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The best video game system for fitness

Which console to buy for working out

The world of motion controlled gaming used to be simple. If you wanted to flap your arms around pursuit of an illusive virtual tennis ball you bought a Wii. Indeed, the Wii stood for four years as the only available gaming system to offer an entirely motion based gaming experience. In 2010 that changed. Nintendo’s two heavy weight rivals, clearly envious of the huge success achieved by the Wii in this previously niche market, launched their own form of motion controlled hardware in Kinect and Move.

Get fit through gaming

One of the greatest successes for the Wii during its honeymoon reign as sole king of the motion control world was its sports/fitness offerings. Who isn’t now familiar with the Wii Fit board? Microsoft and Sony’s new systems will offer you new ways to combine gaming with keeping fit but which will offer the best overall experience? Here is our guide to which system to choose as an alternative to a soggy winter run.

Gaming for fitness: Nintendo Wii

The Wii employs a (now) fairly simple system to get gamers off their posteriors. It was a testament to Nintendo’s innovative approach to gaming that they offered people the chance to play a tennis game by actually swinging their arms rather than tilting a joystick or pressing a button.

In 2011 the technology may be inferior to its competitors but the fun it provides is still a big draw to more casual or younger gamers. The Wii is very accessible. Anyone can position the little sensor above or below their TV, pick up the remote and be instantly able get into the more active brand of gaming that motion control offers.

The ageing Wii does come up short in other terms when compared to its rivals. The Wii remote once the Wii’s strength are now its main draw back. It presents a few limitations but, most importantly for fitness gaming, playing with a controller alone means you don’t have to use your legs – games can be played sat down. Another limit to the technology is apparent in Wii Fit. Stood precariously on your board you are very limited in the space you can use to move. As we will explain newer motion control systems are not so confined in these terms  

Without doubt, on Wii a lot of the sports games work very well. We know Wii sports can be a bit clunky and frustrating at times but it was only really designed as a tech demo its later iterations are more polished. Wii Fit functions very well and is a very complete fitness experience. It is still among the best fitness orientated titles.

Gaming for fitness: Microsoft Xbox Kinect

Technologically Microsoft’s entry into the Motion control saga is the most advanced. Kinect, unlike its adversaries, gets rid of the concept of a controller altogether. You are the controller and Kinect can emulate accurate representations of your whole body. This should shout many things to you but how about this: no batteries. The Kinect is plugged into the mains!

This is a huge step forwards especially for active games. Kinect fitness games will allow players to fully articulate their limbs in anyway possible in the real world in the pursuit of exercise. This means you’ll be able to run, duck, jump, turn, stretch and dance in ways that truly represent real life. This allows for nearly endless development into active games and with titles like Kinect sports, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and EA Sports Active 2 Kinect, Kinect already has a strong offering of fitness games which give you the chance to do that.

The above is the theory. What it doesn’t tell you is that setting up the Kinect can be tricky if you’re a novice and that some of the fitness games require a lot of space to be play properly. We found that, even in a decent sized lounge floor space was a problem and two players couldn’t play properly.

Gaming for fitness: Sony Playstation Move

Sony’s entry into the cold war of motion controlled gaming is the Move. Combining the capture tech of Microsoft’s Kinect with the precision of a much more advanced controller system, the Move has the potential to be the most precise of all three formats.

So far Move’s fitness games seem to offer more accuracy than Kinect. If you are shooting a bow and arrow in game the camera tracks you movement while the controller tells the console exactly how your hands are positioned and it works very well in the better titles currently available. If you shell out the cash to get a controller for each hand the games will become even more fun. For example all three consoles have boxing or fighting sims but of all the ones we played at this early stage the Move’s combination of camera and two controller makes it superior – you have very accurate control over both of your virtual fists.

There are a few downsides. Firstly, compared with Kinect, the camera compatible with Move is terrible. I should stress this doesn’t affect the games for the most part but on screen representations of you in the game can look grainy. The only real technical problems we had with Move were probably caused by this weakness. A lot of Move games use the glowing orbs attached to the ends of controller to track movement. If there are other sources of light in the room or it’s well lit and thus masks the orb’s glow problems can occur and at times things can feel laggy and soft. This is more a failing of the games than the hardware.

Gaming for fitness: Our winner

So which system should you choose to complement your fitness regime? There are a few things which let both Move and Kinect down. With Move the sometimes laggy controls are a concern but we suspect these are largely software issues rather than hardware deficiecies. With Kinect the problem seems a little more endemic. The need for a large space to properly play a lot of Kinect games is a problem, although again there is room for development which could resolve the issue. Future games will just have to be a bit more intelligent in how they utilize Kinect’s capabilities. Spare a thought for the Wii. What it does for fitness games is still impressive considering its age. Despite the fact that it has probably peeked in terms of its capabilities now, one thing is for certain, it is by far the most user friendly.

We believe that currently Playstation Move just edges this contest. The fact that it uses controllers to offer high levels of precision is its main strength. In time though the superior technology of Kinect may address this balance.

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