There is no sense in beating around the bush: EA Sports Active 2 is a really fantastic bit of kit. Fitness games that have been released up until now have always been a bit confused about what they were trying to achieve. Some of them felt like they had to be fun games first and foremost, and a few others didn’t quite have enough variety in them to keep people coming back for more. More importantly than that though, they often didn’t feature the kind of cutting-edge technology that is required to convince players that they shouldn’t just be down at the gym instead.
EA Sports Active 2 features a ‘Total Body Tracking System’, and even after a few hours of play, you probably won’t have stopped being thoroughly impressed with it. Regardless of which home console you are using (the software is available on Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3) the game comes with two Accelerometers, one for your leg and one for your arm – and this second one doubles up as a scarily accurate heart rate monitor too. Not only will your on-screen trainer notice if you aren’t giving it your all, the system is also really hard to catch out.
The game comes with a rubber ‘Resistance Band’ as well, and that comes in very handy for a few specific exercises. But if you like, you can also customise the experience by using some of your own equipment. Some of the exercises are based on things like step aerobics courses, and although the game allows you to do these exercises on your floor with no extra tools, if you want to push yourself a little, you can simply bring your own step box (or weights) into play. Similarly, if you are using the Wii version and also own the Wii balance board, you can incorporate that into your regime too.
After your first game begins, and you’ve picked your trainer and entered a few details (like your age, your height and your weight) you’re ready to go. You can set your own difficulty setting depending on how hard you want to be pushed, but if you ever find that it’s too much (or not enough) for you, you can simply whack it up or down a notch at any time via the options menu. The game also sets you a few goals to achieve, so you’ll be asked to a do certain amount of exercise per week (or to another schedule of your choosing) and you’ll also be asked to burn a certain number of calories off over the course of a similar period of time.
There is a very extensive list of different exercises here too, and you can fully customise your experience to meet your own needs. So if you want to do nothing but crunches and squats on a Monday, and then step aerobics and skipping on a Wednesday, the game fully allows you to do that. If you stick with the game’s default settings though, you’ll automatically have cool-down stretch exercises added to your roster, all of which help you to avoid painful muscle strain after a workout.
The game is full of good advice like that, and because it can actually understand how fit your are and how tired you get and when, your trainer will always have a few wise words to hand. He’ll sometimes suggest that you get a drink, or if you find a particular exercise especially difficult, he’ll give you a few very practical tips on how to improve your stamina. The best ones are usually very helpful indeed – especially if you aren’t used to rigorous exercise – and some of them involve pointing out the best way to control your breathing during each different workout.
And we aren’t kidding about how accurate the ‘Total Body Tracking System’ is either. Even if you try to catch it out – like we did when we ignored our trainer’s advice to keep our back straight during a Resistance Band exercise – it knows straight away that you’re messing around. And really, this is probably the best thing about EA Sports Active 2, because usually in games like these it’s very easy to become bored when you realise that the computer doesn’t know exactly what you’re doing. Here that problem never arises.
So EA Sports Active 2 is much more than just a silly game – it’s the most comprehensive and well-made interactive fitness product on the market, and if you are serious about keeping fit, it’s a great alternative to an expensive gym membership. The online side of things – which enables you to train with friends and family, and keeps a record of group goals – is brilliantly easy to use, and you can set it up right from the comfort of your living room. If you’ve been looking for the perfect stay-at-home fitness trainer, it’s finally arrived.
**Also, a brief word of advice. If you are going to be using the Nintendo Wii version of the game, you’ll need to plug in the USB dongle before you turn your Wii on. Otherwise, a couple of minutes after getting into the game for the first time, you’ll be asked to reset the console before plugging it in.