Ubisoft has made it pretty clear that it wants to be regarded as the main publisher of fitness games utilizing the Kinect. Between the Your Shape: Fitness Evolved franchise and now Self-Defense Training Camp, the company is trying to stake its claim on those who want to get fit in the living room. The catch is, at least in the case of Self-Defense Training Camp, the product it's put out to attain this goal is absolute garbage. This title fails as a fitness game, as a self-defense learning tool and in just about every other respect. It's an absolutely pointless piece of software designed only to sucker money from the gullible and uninformed.
Self-Defense Training Camp claims it will help users react and escape from situations where they find themselves accosted by an unarmed assailant. The game places the attacker in various positions around the victim and provides a step-by-step routine for breaking free and creating enough space to run away. Perhaps not surprisingly, almost every one of these scenarios begins with kicking the attacker in the genitals. No, I'm not kidding, you'll be told to hit someone in the crotch more times than an entire season of "Jackass" and "America's Funniest Home Videos" combined. Is that really considered self-defense training? Don't most people know that if a stranger grabs you, kicking him in the junk is an extremely effective way to make him let go?
The fundamental flaw in the game is the fact that since you're using Kinect, you're going to be going through the exercises alone, so they're functionally useless. Without someone physically holding your wrist or twisting your arm, how are you going to know how much force you need to apply or how far you'll have to rotate your arm to make him let go? Even worse, the game is so bad about recognizing motions and registering movement that so little as a spastic jerk is typically enough to earn a passing grade and move on to the next lesson in the series.
Further complicating matters is the fact that the game assumes that your attacker will always be your relative height and build. This is a terrible assumption, and the game failing to account for that renders most of its already terrible advice totally useless. What if your attacker is so strong you can't break his grip? Or, even worse, what if you don't have a clear shot for the all-important crotch kick? Since these situations never come up in the game, you just have to pray that scenario never occurs in real life. Good luck with that.
Also, the lack of interaction with another human means you have no way of knowing how a real person would react to your moves, so there's no room for reaction or improvisation. Because your digital assailant always falls in exactly the right spot and turns in precisely the same way every time, you're lulled into a false sense that this is exactly how a similar situation would play out live. I'm pretty sure almost any actual self-defense expert would tell you that's practically never the case, and by not forcing you to think on your feet, the game is doing a disservice to every player.
Outside of the useless self-defense classes is a smattering of cardio and balancing exercises which prove to be equally dumb. The cardio classes are meant to mimic the sort of kickboxing you may find at a local gym, but most of the routines are insipid and not particularly challenging. Balance training is just as much a waste of time, as the mishmash of yoga and tai-chi doesn't so much train your body as it makes you look foolish in the living room. In the end, it's nearly impossible to find anything to do in Self-Defense Training Camp that is fun, energizing or even remotely worthwhile.
If the awful gameplay doesn't grate on you enough, then surely the awful animation and infuriatingly perky fitness instructors will finish the job. Character models are as bland as it gets, and the animation between movements is so stiff and unrealistic that you may accidentally injure yourself trying to replicate the robotic movements. Given that it's sort of important to perform the moves precisely and with the appropriate amount of energy and force to succeed, you'd think the game would do a better job of making things flow together smoothly. But then, when you look at the total package, it's really just par for the course.
When you really think about it, Self-Defense Training Camp may actually be more harmful than helpful in most ways. Instead of providing you with useful tactics and defense strategies that can be applied in real-world situations, it merely lays out choppy "routines" that will probably result in victims ending up in more trouble than when they began. The supplemental exercises don't help, either, serving only to provide low-intensity workouts that aren't going to get anyone into shape. Don't be tricked by what seems to be an interesting premise in a fitness game. Just steer clear of this one and always remember to carry some pepper spray — not to ward off muggers, but to spray in the face of anyone who tries to tell you this is a worthwhile title.
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