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EA Sports Active 2

 

EA Sports Active 2

ESRB: Everyone - E
Platform: PS3
Category: Interactive Exercise
 
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Developer: Electronic Arts Canada
Publisher: Electronic Arts

Many have considered EA Sports Active games to be the premier must have fitness games for gamers. Unfortunately, up until now it has only been available on the Wii. Given the success the EA Sports Active franchise has seen on the Wii, it was only a matter of time before the interactive fitness game would make its way to Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles. I was fortunate enough to review the PS3 version of EA Sports Active 2. Not having the chance to play the previous installments on the Wii I very curious to see what the hubbub was about. Being a regular visitor to my local gym, I was also curious to see whether this game would get me sweating and if it could improve my overall fitness level. Well after some time spent with EA Sports Active 2, I must say I am impressed. This being said, the EA Sports Active franchise has plenty of room for improvement.

Graphics

The first area that could be vastly improved is the game's visuals. Overall, I was not impressed with this aspect of the game. The graphics look more last gen than current. Also it appears to look like a port from the Wii version of the game. Granted, given it is a fitness game you can’t place a heck of a lot of emphasis on the game's visuals; nevertheless, I expected a little more from EA Sports. On a positive note, EA Sports Active 2 is a colourful game and the menus are very clean looking. Not to mention, the island environment features some decent water effects. These positive aspects don’t add a ton to how the game plays, but they are vibrant and are easy to look at over the long haul. The character animations are decent, however I did notice the characters seem jittery at times. They simply do not move as smooth or as fluidly as I would have liked. In any event, EA Sports Active 2 is a very average looking game and when you compare it to other EA Sports games, it falls a bit short. Perhaps given this is the first go around on the PS3 we will see some improvements on the next installment.

Sound

Similar to the game's visuals, I was left a little underwhelmed by the sound. The music features no recognizable artists and the repetitive work-out tunes merely fill a void. I found the music really did not add much to the gameplay and it did not get me going like I would have envisioned. After a few workouts, I actually found myself putting on my headphones and listening to my personal MP3 player.

The voice work on the other hand is very good. The dialogue from the trainers is bang-on and they deliver. They are constantly providing verbal prompts during all exercises and workouts. They’ve taken things just a bit beyond saying “good job” and often offer hints to proper posture and breathing during exercises as well as some talk about the benefits of doing it. It may not stand out but it is this extra attention to detail that really impresses me about EA Sports Active 2.

Gameplay

The EA Sports Active franchise has stood as a better product than some of its competitors — it does a better job than any other fitness game at replicating what I’d imagine an experience with a personal trainer would be like. While many preset and custom exercises/workouts are available, the core of the game is its Nine Week Program. This is longer than the previous six week and 30-day challenge offered up in the previous installments in the game. The new program has you experiencing a personalized total body conditioning program that focuses on improving your overall fitness. This program is where EA Sports Active 2 shines and is worth the price of admission alone. Given I have only had about a week of playtime with the game, I have not had a chance to make my way through the nine week program. Nevertheless, with the short time I did spend on the program and the many other offerings of EA Sports Active 2 I am impressed.

Before I get into some of the game's many fitness programs and offerings, let me give you the breakdown about what you need to strap on before you get going. Once you open up your copy of EA Sports Active 2, you will notice the game comes with a USB receiver, Heart Rate Monitor, Left Arm Motion Sensor, Leg Strap Motion Sensor, and a Resistance Band. The USB receiver plugs into the front of your PS3 and receives signals from the other sensors. The Total Body Tracking System combines the heart rate monitor (that straps onto your left forearm) and motion tracking date received from the other sensors to ensure an accurate workout with measurable results. Synching the sensors is accomplished with ease and the straps automatically shut down shortly after to turn the power off to the console. Overall, I found the straps to be of high quality. They fit comfortably and snug. I was surprised that the leg motion sensor fit around my tree trunk of a leg with ease. Granted, you do have to place the leg sensor on rather snug as there is a tendency for the strap to slip down when the workout gets a little active. Unfortunately, when it comes to the game's resistant band, there were no instructions with how to assemble the hand straps onto the green band. Fortunately, Joystiq.com had some handy dandy instruments with how to assemble the resistance band. The quality to the band is something a little less than desired. Nevertheless, the strap does work but offers up little resistance. All these sensors make EA Sports Active 2 the most interactive and seamless experience to date. It is also idiot proof, as anyone can pick up this game and get going in no time flat. When you first fire up the game, you are greeted with detailed instructions for strapping on the sensors and synching them with the USB dongle. The instructions are clear and concise. The young and more mature gamers should have no problem following these initial instructions.

Once you have strapped on your sensors you are almost ready to go. Before you start working out you create a character. The options are somewhat limited on this front as you can’t give him or her tattoos or body piercings; nevertheless, the game is all about working out so who wants to spend a great deal of time customizing a character or trainer. After you have entered your personal statistics including height and weight, you are given the option of two trainers, Niki and Devon. Each trainer has a different personality type and motivational styles. Neither are over the top and offer sound training advice and tips throughout each work-out session.

The game features a variety of modes of play. You can do the nine week program as I mentioned at the top or there is an abbreviated 3-week program. You can also jump into your journal that logs all your work-outs, tracks your progress, gives you nutrition tips and allows you to set goals for yourself. Other play modes include joining online groups, or customizing your workout routine. There is a stat summary area and weekly fitness and heart rate tracker. All in all, there is plenty to offer in EA Sports Active 2 giving anyone a terrific foundation to achieve better fitness and maybe shed a few pounds in the process.

Customizing your own workout regime is great but anyone new to the franchise or those who are not hard core fitness fanatics are best served selecting one of the trainer-led workout programs. The nine week program is best recommended to increase your overall fitness but the three week does give you a cardio kick-start just as the game advertises. Both programs increase in intensity over time but make no question you will be sweating once you fire up the first workout session. Each exercise routine features a warm-up and cool down session. The game also prompts you to take quick water breaks throughout the session. The pacing of each exercise is equally fantastic as well. I never found myself too bored nor did I find myself unable to keep up. Whenever I slowed down the training would prompt me to speed up with words of encouragement.

I was also impressed with the variety of exercises that force you to use all parts of your body. For instance, a mountain biking exercise has you running, jumping and squatting as your virtual character travels across rugged terrain and jumps. A basketball exercise has you squatting in a defensive stance as you block and swipe the ball away from the offensive player. I liked the fact that I was not merely following a trainer for the entire work-out. The variety kept me coming back again and again which is something that cannot be said for most work-out programs I have tried over the years.

Beyond the exercises, EA Sports Active 2 features daily activity and nutrition surveys. You are encouraged to fill in these surveys even on non-workout days, but it’s not 100% necessary. The nutritional survey in particular is enhanced with more detailed questions and now offers text suggestions to help you with your scoring. It is simple but effective. Goals return unchanged as well. For those new to the EA Sports Active franchise, the game allows you to set goals for calories burned, number of workouts and time working out. EA Sports Active 2 also supports two players. So you and a friend can work out simultaneously. Of course this requires you to pick up another set of sensors bands; nevertheless this a nice feature indeed.

EA Sports Active 2 for the PS3, which comes with all the sensors, the game, dongle and band runs in at approximately 100 bucks. This is a little on steep side; however, given the amount of workout routines and tracking available it is a game with plenty of replay value.


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