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EA Sports Active 2 Review

22 November 2010

If you live in the U.S., chances are you are acutely aware of the obesity problems plaguing our schools. Anything affecting children gets the most attention, but the problem stretches well beyond the schools and into our office buildings. While the rest of the world has pockets of problems, America is home to some of the fattest people in the world—that’s not an insult, that’s a research-based fact. European countries are not immune to the overweight movement (or, should we say, lack of movement), as the United Kingdom, Spain, Slovakia, Greece, and Hungary all carry some extra weight. Perhaps it’s the long hours of our desk jobs, our sedentary lifestyle, our Super Sized-meals, or videogames. It's almost inevitable that you’ll hear the latter as one of the top reasons why kids are overweight, but EA Sports is hoping to change the talk about how videogames keep kids and adults on the couch and instead make people move around and get an actual workout.

The fitness subject comes up a lot here at PSU. We all work hard to make extra time for exercise in-between playing games, writing about games, and juggling home life responsibilities—college for some, careers for others. But for all of us, we try to take some time off at the end of the day to play an hour or so of a game that we want to play, not that we have to play. So when EA Sports Active 2 showed up at our door, we had to see if it was good enough to get us off the couch and moving around. Even more important, we had to see if we'd actually use it for fitness when we were no longer required to play it for review. Long story short: it got and kept us off the couch. The real test now is to see if we can commit to its full three or nine week program.

Developer EA Canada touts Active 2’s total body tracking system as the game's key feature, supplemented by an enhanced personal trainer, a heart rate monitor, and a complete wellness system that recommends nutrition and fitness tips. While you are led throughout the experience by one of two virtual personal trainers, Nikki and Devon, the structure of the workouts are extremely customizable to your abilities and fitness level.

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This is what you might look like using EA Sports Active 2

Before you actually get to the sweating and moaning, the game provides you with a tutorial on how to strap the sensors to your extremities. There are three wireless sensors, including two armbands motion sensors, one with a heart rate monitor, and one sensor for your leg. Other than the leg band, the sensors are not all that uncomfortable to wear. The leg band tends to slip, especially during the running-in-place exercises. We either had to make it extra tight, typically cutting off circulation halfway through our workout, or readjust the strap during cool-downs. Either way, the leg band is the only nuisance in terms of equipment. Workout attire is extremely important, especially in regards to your leg band; you really need to wear shorts instead of pants for functionality and comfort.

Once you are all strapped into the equipment and you’ve created an avatar, it’s time to get started with the actual workouts. If you choose to follow a long-range program, you can pick either a three-week or a nine-week plan. The game’s narrator, or “person who makes us feel guilty for not exercising more,” as we like to call her, will help you set up your routine, and aid you in creating a plan tailored directly for you. These interactions are a bit funny, especially if you are used to a more aggressive gym or personal trainer. Then again, if you have never met an actual personal trainer or stepped foot in a gym, you’ll probably think these people are fitness freaks, and need to relax with a nice slice of chocolate cake, or at least a midday nap.

The workout routines are fairly varied. The PS3 version of the game (it’s also available on the Wii and Xbox 360 with Kinect functionality) has 68 different exercises, ranging from front squats, to skipping, push-ups, jump squats, and our absolute least favorite, hip bridges. You don’t just dive headfirst into squats or curls, you start off slow with some easy warm-ups, stretching, and some light jogging. It’s like you have a personal trainer in your living room. And, with the provided resistance band, there’s plenty of strength training, as well. As we felt a bit more adventurous, we used our own weights to get more out of the workout.

So you’re probably wondering why you should spend $100 USD for the game when you can just go embarrass yourself in a public gym like the rest of your friends. There are a lot of reasons this type of workout will appeal to people. For starters, you don’t have to leave the house, and the workouts generally take about 20 minutes. Second, if you already own some weights or additional resistance bands, you’ll probably save some serious cash compared to most gym memberships. But the best reason is that Active 2 has fun workouts. That’s right, we said it, “fun workouts.”

There are several different fitness drills, including mountain biking, soccer, basketball, cardio boxing, and mountain boarding. Don’t look for harmless mini-games here—these are actual workouts. For instance, a basketball routine may include shooting and passing, but you are really working on lunges. Similarly, our favorite workout, Mountain Biking, requires you to do squats when you coast down a hill, run in place when you lose speed to get up hills, and physically jump in place before hitting an actual in-game jump. It all works quite well.

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This is what you might look like using EA Sports Active 2 on the moon

Workout routines require some kind of cardio, and the game will ask you to run or jog in place. It measures your speed by how fast you swing your arms, but you also have to make sure the leg sensor is moving properly. There were several occasions where it seemed the leg sensor wasn’t responding in unison to our avatar, making for some frustrating “why isn’t my guy running like I am” moments. It turns out you have to over-exaggerate these movements. At least the game is very patient; if you are not doing something right, it never penalizes you. Instead, the game gives you ample time to match what your trainer is doing on screen.

When you're finally done with your workout (it should be noted the game provides plenty of water break opportunities), you’ll feel a great sense of physical accomplishment, especially if you are anything like this reviewer who hates going to gyms. Active 2 is obviously not for everybody, but it shows that gaming has come a long way since the days of Pong and Pac-man. We love gaming on our couch as much as anyone, but it offered a nice break from our normal sessions. Sure, it probably won’t make you jacked, but it gets you off the couch and makes working out fun. 

-The Final Word-

EA Sports Active 2 is a complete workout package filled with 68 different and diverse exercises, all designed to get you off the couch and moving. If you want your PS3 to aid in your fitness regime, this is easily the best solution.
  • The diversity of exercises, especially mountain biking
  • The depth of personal health tracking
  • Customizable and tailored routines
  • The leg band has a tendency to slip
  • Tracking is not always perfect, especially when running
8.5
Platforms reviewed : PlayStation 3
See PSU's reviews scores on Metacritic and Gamerankings

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