EA Sports Active 2

A great workout regime when the sensors work.

If you’re like me, the only exercise you get on a regular basis is the grueling walk from living room to kitchen, and the occasional bicep busting controller curl. If you find yourself being drawn away from the gym by the siren song of “one more game of Madden” then EA has the workout routine for you. EA Active 2 provides a strenuous yet enjoyable workout program for those who like a little TV with their squat thrusts. The game (a term I use loosely, as there really isn’t much game here) has the ability to put even the most svelte gamer through their paces through a series of effective exercises. It only hits the right spots if you play by its rules however, so expect a lot of frustration if you plan on going at your own pace rather than your trainers.

Those concerned with burnout can rest assured that EA Active 2 contains plenty of great exercises and activities to get the blood flowing. You can choose to perform preset workout routines designed to focus on specific aspects of your personal fitness, or even customize workouts around problem areas. While the standard push-up/crunch/shoulder-press style exercises are all included, you also get access to some incredibly fun workouts based around sports like boxing, basketball, and soccer. The variety of workouts included really keeps things rolling without ever dragging you down in repetition.

A game like this requires a certain amount of feedback on your progress to elevate it above the countless workout videos available on store shelves. To provide this, the PS3 version has an innovative method of tracking both your movement and your effort level. Included are three tracking devices (one of which doubles as a heart rate monitor) that attach to your right and left arms and your right leg. The sensors track your movement as you perform the various exercises your instructor will lead you through while the heart rate monitor gives you instant feedback.

There are some shortcomings to the sensors however. You need to be extra sure you have them positioned correctly or they won’t register your movements correctly. If you perform the exercise even slightly faster or slower than the game wants you to, the exercise will not register. Sometimes, even when you are performing the exercise at the correct pace and have the sensors perfectly postioned, it still will not register your movements. This last situation happens more often than is acceptable and can cause an incredible amount of frustration when you’re mid workout.

An example of the way this situation could present itself is when doing the shoulder press exercise. Several times during different sessions with the game, this exercise would register that my arms were in the air when they were down, and down when they were in the air. All the while my trainer is barking at me in that motivational “don’t give up you sissy” tone. Several times I had to resort to shaking my arms to get the system to register that they were actually in position. Not only does this make for more work than is necessary but it also adds an incredible amount of frustration to some of the workouts. For a game that is attempting to bring people who don’t normally exercise into the fold, increasing frustration levels by not working correctly is a surefire way to convince them to give up.

It should be mentioned as well that the leg sensor in my press copy of the game was defective. It constantly dropped connection while performing the exercises and even when just standing still in the main menus. This was especially frustrating while exercising because the game auto-pauses every time the connection drops. Requests for a replacement sensor from EA went unanswered so there is no way for me to determine how widespread this problem may be.

The workouts included, especially the sports themed ones, are fun and do a great job of keeping you motivated. Your trainer provides feedback that goes beyond the generic “Great job, keep it up” you find in many other games to a genuinely inspirational level. The game also contains plenty of supplementary content to help you with your overall fitness goals. You can fill out daily surveys regarding your activities and eating habits. Setting your own schedule within the game provides great motivation to log in and complete your workout for the day. The heart sensor allows for more immediate feedback and a more accurate representation of your effort level than Wii Fit can provide.

When everything is clicking as it should, EA Active 2 provides a great alternative to the gym. You definitely get that “sore but the good kind of sore” feeling that drives you to keep pushing yourself harder. It’s unfortunate that the sensors have some detection issues because their potential is off the charts. As it stands EA Active 2 is a great buy for patient gamers willing to be led by the arm through their workout. If you’re the type of person that likes to do things at your own pace or the type of person who is easily frustrated with non responsive motion control however, you may want to renew your gym membership for at least another year while you wait on the inevitable EA Active 3.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Written by
Wombat lives by the code that if you are playing a game from this year, you are doing it wrong. His backlog is the stuff of legend and he is currently enjoying Perfect Dark Zero, Skies of Arcadia and Pong.