Over the years since the Wii was released we have seen a plethora of sports and fitness games come and go – initially on Nintendo’s platform but soon spreading to the PS3 and 360.
With the release of Kinect and Move all the consoles have the technology to offer a gym quality exercise experience. One game that has stood the test of time is EA Sports Active. The first version delivered an accessible game that didn’t get too distracted by entertainment and stuck to its task of helping players improve their fitness.
EA Sports Active 2 is with us now, but herein lies a problem. EA have released the game for all three consoles, and each version is slightly different. It’s a little tricky to know which version is right for you. To this end I recruited a few friends to try out the different versions and get to the bottom of which one was right for me and my family.
First of all we looked at EA Sports Active 2 Wii, here’s what we found:
EA Sports Active 2 is more evolution than revolution, but that’s a good thing. The basic format of Sports Active was very effective. After setting up a profile and designing your on-screen character, you sign up for a program of either three or nine weeks (increased from the previous six). The programs consist of workouts aimed at improving your general fitness and body condition, using a nice mix of traditional exercises and simple games that get you moving while having a bit of fun.
While the basic format of EA Sports Active remains, the mechanics have been hugely improved with the addition of new custom hardware. Using the Nun-chuck to monitor leg movements was a great idea but the connecting cable tethered your arm and leg, which was a tad frustrating if you were more than about five foot five tall, and meant you were constantly swapping controllers, putting the nun-chuck in or taking it out for each different exercise.
To solve these problems EA Sports Active 2.0 ships with custom hardware for monitoring your movements. The Wii version which I’ve been testing comes with sensors for your left arm and right leg. Combined with a Wii-mote for some exercises, this gives Sports Active three points of reference without any wires getting in the way of your exercise. It’s also available for the Xbox 360 and PS3, each version makes use of motion capture technology in a different way, but the fundamental game is the same.
This is the first big difference between the versions, the monitors you need to wear. On the Wii you have two (Leg and Heart rate) in combination with the Wii-remote. On the PS3 version you have three (Leg, Arm and Heart rate) and on the 360 you just have the Heart rate monitor.
This may sounds like a minor thing, but it substantially changes how the exercises feel, and what activities EA Sports Active 2 provides. The PS3 version offers the highest number of elements, clocking in around 103, while the Wii has 73 and the 360 just 62.
This is well worth considering before making a purchasing decision. Another friend tried the 360 version, which I was particularly interested to hear about as I like the idea of real freedom while I’m exercising that the Kinect camera promised.
Having got Kinect for Christmas I thought this may be an easier way to slot in some daily exercises. You see, EA Sports Active 2 Kinect doesn’t need any controllers – all you need do it pop on a heart monitor and tell Kinect to start the game – much to the sniggers of any children in earshot.
It’s a lot more accessible than the first game with a nice introduction to get the sensor positioned. I was glad I had the 360 version, EA Sports Active 2 on PS3 needs a controller to navigate and, like EA Sports Active Wii, also requires a leg monitor to be strapped on to detect movement.
Setting up was a doddle. We have a nice big lounge so I had enough room to stand far enough away from the Kinect camera, but I think if you had less space you may want to consider the PS3 or Wii version.
Once setup the game starts. It’s a little overblown and bombastic for me but nevertheless it paints a picture of a fitness adventure ahead of you that at least communicates some of the effort that is going to be required here.
The exercises themselves are varied and well explained. Lunges, curls crunches and burn-inducing bent arm side planks form the building blocks of each session. But what kept me going was not the difficulty but the way EA Sports Active manages to incentivize each routine with different games. Somehow these painful exercises are actually quite fun.
One thing I missed though was any kind of stretching and suppleness routines. My favorite part of Wii-Fit Plus were the Yoga sessions. EA Sports Active 2 hits the right notes for cardio and strength but has a real blind spot for flexibility and balance.
The final piece of the puzzle for me was whether I’d be able to download new exercises for the game. Here the PS3 and 360 versions have the edge. While the Wii does offer the Balance Board controller for more variety I still like the idea of a more future-proof product.
What it boils down to is how you want to exercise. If movement and freedom are key perhaps the 360 version is right for you. If you want more variety then the Wii version looks good. If you want to be able to download new content then the PS3 (and 360) editions will have the edge.
EA Sports Active 2 is available from Amazon on PS3 for $48.99
EA Sports Active 2 is available from Amazon on 360 for $44.95
EA Sports Active 2 is available from Amazon on Wii for $40.00