EA Sports Active 2 Review for Xbox 360 (X360)

EA Sports Active 2 Review for Xbox 360 (X360)

Hit the showers

So far Kinect’s standout ability is its ability standout ability is to make you sweat your pants off, and its release list has reflected this enviable quality. Both PlayStation Move and Nintendo Wii would love to have the exercise game potential that Kinect has. A lot of people are going to be wondering if the Kinect version of this highly popular sequel is going to be worth it. Can the motion-control camera offer an experience that surmounts the original Wii game?

I recently had my socks blown off by the awesome Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, and I expected EA Sports to lavish Active 2 with tons of development time and polish in an attempt to gain market share in the workout game genre on Kinect. However, I was surprised to find that EA didn’t do that at all. In fact, Active 2 is quite a bit worse than Your Shape in many important ways. Fans of the workout genre will still find that this game has some redeeming qualities, but in almost every respect, Your Shape blows it out of the water.

EA Sports Active 2 Screenshot

The first major reason that Active 2 isn’t quite as good as Your Shape is that the Kinect control is only slightly competent. In some areas, it works fine. For instance, most of the sports games like mountain biking, dodgeball, and running have good Kinect recognition. However, in many other instances, the Kinect control is utterly infuriating and a wretched example of how the system should be used. The menus are not optimized for Kinect. It’s frustrating to use Kinect to make selections, and you’ll probably need to have a controller nearby at all times (which defeats the purpose of paying $150 for a motion-control system.) The menu icons are tiny, and selecting items from a small list is ridiculously difficult.

During the workouts, the motion control is seldom competent and often infuriating. Big motions like jumping register fine, but smaller motions do not work at all. Some exercises call for you to get on the ground (reverse crunches, push ups, etc) and this is where the Kinect control truly breaks. The game will lose sight of you most of the time when you get down to do the exercise, even if the camera is aimed right at you. This means you’ll have to stand back up again and go through the process of logging back in. I had to get back up and log back in an average of three times before I could begin the exercise. Once the exercise actually began, my motions were almost never picked up. The only way I could find to pass the workout was to flail wildly to confuse the system into thinking I did the exercise. Worse, the narrator will continue to tell you you’re not doing it right. Excuse me? No, you’ve got it backwards.

EA Sports Active 2 Screenshot

I still feel ambivalent about the other exercises (read: not the ground exercises.) The problem is that not all of them even use Kinect to map your motions. They simply show your trainer on-screen, and then you have to mimic that. You’ll receive points whether you do the exercise or not. On one hand, this brings Active 2 dangerously close to being a workout tape rather than actual software. On the other hand, it removes some of the problems that other exercises have in understanding your motions. So, it’s really a toss up. It removes some frustration, but it also arguably removes some of the value from the product.

EA Sports’ big addition in this installment of the Active franchise is the inclusion of the heart monitor accessory. You don’t really have a choice either; the game only comes packaged with the heart monitor. So, I was disappointed to find that its usefulness is extremely limited, and in no way justifies the ridiculous price of $100. The only function the heart monitor serves is to tell you how many beats per minute your heart is pumping. Given that modest task, one could at least expect it to be accurate, but in several tests at both resting and active heart rates I found the monitor to be consistently too high by between ten and twenty beats per minute.

EA Sports Active 2 Screenshot

The graphics are also a bit underwhelming. Whereas Your Shape mirrored your movements on screen, Active 2 merely includes an ugly character creator with limited options. The areas are also not as good-looking as Your Shape, which boasted a futuristic aesthetic with neat special effects that radiated from your movements. By comparison, Active 2 looks jaunty and underproduced.

EA Sports Active 2 Screenshot

Active 2 does have one important plus on its side though: when it works, it works. When you get going during the workouts, you’ll really be sweating, and you’ll find it gets your heart pumping and keeps your muscles sore. There’s a lot of good functionality as well within the game. There are multiple options for a unique workout schedule, although (sorry to sound like a broken record) it’s not as extensive as Your Shape: Fitness Evolved. There are quizzes you can take to find out if you’re living a healthy lifestyle, although they’re not extremely useful or detailed.

We’re already seeing the beginning of the deluge of exercise games that will eventually flood Kinect, but so far the quality hasn’t been there in most releases. The only worthy game in the entire genre so far is Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, which certainly isn’t going to be surpassed by paltry efforts like Active 2.

Electronic Arts is going to have to invest a lot more time and money into the next iteration of the game if they’re intent on establishing a foothold in this genre. This game simply doesn’t have the level of polish that is going to win over new Kinect owners. Kinect needs great games that are going to show people how much fun the system can be to use (and it can be a ton of fun). If big name companies like EA are going to continue to spend more money on advertising and shilling junky peripherals (read: the heart monitor), then people will become disillusioned with Kinect quickly, just as many did with the Wii in its later years.

I suspect that just a little bit of work could really go a long way toward making EA Sports Active 2 a quality workout title. However, right now its faults are unforgivable. The horrible Kinect controls and the absurdly high price point make this game impossible to recommend no matter how out of shape you are.

This is neither eye-catching nor pain-inducing. The game could use extra polish to stand-out from others in the genre. 1.5 Control
The Kinect motion controls are only occasionally competent. Menus are difficult to control, and the camera will lose track of you multiple times when you get on the floor for an exercise. 2.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
A standard soundtrack filled with the generic techno you’d expect to find in your local spin class. 3.0 Play Value
There are a decent number of workouts to choose from, and the workout programs are a nice touch, but you’ll burn more calories struggling with the controls than you will actually playing the game. 2.0 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Take Your Workout Online – Track your progress on the web via the EA Sports Active online global community. EA Sports Active 2 tracks your fitness data online via automatic uploads to your online profile and allows you to share your data and connect with other users through workout groups – all while reaching your own personal fitness goals.
  • 70+ Exercises and Activities – Create unlimited customizable workouts with over seventy exercises and activities to choose from, including foundational exercises like squats, lunges, and bicep curls and fun fitness activities such as mountain biking, dodge ball comma and boxing.
  • Enroll in the Nine-Week Program – Designed by certified personal trainers, the EA Sports Active 2 nine-week program provides total body conditioning using progressive exercise. It provides a fitness road map to help keep users motivated and on track of their fitness goals. Additional mini-programs will also be available to add on, keeping workouts fresh and inspiring.

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