissitesucks

    And why does everything have a LIKE button these days? How about a this blows donkey sack button? Would be far more useful. Like this review ie.. xD

  • DontBpoosy

    This is some really stupid bullshit you are spouting. The Kinect got me back in shape in a week! I am addicted to it. I have to stop myself from working out everyday to have some down time to recoop. (Every other day min.. You say no one wants to sweat at home. lol What a load of shit. Try Motion sports boxing. Tons of fun! The only flaw here is you. The guy that wrote this whiney puss review.

  • Adriana

    I just bought the Nike+ for Kinect - actually - I just bought the Kinect so I could get and use the Nike+! I love it. I had a membership to the local Y and because parking was a such a pain and the classes I wanted were either too full to participate or held during my work day, I never went to the gym after the first month. 
    I do have sports injuries and that was actually something I thought they could add, say with an Xbox Live update. Being able to move a marker over the outline of your body to indicate injuries to incorporate, would be stellar. 
    Yes, you need a large space to fully utilize this game, but the specs actually tell you that on the back of the game. Do you really expect to do workout drills in a tiny space? 
    I guess I have a sweet setup: living room w/ minimal furniture, no downstairs neighbors to bother, and the right frame of mind - that this is a GAME. However, this GAME has gotten me to actually commit to regiment. For a $40 flat fee, I have a personal trainer who is tracking my progress and getting me fit in my own house, which is why I bought it. Whatever the time, the weather, or my energy level, I can always exercise. Absolutely no excuses. 

  • Herpaderpreviewer

    Exacly. You understand what is the obvious to most of us but not the this dunce that wrote this BS review. You should write the review! lol

  • Skier

    Mark I have to agree with you.  My son asked for this and so I tried it.  The program that the game gives you is not alterable, so if there is a exercise you need to avoid due to an injury you cannot swap it out.  very frustrating.  and you are right I don't know how many times it lost me during my workout.  honestly you cannot change any of the workout, not duration, reps, exercise it only looks at how fast you do the exercise and doesn't allow you to adjust it,

  • maripee

    I have been doing this kinect training for over 2 months now and I love it. I wasn't in the greatest shape when I started. I was pregnant twice in the last 3 years and had a bit of baby weight to lose. I highly suggest people get seen by a doctor before starting these exercises, as stated in the warning before you start the game. You can really hurt yourself with some of the exercises. I got some terrible shin splints after doing it for 2 months, but I have high arches and I'm prone to atheltic injuries. I love the program, though. I can't wait to get back into it after my shins heal up. 

  • SunnyvalePcGuy

    I've never worked out before, and thought this would be good to try - so i dropped 300 on the Xbox Kinect system. However, my place is pretty small, so when i went left or right, i'd typically smash into a wall or a couch too :s I bought an Nyko Zoom. Works great with the Dance games, but it shrinks me to half size in Nike+ Zoom, and somehow, the coding of the game doesn't adjust :(

    Tracking is a major issue with them game. I can't tell you people how many times a drill has been skipped,  or tracking has needed to be turned off, simply because of coding... it is very frustrating to have a the character say, "I need you to get on the floor" When you've held the position for more than 30 seconds... tried backing away and moving closer without success....

    I agree with the author. To me, it's good for a routine, and you don't mind telling the system to pause while you do the exercises, then tell it to continue. It's cool, fun, i'm trying to stay dedicated, but i'm looking for a better game, as this one is poorly developed for the Kinect.

  • anon

    Try Your Fitness Evolved 2012 or EA Sport Active 2.  Both good games.  They may not be as dependent upon accuracy and size of room.

  • Xbox Fitness

    Definitely agree with you that this is a great workout title (I posted my own review at http://www.xboxfitness.org/rev..., as well as on Amazon). Although I literally had to rearrange the entire living room to get the blasted Kinect sensor to pick up my feet. 

    I'm hoping that in the future Microsoft and Kinect developers figure out a way to A) make detection of your feet optional or B) fix the lens so that those of us who have our TVs 6 feet away can still use it (and no, that Nyko Zoom is pretty worthless)

    Thanks for the review!

  • Gruneun

    The comments about video games being a crutch or useless are unfounded.  I've been a runner and athlete for most of my life, but I picked this up for our new Kinect to see how it would substitute as a fun, rainy day workout.  I've been using it in a solid routine ever since.  The workout is tailored off your initial assessment, so it is perfectly capable of kicking your butt, even if you're already in shape.

    I agree it wants a big space and I'm not thrilled about sweating in our living room, but those are considerations that the game can't control.  My wife and I like it enough that I'm seriously considering another xbox and television for our home gym in the basement.

    I highly recommend tying your routine to a Nike+ account and getting the app for your phone.  If you're the type that needs motivation, it really helps.  If you're the type that gets competitive, it's great... and your numbers will never be high enough.

  • Eric Smitheman

    As someone who paid a personal trainer 400 bukcs per month before buying this I can tell you that hte cardio set gave me as decent of a workout as the trainer did. My Fitness is 48 and my athleticism is at 54 and I couldn't be happier with it so far. While there are some minor tracking issues it is by far the best exercise program for kinect that exists to date.

  • Arie Rich/KMP Blog

    I just recently finished Week 1 of my Nike+ Kinect Training workout and I must say it was challenging. I am an avid user of the Nike Training Club (NTC) for women iphone app, which includes most of the moves on the Kinect Training. The great thing about the Kinect Training is that it helps me improve my form when doing some of the moves. Also, I like that it helps me perform the moves slower, instead of rushing through them just to do more reps.
    My only flaw with the game is that you do need plenty of space, when jumping around and doing the floor exercises. Other than that, I did cancel my gym membership, because personally, I do prefer working out at home.

  • st.G

    I have a place that, in my opinion, is optimized for playing Kinect (for parties, workouts, etc) with a wall projection and lots of space. I have at least played a lot of the workout games and I can't speak highly enough of this one.  

    After firing it up for the first time, it put me through a fitness assessment that, in all honesty, made me puke. I'm a roller derby skater; I do that 3 times a week and was looking for something at home for the days in between.  This will work for me.  My legs are already huge from skating, but they were KILLING me after the initial assessment. I wound up with a pretty high athleticism score and a lower-than-average fitness score.  I committed to 3 days a week, and each session since then has been something different.  

    I'm going to sell the other kinect fitness games I wound up keeping because this Nike one is the only one I'm going to be using for the foreseeable future.

  • Lynne-Mari

    Well, then maybe the game is for people who want to get in shape, not for people who are already fit and in shape!

  • Eric Martinez

    I would have to disagree with THETREEOLLINS. I run a 5k or more on a daily and I did just the demo of this game and I feel very sore. I do not rely on reviews that authors write I rely on comments about this game. Is this game worth suspending your gym membership for one month since it may be the equal cost? Plus I do hate going to the gym after the new years because of all the items are being used. 

  • Usmcdoc99

    The author is right, most people will buy this for the PFM (Pure F***in' Magic) effect. Which will never work. For those who can make it work save your money, get a partner and buy a copy of 'Marine Fitness for the Civilian Athlete' Your smart phone may display an impressive graphic of your progress, but until your friends and your mirror say "Damn you're lookin' buff!" you've got zip.

  • Lynnemari Vos

    I really love this game. I have been doing my workout program that the game creates for you and my whole body is very sore today. I am sure I will loose weight and get fit. 

  • Thetreerollins

    If you're sore after a video-game workout, you're simply not in shape...