Fitness games are something that we’re still exploring the potential and capabilities of, especially after Wii Fit pioneered the genre. I like to consider myself a uniquely qualified person to review fitness games since I go to the gym regularly and enthusiastically. Based on this perspective understand what it means when I say that EA Sports Active 2 is robust enough to not only make exercise fun, but also provides a fairly capable workout. I won’t go as far as saying it’s a substitute for the gym (sorry, couch potatoes) but it’s a great augmentation for someone who wants to live a healthier lifestyle.
EA Sports Active 2 is packaged with three wristbands billed as the Total Body Tracking System. By wearing wrists on your arms and one of your ankles, the system measures your heart rate and tracks your motions in order to gauge your progress during workouts and calculate how many calories you burn based on the data. It’s a clever and precise system, and setup is extremely easy: plug in the EA Sports Active 2 USB into your console, attach the wristbands, and you’re immediately set.
The hands-free nature of the system gives EA Sports Active 2 much more freedom than the balance board of Wii Fit and it’s much easier to get into your workout and get your blood flowing. The other benefit is that with your hands free you can use weights for the muscular-building activities if you so desire; I found that adding the extra weight was a great way to challenge myself. The tracking armbands also have fantastic precision comparable to the tracking of Kinect but they have a tendency to hiccup during very rapid workouts. Reconnecting simply means pushing a button on the corresponding sensor but it can disruptive from time to time. As long as they’re working, they’ll work.
The heart rate monitor also has an occasional tendency to freak out, and while it doesn’t happen often there was one time after a fairly light routine where my heart rate clocked in at over 200 beats per minute, and I didn’t have a heart attack after writing this. Fair enough, it’s accurate ninety nine times out of a hundred and gym workout equipment also occasionally registers erroneous heart rates, but it may throw off your results or calories burned when it comes to measuring your progress on a workout program.
Even when you create your profile and initial workout, EA Sports Active 2 is quite comprehensive in building your character. In addition to aesthetically creating your workout avatar the game uses your age, gender, and weight to more efficiently calculate your heart rate and your calories burned. You also have a choice to choose between two personal trainers to decide on a specialization. One coach will emphasize strength and condition aspects of your workouts, while the other will place a stronger emphasis on general fitness, yoga, and nutrition.
The game comes with two preset works outs, a three week program with well-rounded general fitness and a nine week program that’s more intensive, or alternatively you can build a custom workout from scratch. Additionally three difficulty levels are available that modify the intensity and length of workouts accordingly. The breadth of available exercises (68 in total) does a lot to diversify your experience: lunges, squats, rows, push-ups, and skipping are some of the basics but the list is far too massive to go through. Fitness activities also include mountain biking, mountain boarding, soccer, basketball, cardio boxing, and step aerobics. It’s an incredibly comprehensive batch and with randomized workouts it’s impossible for even a nine week program to feel monotonous or routine.
What I appreciate about EA Sports Active 2 is that beyond the exercises the game makes a serious effort to help the player live a more robust and healthier lifestyle. It doesn’t bill itself as a game where half an hour of exercises is all you need to do to lose weight or get in better shape but it supplements a fitness regime very effectively.
There’s an in-game journal which gauges your fitness during daily life. There’s a lifestyle and nutrition survey that asks questions based on eating habits and an “Other Activities” survey that gauges how many calories you burn in a day based on activities you do including walking, running, biking, or even house chores and yar work. It’s an insightful addition to the game that gives you perspective on how healthy you are overall, and the game even offers you tips for improvement.
The only hassle I experienced was that load screens seem a little slower than they need to be and it makes just checking your progress on a workout more annoying than it needs to be. Even in the menu when I was creating my little avatar, it took a full five seconds to load the change from “female” to “male” since the default character was female. It made swapping menus tedious.
EA Sports Active 2 doesn’t try to bill itself as an easy road to fitness but knows exactly what it wants to be: an integral part of fitness. It makes working out a lot of fun and while nothing will ever fully substitute for a gym workout, this comes fairly close. If you’re serious about getting in shape and want to make video games a part of your regime, EA Sports Active 2 definitely stands out among fitness games.
[Author’s note: I reviewed the PlayStation 3 version of this game, which is why there was no discussion on the Kinect-compatability of the Xbox 360 version]
There isn't anything particularly memorable or offensive about the way EA Sports Active 2 presents itself. It's ordinary, but functional.
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The diversity of exercises and option to create custom workouts goes a long way to make exercising fun
Much like the presentation the sound is fairly typical, but nicely ambient during the workout regimes
How long EA Sports Active 2 lasts is wholly dependent on your discipline but the game includes a lot of features to keep you grounded in your workout schedule
EA Sports Active 2 stands as one of the better fitness games on the market and sets an example for future endeavors in this genre