EA Sports Active 2 User Review
Let me start by saying this is not a title intended to be a top notch gaming experienced. It's sub-title is literally "Personal Trainer", and it does just that. So, while I won't give it a score worthy of a top notch gaming experience, I will rate it based on what it is meant to be: a personal training program.
I graduated from Redeemer University with a degree double majoring in Physical Education and Theatre Arts. So hopefully, my insight through physical education and experience via varsity athletics will give some valuable insight to a program such as this. I will do this at the end.
The game comes in a $99.99 package that includes the game, a motion sensor for your right arm that also houses a heart-rate monitor, 2 other motion sensors (one for the left arm, another for your thigh), and a resistence band that can be tied around two handles at the desired resistence. Also available, but not required by any means, is a package that includes various other equipment to make your workout better (ie. weights, etc.).
Let's get the graphics out of the way. The visual presentation is good in that it clearly shows you exactly how to perform various exercises. At no point is it confusing. If anything, the tutorials for each new exercise are excessively long to ensure you know exactly how to perform the workout. You can customize your own character, as well.
However, the presentation is hardly next gen. In fact, it looks like something from early on the PS2 era, and even then it wouldn't compete very well. But again, graphics aren't the focus, and effort has been put into various other aspects of this title.
Obviously, this title is all about the gameplay. Some exercises are more entertaining with this title. For example, lets say you're holding squats then releasing with an explosive jump straight up. Well, the game will show you bicycling downhill. You pick up speed by holding a deep crouch. When you reach the end of a ramp, explode upwards to perform a trick on your bike. When biking uphill, you'd better start running on the spot while pumping your arms.
For skeptics, this type of exercising is not meant to simulate a cardiovascular run around the block. Anything cardiovascular in this game is essentially a form of aerobics and the mechanics involved in each workout remind me of various techniques I used throughout my educaion.
When you first log into the game, you make your character, enter in your weight, height, gender, etc. Then you select your trainer. There are two to choose from and each have different training styles to suit however you are best motivated. Do you need someone who will push you and is goal oriented, or someone who is encouraging and motivates strictly through said encouragement?
Once your trainer is selected, you choose a training routine. There are 3, 9, 12 week programs (with some exceptions). You can choose one of the 70+ already included on the disk (although not all are available immediately), you can make your own custom program by selecting various workouts or your own created workout, or you can purchase additional DLC workouts available from professional trainers from various organizations.
Next, the program (which often demands a committment of 4 days per week) will ask you to select the days of the week that work best for your schedule. You are given a small list of attainable goals for the week, and away you go!
Your progress it tracked via a journal. It will record your calories burned, heart rate, time, successes, and more! You can also complete a few health surveys and get professionally developed nutritional advice depending on your weight loss goals. I took a gander through various selections, and I have to say that it is actually pretty good advice for folks.
The first question that came up from my wife about this game was, "What if I only have 20 minutes to spare?" Well, basically you have 3 options. 1) You can custom make a single workout for yourself. 2) There are shorter workout sessions, the smallest being 10 minutes. 3) Any workout, you can take out different exercises from the workout to diminish the time. It will show you how long it will take based on what you remove.
You can't do this with already pre-determined programs. As with any training program, you need to commit to certain days if you ever want a real hope of getting AND staying in shape. Those options are only for those wishing to get in an extra workout beyond their program.
And yes! Believe it or not, this is a multiplayer game! You can do this locally with 2 people, or join an online GROUP workout at any time for more motivation! For local play, if you want to track the second person's progress, you'll need another set of motion sensors, unfortunately, but if you need a buddy, it's a great option. Additionally, you can keep tabs on your friends and send encouragements.
Finally, as a last motivator, there are a large number of trophies available. As with any game, some are easy to obtain while others are more difficult. You gain trophies for things like staying loyal to your prescribed program (it tracks date and time, you know), reaching certain milestones, beating personal bests, etc.
For what the game attempts to do, the gameplay is a winner.
There are some great aspects about the sound in this game. The music is high energy and fits the mood. The trainers are well spoken, and their communication is clear. There aren't really any special sound effects or anything.
What IS great, however, is the custom soundtracks! Not only can you import your favorite music, but the game analyzes your music and selects the music most appropriate for the type of workout! If it's cardiovascular, you can bet it will select something fast. If doing a cool down, well... for example, mine started playing Coldplay. lol Either way, in comparison to the aerobic's choice of Darude's Sandstorm, I'd say it picks tempos pretty well. I've also noticed that it often picks music close to the same tempo you should be performing various repetitions.
So although sound is nothing special, the aspects attributed to the custom soundtracks bump up it's value!
I was worried at first about how picky the motion trackers would be. But I was happy to see that it does a good job of figuring out what motion you are performing. They're no where near as impressive as something like the PSMove, but they get the job done without any issues. For menus, you simply use the DS3 or SIXAXIS. It doesn't track you perfectly, but it knows what you're doing and how much you are doing. Hard to complain.
This is a title that won't run out of things to do. There are often new programs available for download, and you can customize your own. Even if you repeat the exact same workouts, you can still increase the resistence on your resistence band or pick up your pace.
I refuse to give any category a 9+ score simply because it really isn't a video game, and it doesn't deserve to sit amongst champions. However, for what it is, it's a wonderful tool and it's well done. So I can't really seem to justify a low mark either.
So.... HOW DOES IT STACK UP TO REAL LIFE WORKOUTS, Mr. PHYS ED GUY??
Well, obviously, if you're a varsity athlete, this is no substitution for a rigid work out. It does not address specific development for specific motor skills required from semi-pro to professional athletes. It simply cannot push you the way you need to be pushed, and you won't be able to get the ROM (Range of Motion) you need. So let's get that point out of the way right off the bat.
Who this is designed for is people who do not have the education to make their own programs. At $99.99, it's a far better investment than a personal trainer. And if you aren't training for anything specific aside from general fitness, this is a perfectly viable option for you. The programs are reasonable and the goals are challenging but attainable.
Personally, as a phys ed major, I believe gym memberships are a waste of money for people who do nothing but lift a few weights and run. I suppose you can make a justification for it in the winter, but when memberships are costing $600+ per year, I just don't get it.
Obviously, if you're training for much more specific things, you need that gym to have access to a much more diverse selection of machines, and gym machines these days are truly beginning to maximize biomechanics in the human body. If you need a competitive edge, I would recommend those very specific machines over this game any day.
But if all you want to do is get in shape, just get this freaking game. It'll save you a ton of cash. Most people, even with research, lack the ability to create an effective training program for themselves. A pro trainer will cost the average person anywhere from $30/hr to $70/hr. It's VERY easy to justify the cost of this game. Especially when it can be used by as many people as you have profiles on your PS3.
Besides, if you do know a thing or two, you can customize your own training plan to something more appropriate to your goals and schedule.
In terms of the actual programs created, they're pretty standard programs from a professional perspective. They're designed for the average person, and it focuses on all the right things. Additionally, it takes the full-body approach to exercise. In other words, the programs do seem like professional programs. Additionally, the journal minimizes work in tracking and the nutritional advice is fairly helpful.
By the way, my basement ceiling is only about 7'2" high, and I haven't hit my head. I'm 6' tall, so you shouldn't run into too many issues. Even if you're taller than me, most people have 8'+ ceilings. :) It's all aerobic and strength training mostly. Which is all most people need.
Just want to stay in good shape? Lose a few pounds? Looking for something simply for health reasons?
Then this is a good investment. Plus the trophies are nice!
Are you an athlete on an organized club who needs to train in order to compete? Then scrap this and get a gym membership. But if you do that, get a trainer and make sure you're exercising the way that best suits your sport. If you just go to the gym and work out, you aren't really doing yourself too many favors. But yeah... this game is not designed for you. It's for the average joe. But it's great for the average joe!
Hey... anything that gets people moving who otherwise wouldn't move too much, right?
And since we're on the topic... Lance Armstrong... Chris Lietro... Simon Whitfield... Sydney Crosby... Cindy Klassen...
THEY are athletes.
All you muscle heads who only lift weights to get buffed... you know... the type who never do cardio or skills training...
You're not an athlete. You just have an endorphine addiction and deep self-confidence issues. And chicks don't dig you.
Just putting that out there...
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.