Adidas MiCoach for Playstation 3
An excellent new entrant into the world of Playstation fitness games but not without its faults.
I’ve been waiting with great anticipation for the release of miCoach by Adidas.Those who’ve been keeping up with this blog are familiar with the drama this game went through to get release. It was originally supposed to be released by THQ, who after going through financial difficulties decided to scrap the title. This didn’t sit well with Adidas, of course. Lawsuits ensued and at the end of the day 505 Games was chosen to publish the game.
The last really excellent workout game that was developed for any system was EA Sports Active 2, but it seems that EA has all but abandoned that franchise. The Wii U will be getting Wii U Fit in the fall, and the Xbox will be getting Nike+ Kinect, which means Adidas MiCoach is really the only serious player in the fitness game market for the PS3 in the foreseeable future.
The first thing to know about Adidas MiCoach is that it requires the Move controller. The game doesn’t even allow you to use a Dualshock or a Navigation controller to select menu items, which I found a little frustrating. After a lot of trial and error, I found that the best way to navigate menus is to point the Move controller up (or down), and then lightly tap the trigger button to move from option to option.
The game starts out with a video greeting from the athletes who’ll be “training” you. What’s very cool about this is that all of them are real athletes and stars in their respective sports, from Dwight Howard to Kaka to Tyson Gay, to Andrea Petrovic, to Eric Berry. The online trainers are rendered very well; with a few exceptions they look like their real selves and not some creepy computer-animated version of themselves (I’m talking to you, creepy Jenny McCarthy). One other useful thing I learned from this intro video is that the game is pronounced “My Coach” and not “Mee Coach”.
One thing that no one really bothered to tell me before I bought the game is that you do need to have additional equipment, namely a towel, a stability exercise ball, and dumbbells. You can use the game without these, but you’ll be limited in how many of the over 400 exercises you can do. The game also supports the use of any ANT+ compatible heart rate monitor; if you have this your heart rate will be displayed throughout the game.
Something else important to know before purchasing the game is that you need a LOT of space. You need a least 10-12 feet of space in front of your PS3 Eye camera, 10-12 feet from side to side, and the camera needs a full and unobstructed view of your whole body, as well as the floor. If you don’t have this the game will be terribly frustrating for you.
There are three basic options in the game: Training Plan, Training Games. and Conditioning.
I would call Training Plan the “hard core” portion of the game that literally lives up to the name “My Coach”. I would say that Training Plans are not suitable for somebody looking for casual fitness, but rather inteded for someone who wants to do some professional-caliber, in-depth training for a sport or an upcoming event like a marathon.
In fact, the first thing you do when you select Training Plan is to select a sport you’d like to train in. Your choices are basketball, football, running, soccer, and tennis. You can also choose from two generic options: men’s training or women’s training, and you can select “Getting Started” which will acclimate you to the system with some simple stretches.
The training provided can get very technical. I’m not a professional athlete, but I’d guess that the programs here are comparable to the types of programs that professional strength and conditioning coaches might use for their respective sports.
For each of the sports there are core exercises to 1) build strength, 2) increase speed, or 3) maintain a certain level of fitness during the season. Within each of these options are additional choices; for example, under “build strength” for basketball, the sub-options are 1) game shape, 2) build lean mass, 3) maximize strength, and 4) sky high, each focusing on a different area of strength training.
Once you choose one of these sub-options, you’ll get set up with a set number of workouts over a set number of weeks (for example, “sky high” consists of 12 workouts of 4 per week over a 3 week period). You’ll also be told what equipment you need, and your calendar in the game will be set for you.
Here’s a video of one of the workouts under Football. Those of you who follow the blog will recognize my ninja outfit; for those of you new to the blog, the reason I hide my identity is twofold: first, I’m bashful, and second, I have no intention of becoming the next Wii Fit Girl.
These are not easy workouts. Most of them last anywhere from 45 minutes to over an hour and have an intense number of exercises. As I said, the exercises get very technical, tailored towards working out parts of your body needed to excel in the sport you chose–there are floor exercises and stretches, cardio workouts, and drills. And with each sport, you’ll have actual professionals who’ll demonstrate the exercise to you and give “insider” tips during the training. The professionals include:
- Tennis: Ana Ivanovic, Andrea Petkovic, and Fernando Verdasco
- Football: CJ Spiller, Eric Berry, Jozy Altidore, Von Miller
- Soccer: Gareth Bale, Jose Mourinho, Kaka
- Basketball: Josh Smith, Dwight Howard, Jrue Holiday
- Track: Tyson Gay, Jessica Ennis
As you progress through your workouts you can unlock video “master classes” from the athletes which give you further advice.
One thing to note is that you do NOT get intense cardio workouts with these exercises, which are aimed more at strength and flexibility training. See the “MiCoach Integration” section below for more about this.
This is the “lighter”, “more fun” portion of the game, and it is fantastic. It consists of simulations of actual sports.
Specifically, you can practice shooting baskets. You basically hold your Move controller in your hands while pressing the trigger and make a shooting motion like you’re holding a basketball. Release the trigger to shoot. The sensation is shockingly realistic. Like real basketball, it takes some trial and error to figure out how hard to make your throwing motion, and admittedly sometimes you’ll make a slight move and the basketball will go sailing over the backboard. But once you get used to the game, it’s an amazing simulation. What’s more amazing is that you can move to the left and right and the image on the screen will move with you. By far the most realistic basketball simulation I’ve played on any video game system.
You can also simulate being a soccer goalie blocking shots, again an excellent simulation that really requires you to move. As the ball comes toward you you have to time your leap and your hands to block the shot.
Finally, there’s a tennis game that has you returning serves and trying to hit blocks; not the most accurate simulation, but one that’s still a lot of fun.
The level of workout you get from these training games is not nearly what you’d get from playing the real thing, of course, but it’s a very well executed part of the game that provides some workout, and some very good fun and much needed distraction for the shorter-attention-spanned amongst us.
This is the part of the game I’d suggest for the more casual fitness gamer. Each conditioning routine consists of a certain amount of exercises, followed by recover periods, followed by training games. The conditioning workouts seem to be around 20 minutes, making them ideal for morning or evening exercise. Strangely, you can’t schedule conditioning by itself into your calendar, you can only add it on to an existing Training Plan (great if you have 2-3 hours a day to workout, but not great for the rest of us).
Now for the most important question in a PS3 Fitness game: how accurate were the motion controls?
Interestingly, not all exercises use the Move controller. The game attempts to be Kinect-like by use just the Playstation Eye camera to track certain exercises. This is a welcome development for those exercises where it’s just too unwieldy to try to hold a controller. As for how well it works, I’ll be honest, it’s hit or miss. There are times when I’d be adjusting my position to prepare myself for the exercise, and the system will have already counted my random movements as two or three reps.
For those exercises that use the Move controller, again, I found them hit or miss. I found that exercises where I had to lie on the floor were more “miss”, while exercises while standing or on the stability ball were more “hit”.
The biggest takeaway for me was not that the motion controls were horrible, but that your conditions need to be absolutely perfect for the system to recognize your motions correctly. It’ll take some trial and error to figure out the best positioning for you (both standing up and lying down) as well as for your PS3 Eye camera. One good thing that MiCoach does is allow you to skip an exercise if it realizes it’s not tracking you properly, instead of berating you mercilessly for your failure (I’m talking to you, creepy Jillian Michaels). But I would have much preferred for them to provide some better guidance on how to set up your system and your environment rather than just bail on you.
INTEGRATION WITH MICOACH
MiCoach for PS3 was designed to integrate with MiCoach.com (and by extension with their iPhone app). MiCoach.com was designed to give you the ability to set up both cardio workouts and strength/flexibility workouts for different sports, and to track your progress–using high priced MiCoach accessories, of course, but also allowing you to enter on the Web site any exercise you did (say, if you played in a softball game or a tag football game). What the PS3 version of MiCoach does is replace the “strength/flexibility” workouts on the Web site with interactive versions of the same workouts.
Again, it’s up to you to supplement your workouts with the cardio workouts on the Web (most of which are interval training). For example, I’ve decided to do the “Men’s Training – Get Lean” program on the PS3, while using my iPhone to track the cardio of me walking 20 minutes a day from my office to the train station.
As I mentioned before, the game does communicate with MiCoach.com. I already had a MiCoach account, so all I had to do was enter my Playstation ID and a personalized six-digit code under “Settings > Sharing/Connections”. If you don’t have a MiCoach.com account yet, you can set up a new one for free (you’ll be prompted to do so when you first set up the game) and you can enter your console ID when you sign up.
The integration isn’t perfect. There are times I’d set up plans on the PS3, and the Web calendar wouldn’t be updated (for example, when adding conditioning exercises to Training Plans). Similarly, there are times I’d make adjustments to the calendar on the Web (such as adjusting the date for a specific workout) and the PS3 version wouldn’t be updated. The Web version had a pretty good overview of all the activity I do, but the PS3 version was lacking everything I did on the iPhone. You’re very much limited in what you can do on the PS3–you can change the days of the week you work out or “catch up” on missed workouts by picking up your plan from today, but you can’t delete workouts or move them around. There also seem to be a lot of bugs with data on the PS3; according to the stats, last week I travelled 31,726 miles in one workout (in case you’re wondering, the right answer is 2.12). One wonders how much the THQ/505 Games snafu contributed to the sloppiness here.
Overall I give their integration efforts an A for effort, but a D for execution. They have a lot of work to do here.
Overall, MiCoach for PS3 is a game that shows a lot of promise. If you are already an active user of MiCoach; already own the required equipment such as an exercise ball and hand weights; or are actively training for any of the supported sports, I’d highly recommend it. If you’re more of a casual gamer I’d still recommend it for the training games and the conditioning exercises, but the full training plans may be overkill for you.
I give the concept, the graphics, and the attention to detail in the individual exercises a 5 of 5, but the motion control issues and the snafus with integration are enough to push it back down to a 4 of 5. Still, I’d say the game easily surpasses games like Fit in Six, UFC Personal Trainer, and EA Sports Active 2–and is on par with Get Fit for Mel B–to jump into the echelons of the Best PS3 Fitness Games. Hopefully they will continue to work on these things and send updates to both the Web site and the PS3. This thing has a ton of potential, but it just falls a little bit short of perfection at the moment.