The Shape Up Xbox One Challenge: Part One

Ubisoft‘s Shape Up is a new fitness game for Xbox One that promises to take the “work” out of workouts (it says here). It uses the Kinect motion-sensor to accurately track your movements as you jump, squat and flail your way through assorted exercise challenges. Over the next four weeks, Kotaku’s Mark Serrels and Lifehacker’s Chris Jager will be taking on the game and each other in a bid to get fighting fit for summer. This is going to get painful, isn’t it?

Shape Up is being billed as an entertaining way to get in shape without straddling sweaty gym equipment. The idea behind the game is that you get better exercise results when you’re having fun — you’re also more likely to actually stick to it.

The game boasts a huge array of 90-second arcade challenges that cover cardio and strength training. Players can tailor workouts to target specific muscles or to suit their mood and fitness level. There also a goal-orientated quest mode complete with boss battles.

The below trailer gives a pretty good idea of what’s involved:

To put Shape Up to the test, we’ll be sinking our teeth into each component of the game, including the four-week quest mode. Is the game better suited to someone with an active or sedentary lifestyle? That’s what we’re here to find out!

We’ll be kicking off the testing next week. In the meantime, here are Mark and Chris on what they hope to get out of the experience and their preconceptions of fitness games in general:

Okay, so Shape Up. I have to be honest from the get-go – I’m a little cynical about this.
Here are my general thoughts on all fitness games: they’re useless without actual motivation to exercise. They tend to be useless unless they become part of an actual habit.
But the same goes for just about any kind of exercise equipment/gimmick you care to name. With exercise in general it’s important to create the right routine and combine it with the right diet, but this pales in importance compared to summoning the discipline and actually executing that plan. More often than not – in my own personal experience – that is the difficult part.
I guess the goal of fitness games is to gamify that experience in such a way that ‘players’ will maintain that discipline by making exercise fun, by making it points based, by making it visual. But even then I have my doubts.
Because exercise in general — particularly the raw kind of High Intensity Interval Training you see in fitness games – that shit is painful. It is hard. It will be difficult. Squats are a pain in the arse – literally. Burpies suck. Push ups suck.
And core training? Lord Jesus Christ on a bike – core training has to hurt for it to be useful! Core training is literally a war of attrition between your will to succeed and your ability to withstand pain.
So yeah, I guess what I’m trying to say is that all fitness games have an uphill battle to fight. They have to really create in players a goal that feels tangible and fun to aspire to. That’s difficult when you’re going to have to endure all that physical pain to get there.
Alright, and with that I’ll introduce myself and what the hell I’m doing here.
My name is Mark Serrels, I’m the Editor of Kotaku Australia and I’m supposed to be the ‘fit guy’ in this equation. But my fitness is very specific. In my spare time I rock climb and I train fairly intensely for this task. I’m lean. I’m about 5 9” tall and I weigh about 66-67 kilograms depending on the day. I’m going to guess that I’m rocking about 10-12% body fat, which is pretty low. I can do a one-arm pull-up on a good day. I can do about 40 or so regular pull ups without stopping.
Actually all I’m good for is pull ups.
But without sounding arrogant I think I have a good general level of fitness. I don’t do much cardio, but a huge part of climbing is focused on core strength, so I’m fairly strong in that area. With these types of fitness games improving core strength is usually a big part of the equation — I’m keen to see what kind of exercises this game will make me do and how capable I’ll be when performing them. Also – you can never have enough core strength in my opinion. If this game can make me improve my core in any way I’ll be super happy.
I’m also keen to see if a game like Shape Up can help me improve my general fitness. Actually, in general I’m just curious. Shape Up is all about really pushing the competitive points-based side of gaming and bringing exercise to that. I want to see what they do and how they do it.
I don’t see any harm in trying!

My first experience with fitness video games was at E3 2010. It was a psychologically mortifying experience that still triggers occasional ‘Nam-style flashbacks to this day.
2010 was the year Sony and Microsoft both launched motion-controllers in a bid to take on the Nintendo Wii. This resulted in roughly seventy thousand Kinect and Move games littering the E3 showroom floor; almost all of which were fitness-related. It was a brutal introduction to the genre.
During the show, I engaged in more high-intensity exercise than I typically receive in a full year. Instead of merely giving my fingers a workout, E3 2010 forced me to put my entire body on the line — and the fitness demos just kept coming.
The amount of running, jumping and ducking I was subjected to bordered on unusual cruelty: they even forced me to do star-jumps. During a Kinectimals hands-on, one of my mates almost puked. Or maybe that was me — a lot of what transpired in that sweaty gaming booth has been suppressed from memory. But there is one thing I’m sure of: there was nothing remotely “fun” or “casual” about any of these games. This shit was the epitome of hardcore.
You can therefore appreciate my trepidation when the Shape Up challenge was presented to me. Unlike Serrels, I’m not particularly fit which is a nice way of saying I’m a sentient man-blob. I basically eat cheeseburgers for a living: along with all that implies.
I’m an inch shorter than Mark and current weigh around 80kg — very little of which is muscle. Playing a fitness game intensively for four weeks sounds absolutely terrifying. Frankly, I don’t get paid nearly enough for that kind of bollocks.
On the other hand, summer is just around the corner. If Shape Up can help me shed a few kilos before the holidays, it will be doing the beach-goers of Australia an important service. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even enjoy it and start exercising for fun. [clear]


Join us next Friday to find out Chris’ and Mark’s first impressions of the game.

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