Short version: EA Sports Active 2 can be your own personal trainer if you manage to set up Kinect properly and you have space where you can exercise. The online tracking is a nice addition and the exercises are great. If you’re looking for something to keep you healthy on the long run, this is for you.
Sports are fun. Especially when you can go snowboarding or windsurfing. This usually happens twice a year for one week periods. For the rest I just usually end up in doing no exercise at all. Maybe playing soccer once in every two months where I have severe breathing problems. I hate gyms because of all the people there watching each other sweat and moan. But can EA Sports Active 2 replace the gym?
The menu system was probably ripped off of the Wii version of the game. This leads to some issues when navigating around. And you have to navigate around because this game has a lot of detail. The biggest problem here is that the menu items are too small. Sometimes you select something and while trying to get around the selection menu to confirm you bump into other stuff that you don’t want. Another problem is that these menu items are too small. Imagine clicking on icons that are smaller than your cursor. This was done well in other titles like Kinect Adventures but given how deep the game is in details this wouldn’t work in Active 2. The best is to use the controller for navigating.
When you start an exercise Kinect has to “find” you. Usually this happens automatically but sometimes the game will ask you to stand in front of the sensor. Then it will fail to recognize you. Then you will have to tell the thing that it is you, yes, not someone else. This is completely mental. Especially when you are sweating like a pig.
You have two fitness programs to choose from. The three week plan is a cardio program for getting your heart healthy. This introductory program contains 12 workouts over 21 days. The nine week plan has 36 workouts that you have to complete in 63 days. This is a complete fitness program divided into three week phases to improve strength, endurance and flexibility. After selecting the program you like you have to choose the overall difficulty of the exercise plan. Easy setting will have shorter and lower intensity workouts while medium and hard settings will make you sweat more. Next you have to set up your working schedule. Active 2 will suggest a schedule but your can change this however you like.
Tracking your stats
Active 2 has a lot of tracking tools for you to see how much calories you’ve burned or what your average heart rate was. Statistics are quite detailed. There is also a workout calendar to see when you will have your next workout or “rest day” and to see if you’ve missed a scheduled exercise. There is a journal with surveys to fill out about your lifestyle and nutrition habits and about your other activities. The software gives you tips about how often and what kind of food to eat to be healthy. Fancy carrots?
The game is constantly communicating with EA servers to save your stats. You can check these stats online on easportsactive.com. You can also join workout groups. These are basically groups of people where you can see other players’ stats and motivate them to burn more fat. The stats of the people in the group are summed up. I don’t know how this is useful but it’s nice.
Heart rate sensor
The sensor is surprisingly well built. They even managed to give it an Xbox ring like button. It runs on two AA batteries which are included in the box. The sensor has to be placed on the upper part of your forearm just below your elbow. You have to place the sensor so it’s facing away from your body. It’s quite comfortable to wear it and it doesn’t obstruct movement. Your heart rate is constantly monitored during workout. As far as I can tell the sensor is precise and I had no connection problems with it. A resistance band is also included in the box as some of the exercises require it. And it smells like eucalyptus!
You can start working out any time you like. There are trainer generated workouts where you can set the time, intensity and where you want to focus on your body. The workout will be generated for you. Alternatively you can create a custom workout where you can include the exercises you like. Finally there are several ready made workout presets in the workout collection. These include calorie burner, dodgeball, football, whole body and many more. There are about twenty of them. I guess there will be more sold as DLC.
The exercises are great. I started the three week cardio program which includes a warm up where you have to do hip circles and a stretching session at the end. Kinect tracking is fine if you have enough space and light. Even push-ups are recognized without issues but when the light is low you can run into issues. I suggest having some sort of mat because you have to get on the ground quite a few a times. I really liked the running exercise where you have to do high knees. You will move faster when you have your knees high and not if you are doing it fast but wrong. This gives the whole software a sense of seriousness about what it’s trying to do: to get you healthy.
This is where Kinect shows it’s strength. Tracking could be better but the whole idea just works well. You work out, it tracks you and tells you what to do so you do it right. I can’t imagine my self working out with a remote in my hand.
The first time you start Active 2 the software will check your heart and weight by making you jump around for 2 minutes. You have to do more checks as you progress in your work out program.
EA Sports Active 2 has one big flaw and that is menu navigation. Fortunately that’s not very important in a game and all the other aspects work well. This software will make people more healthy and that’s good. I think I’ve found a way to exercise on a daily basis in the comfort of my living room. It is also a very cheap alternative to have a personal trainer. Diverse programs and exercises, deep in detail statistics and online integration. If you are looking into working out in your home, this is for you.