EA Sports Active: Personal Trainer Wii
EA Sports Active is the attempt by the world’s largest publisher of sports games, to try and rival the absurdly popular Wii Fit. Although it doesn’t come packaged with a Balance Board, it can be bought for half the price of Nintendo’s effort and is presented with all the slickness that we’ve come to expect from Electronic Arts.
Active doesn’t use Mii’s, and instead tries for a visual style that approximates reality. So after picking a hairstyle, skin colour, clothes, build and a face, you’ll end up with an avatar that looks nothing like you, but is good enough to function as a representation of your exercise-focused self.
You’ll also be asked to enter your age, weight and height so that the game can attempt to tailor the workouts to your fitness level. Once your personal details have been recorded you can choose either a male or female trainer. This really only impacts who will be demonstrating the various exercises, and whether the frequent words of encouragement are shouted at you by a man or woman. Both of them clearly haven’t realised that if there’s one facial expression any normal person never has while they’re exercising, it’s a huge grin…
Looking past the unsettling smiles though, and the numerous videos of a real person performing the actions that the player must copy are really helpful. The game keeps a record of which activities you’ve already done and plays a skippable tutorial video automatically if it’s your first time at a new exercise. These videos can quickly and easily be re-watched at any time, even in the middle of workout.
Although you can choose to do individual activities, the fact that they are real exercises and not minigames-in-disguise renders this a bit pointless. The main ‘mode’ in EA Sports Active is the 30 Day Challenge, which as it sounds sets you a workout program spread over a month that gradually increases in variety and challenge.
Each day you’re given a summary of the kind of exercises you’ll be doing, and you can select from a Low, Medium or High intensity workout depending on how active you’re feeling. You’re then shown a list of the exercises you’ll be doing, at which point you can remove any that you don’t want to be included. Then you’ll be shown a graph of the calories that the game predicts you’ll be burning, and told how long the workout will take if you end up watching all of the tutorial videos.
These features are all very handy and well thought-out, allowing the player to quickly and easily tailor-make a workout to their precise needs, as well as assisting the busy gamer in fitting a workout into their hectic schedule. However, if you desire, there is also the option to select from many preset workouts, and to create and save your own custom workouts by combining any number of exercises, of any intensity, in any order.
The exercises themselves are aided by the two peripherals that come packaged with EA Sports Active; a resistance band that adds some challenge to bicep curls and shoulder presses, and a leg strap that holds the nunchuk for tracking lower body movements. It takes a little practice to stand on the right parts of the resistance band so that the arm exercises aren’t too easy and too hard, and I nearly managed to break it when working out a bit too enthusiastically. Dedicated EA Sports gamers should probably consider buying a separate resistance band on eBay for a couple of quid.
The leg strap works better, and actually can help improve your exercise techniques in some respects, for example by making sure that you pause at the low point of your squats for long enough. The motion sensing has also been implemented to a good standard, as even if you failed to follow the tutorials, the game will tell you exactly where your fat arse is going wrong (although not in those words).
In addition to the more traditional exercises like squats, lunges, side-to-side jumps and knee crunches, EA Sports Active also does include some more sports activities such as tennis, boxing, baseball, basketball, volleyball, dancing and even inline skating. Although these challenges do keep score of how well you’re doing, even if you miss every ball you aren’t considered a failure as you’re still burning calories.
EA Sports active also helps you consider making changes to your lifestyle outside of the game by asking you to fill out ‘surveys’ to record your other activities each day. These are optional, but working out each day only grants you a Bronze medal, and any gamer worth his salt will tick a few boxes to gain an equally valueless Gold medal instead.
Some of the advice in the Lifestyle survey is dubious, such as eating 5-6 small meals a day rather than the normal three, or drinking eight glasses of water a day. But eating less fast food and more vegetables, getting a good eight hours of sleep a night and spending less time sitting in front of a screen are all pretty unarguably good tips to live healthier.
The game also encourages you to set you own personal long and short-term goals, which are then tracked. These are in three categories, burn a certain number of Calories in a set timescale, workout a particular number of hours in set time, and workout a certain number of times a chosen time. Working towards goals that you have set yourself really gives you a sense of how well you’re doing.
The only concession to actual gaming is a selection of unlockable trophies for a whole range of achievements such as reaching a personal goal, burning 10,000 calories in total, running 25 laps and throwing 400 punches. Most PS3 and 360 gamers will welcome these virtual accolades.
If you buy EA Sports Active expecting a FUN game, you’ll be disappointed despite the overuse of that word in all of the marketing, promotional and instructional material. If you buy it looking for a product that can actually help you get some exercise, lose some weight and even change your lifestyle then this is probably the best such product on the market right now.
Watch out Nintendo, EA is hot on your heels!