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EA Sports Active 2


Great until you are directed to do a single push-up...
Electronic Arts had a great reception to EA Sports Active on the Nintendo Wii last year, namely due to the massive popularity of Wii Fitness and the balance board. Itís really not surprising that they want to roll out versions of the sequel for the Playstation 3 and the Microsoft Xbox 360. While the PS3 version doesnít use the Playstation Move (instead uses multiple sensors), the Xbox 360 version has been adapted for the brand new Kinect system. This allowed EA to only package the heart rate monitor and a resistance band for the 360 version as the Kinect is supposed to do all the motion sensing. This regulates actions like menu navigation to voice control rather than using a controller. Unfortunately, this is the first misstep of the title as the menu layout is designed for a controller rather than your voice. I gauge that it took me about 3 times as long to navigate through the menus with my voice than using the controllers, mostly because of the finicky audio pickup and the convoluted UI.

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Another problem that you should be aware of is floor space and distance from the Kinect. If you have a medium to small space to exercise within (as in the size of most living rooms), good luck staying in range of the Kinect when Active 2 tells you to get on the floor for exercises. Plus, you get the added benefit of restarting the exercise each time that the Kinect loses you. I also had difficulties with automatically launching the pause menu with an arm gesture during exercises that told me to mimic that gesture. Something tells me that the people QAíing the game didnít bother to play with this version of the game very long. If you have a big enough space to actually get Kinect to see you, then you may be ok.

The sad part is that Kinect actually detracts from whatís a really fantastic way to get your body moving and actually sweating. The actual exercises are fantastic and the tracking tools are really phenomenal. While I wasnít a huge fan of the resistance band, using the game with free weights really kicked my butt. I loved being able to track my heart rate with the monitor (while occasionally inaccurate compared to my Polar FS2) as well as keep to the workout calendar and use the online tools to motivate other Active users with fitness groups. Also, the few mini-games that were specifically designed for the Kinect really perform well. Unfortunately, the team at Electronic Arts designed a single game for all the consoles rather than customizing the experience for Kinect from the ground up, like Ubisoftís Your Shape, Fitness Evolved.

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If you can get the game to work with Kinect occasionally, the achievements actually do help spur along your fitness goals. There are great achievements in there for fitness gurus like clocking in 24 hours of exercise time or never missing a workout in all the Phases of the 9 week program. There are also a variety of smaller goals to help encourage the couch potatoes like burning 500 calories or completing 10 workouts. Itís a very balanced set that offers goals for all types of fitness levels.

Graphics

The lack of details on the visuals is yet another clue that this game was simply ported from the Wii version in a hurry to make the holiday release window. Donít get me wrong, the visuals are in high definition. They just lack the detail would in a typical Xbox 360 release. The on-screen characters may mimic your actions based on the tracked movements, but the animations are very limited and the color scheme is dated. Itís extremely lackluster for an EA Sports release; typically known for their polished presentations.

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Audio

The music isnít different than what you would find in a cardio class at your local gym, nothing memorable, but plenty fast beats to get your heart rate going. The sound effects are just as lackluster as the graphics and nothing stands out as particularly inviting. But at least the narrator is somewhat motivating.

Conclusion

Electronic Arts must be out of their mind if they think they can simply port EA Sports Active 2 to the 360 to take advantage of the Kinect system rather than building up the game from scratch. The astoundingly awful tracking is a slap in the face to new Kinect owners and players with multiple consoles would be better served picking up the Wii or PS3 version. The lack of proper camera tracking makes this version of the game, while feature packed, impossible to recommend, especially when thereís games like Your Shape: Fitness Evolved that have been built specifically for the Kinect peripheral.

Even more insulting is the bloated $99 MSRP for a broken game. Hey EA, if I canít get the game to even work correctly with Kinect, how am I supposed to get my heart rate up enough to take advantage of the $50 heart rate monitor? I canít recommend the Xbox 360 version of EA Sports Active 2 to anyone. You are much better going with Your Shape: Fitness Evolved for a fitness game or even Dance Central to shake your bootyís calories away if you pick up a Kinect this holiday season.



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