Home | News | Reviews | Previews | Hardware
EA Sports Active 2
Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Canada
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Simulation/ Health and Exercise

Graphics & Sound:
As it stands, the most exercise I get every year happens in early June when I spend three days wandering the Los Angeles Convention Center at E3. It's fun, but at the end of the day, the entire staff is completely wiped. This year, a trip to the hotel hot tub became an almost nightly ritual for myself.

Next year, however, things are going to be different. If you haven't noticed, I've covered a few movement-based games in the past few weeks. I thought for sure Sonic Free Riders would finish the year as the most physically demanding game in my collection, but then EA Sports Active 2 showed up and ran away with it. Not that I mind - I can stand to lose some weight and shape up and, for the most part, EA Sports Active 2 has done a great job so far.

EA Sports Active 2 isn't something you jump at for presentation; it's a nice looking piece of exercise software, not a visual-busting AAA title. There's a lot to look at during exercises - especially when compared to other fitness games on the market - though all you really need is the instructional videos and easy-to-read menus. The videos do an excellent job of showing you everything you need to know about certain exercises (like how NOT to cripple yourself ) and the menus are easy to navigate. I never felt like I had to dig for information, which is all that really matters.

I wasn't super impressed with the default music and, thankfully, you can use your own music as long as its on the PS3's hard drive. I do, however, like the personal trainer. The voice can get a little grating, though I found that my annoyance with the trainer ran parallel to how hard I was trying to summon the will to finish a particular workout.

EA Sports Active 2 isn't a game in the traditional sense, so don't expect to have a ton of fun -- at least not at first. This is physical fitness and you're going to have to move around, a lot. You'll huff-and-puff during exercises and likely spend the rest of your day (and the following ones) stiff and sore. This probably doesn't sound like a fun experience and I can already see some of you clicking over to see what we had to say about Gran Turismo 5 or some other game that will allow you to refine your couch's ass groove.

But, after a few days, it's all worth it. Once you get into the groove, EA Sports Active 2 is something you're going to want to do every day. It's that good. I'd even venture to say it's one of the best pieces of fitness software I've played. It has hiccups, but it's hard to argue with the results.

When you first begin, EA Sports Active 2 puts you through a couple of introductory paces like choosing a trainer (male or female), creating a profile and deciding if you want to set up an online tracker program. Once that's done, you're introduced to numerous training programs. I opted to start with the 3-week cardio program, which is designed to quickly get you in shape and ready for the more intense 9-week program, which is the "standard" fitness program. Each program tracks your progress over four days (it's suggested that you take time off to rest). Sessions generally run about 20 minutes and include both a warm-up and cool down.

I'm just now entering week three of my first program, but I've already started to notice some results. I'm not cut or anything, but my energy levels have kicked up and I don't feel as sluggish. So far I'm impressed with the programs. First, I like that something this pre-planned, since most of the other fitness games I've tried ask you to create your own program. Second, the programs do a nice job of mixing up what you need to do. Once day works on strength while the next is stamina/ cardio.

If you're hardcore gym junkie, you can customize nearly everything about the program, giving you full control over where you want to go with your particular needs. Regardless of your approach, everything you do feels like it matters and is helping you move forward, which is something I can't say for other fitness games.

Outside fitness routines, EA Sports Active 2 offers other tools to help with your lifestyle choices. You can take surveys indicating other physical activities you've participated in and fill in items about your diet. EA Sports Active 2 also introduces an online profile that uploads your progress to a website. As of this writing, the website has had a few issues, such as not connecting to the servers, though I'm confident this issue will clear up in the next few weeks.

The key to any successful fitness program is motivation and EA Sports Active 2 does a great job of constantly keeping you motivated. Obviously, getting in better shape and feeling good about yourself should be enough motivation, but we're human and sometimes need an extra carrot dangled in front of us to keep us going. EA Sports Active 2 dangles carrots, celery and just about everything else it can in front of you to keep you going.

Part of your initial profile is a fitness journal that tracks every statistic you could possibly want to know. These statistics are tied into Trophies. Some are incredibly easy to achieve while others place seemingly impossible tasks in front of you. If Trophies don't do it for you, there's the online tracking. Seeing information in front of you, especially your improvements, can do a lot for your self-esteem. Finally, if that doesn't do it, you can setup an online Workout Group, where you can compare Trophies and other stats with friends. If the competition doesn't get you fired up, nothing will.

The initial setup is a breeze. Getting your profile together is easy and the game does a good job of easing you into your program. You can also select from programs with various levels of intensity and, as previously mentioned, the ability to customize your personal workout program for around 50 different exercises.

Game Mechanics:
The crux of EA Sports Active 2 are the sensors you'll need to attach to your body before working out. The most important is the Heart Rate Monitor, which goes on your left arm. Much of what you do during workouts depends on this monitor getting a correct reading. I had a few problems with placement when I first started, resulting in erroneous readings, though I was able to work them out pretty quickly. Even when properly set up, I noticed a few times where the signal "dropped," though it wasn't for very long.

Getting a good reading is vitally important to the entire experience. Some of the more important stats are tied to your pulse (such as how many calories you've burned), but it also gives you information on just how hard you're working out. The on-screen indicator is split into five zones, ranging from Rest (93 or less BPM) to Full Throttle (168 and over BMP). Even if you think you're pushing yourself, there's a good chance you aren't.

The other two sensor bands are equally important. One straps to your right arm and the other attaches to your right leg. Both measure your actual movements and are used to make sure you're doing the exercises correctly. Although placement isn't as vital as the Heart Rate Monitor, you still want to find a comfortable spot. The bands tend to slip during certain exercises, so you'll want to make sure they're fastened tightly. At the same time, you circulation is really important so you want to make sure they're not that tight.

Similar to the Heart Rate Monitor, the sensor bands occasionally drops signal, throwing off the tracking. Though not a major issue, it's rather frustrating when your routine is thrown off because of a hardware failure.

If EA Sports Active 2 faces any major hurdles, it's price. At $100 a pop, the package isn't exactly cheap. At the same time, for what you're getting, it's worth the price. At the very least, you're getting an entry-level home gym system that actually works and is fun.

Deciding to give EA Sports Active 2 a try is a personal choice, but if you have any desire to get in better shape, give it a try.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Related Links:

This site best viewed in Internet Explorer 6 or higher or Firefox.