I can still remember making fun of Nintendo at their press conference years ago, when they detailed Wii Fit and their Wii balance board. It seemed like a misstep to reserve so much time to a “game” that didn’t look like a game at all. Well, we all know how that turned out, and as a result, we have a new emerging “gaming” genre: fitness. EA Sports Active 2, as the title suggests, is the follow up to the surprising hit that originated on the Wii.
What set the original EA Sports Active apart from the multitude of failed fitness attempts of the past couple of years was the way that you interacted with the exercises. Using the Wii remote, EA was able to effectively guide you through workouts with a relative knowledge that you were in fact doing the exercise in the manner that was expected. While this was a step in the right direction, I found it very annoying to carry a remote around whenever I exercised. As with most games that used the motion capabilities of the Wii remote, I found that there were frequent hiccups with the overall performance, leading to an increase of failed attempts that were clearly executed correctly. Of course, EA gets somewhat of a pass because they were navigating uncharted territory, but with the sequel and a new platform, I was excited to see where this franchise was headed.
With the addition of new platforms comes the expected hardware hurdles, and since EA Sports Active was originally intended for use with the Wiimote, EA had to find a new way to pull gamers into their fitness game. While the Playstation 3 has recently added motion controllers, EA either missed the boat or invested too heavily in their wireless sensors before a change could be made in time. Whatever the reason, I was happy to see an attempt to create a hands free interactive workout experience, but the results weren’t what I had hoped for.
Creating an entertaining or engaging experience is hard enough for developers with the current hardware on the market, but creating a game along with a mandated peripheral has proven to be too much for EA. While my experience certainly does not define every sensor that EA has bundled with their game, it certainly is enough to caution others about possible frustrations that may occur.
EA Sports Active 2 (for the Playstation 3) comes bundled with three sensors, one for the right leg and the other two for each arm. Also included in the bundle is a USB that needs to be plugged into the system that will pick up the wireless signal from the other devices. Before engaging in any workout, you have to sync each device, and this is where the frustration begins. Almost every time that I worked out, one of the sensors wouldn’t sync. When I didn’t have problems with the initial syncing, there were multiple times during a workout that the signal on one of the devices would just stop working. Since EA has mandated that these sensors be synced in order to play, if you ever experience these problems, the workout is halted and you can’t continue until the problem is rectified. Eventually I just started expecting issues to come up, which resulted in me altering my experience because I wouldn’t try as hard as I usually would because I would expect an abrupt end. Not having functional hardware to go along with the software is a real letdown because the software surrounding the sensors has some real potential in the fitness arena.
Hardware aside, the sheer variety of programs that EA Sports Active 2 includes should be commended. You can start a nine week program that can keep track of calories burned, exercise time, average heart beat, etc. These stats can then be transferred onto their website, allowing you to keep constant track of your goals while also sharing them with others. Of course, there are the normal workout routines like lunges and squats, but there are also other choices such as mountain biking, boxing, soccer, and basketball, as well as a multitude of others that each target specific parts of the body. If you don’t think that the nine week program is enough, you can even customize your own workouts or have the trainer build you a workout based on the specific locations that you want targeted on your body. Ultimately, however, what you get out of EA Sports Active 2’s software won’t matter if you don’t have the functioning hardware to utilize it.
EA Sports Active 2 took some great steps forward, allowing for a completely tailored and customized experience, but that experience may not be there for everyone. It will be interesting to see if EA will be going forward with their own hardware devices once the inevitable sequel arrives, since there are now other options available on each platform. As it stands, from the initial high price point and suspect packed-in hardware, EA Sports Active 2 has some working out to do.