Review: “EA Sports Active”

June 12, 2009 at 10:24 am Leave a comment

Attempting to cash in on the Wii Fit craze, Electronic Arts released its own gym-in-a-game, EA Sports Active, a couple of weeks ago.  Having spent that time with the game, working out about 4 times a week, I feel comfortable enough to give my own opinion. Right off the bat, I can say that if you want to get chiseled biceps and rock-hard abs, this is not the game for you.  In fact, there probably isn’t a game out there, you just need to get your ass to a gym and start lifting weights.  But, if you’re like me and just want to lose a few pounds without having to pay for a monthly gym membership, EA Sports Active might be up your alley.

I haven’t spent a whole lot of time with Wii Fit, so I’m not here to compare the two in all aspects.  What I can say is that, after an hour with Active, I was sweating harder than I did with my few hours of Wii Fit.  It’s due to the amount of cardio exercises built into the game: you run, jump, lunge, play rudimentary versions of popular sports, all within a carefully programmed set of workouts designed to make you ‘have fun’ while getting your heart going and your muscles burning.  The game starts you off by inputing certain information like weight and height, then moves on to select your workout program.  I chose the 30 Day Challenge, which is designed to help you lose weight by following a set of workouts over the course of 30 days, with about  4-5 workouts a week.  To assist you in the challenge, the game comes with a leg strap for the Wii Nunchuck and a resistance band for some light resistance training.

Here’s my where issues come in.  I watches all the introductory videos, and even some other videos online where someone, like a personal trainer, demonstrates how to use the strap.  The very first workout I did, I was already experiencing issues.  The damn strap just wouldn’t stay on!  However, I realized this may have been due to the material my workout shorts were made out of, and since then I haven’t experience nearly the same amount of frustration as I did that first day.  BUT, I have yet to do a workout where the strap wasn’t slowly sliding off my leg at least once.  If you strap it too tight, you cut off circulation to your leg, and too loose, well, then it’ll fall off.  What EA should’ve done was make some kind of leg strap/belt combo that would keep the strap from falling off entirely while still allowing you a pouch to place the Nunchuck for some of the workouts.

Also, and this may be a fault of the hardware more so than the software, but the game has some issues when reading the movements of the controllers with a select few exercises.  For example, my least favorite exercise are the kick-ups, which is like running, by instead you kick you heels back and up towards your butt.  Think of how cheerleaders prance and run around all peppy during a performance.  The game sometimes requires you to do these slowly on a virtual track, which works just fine.  Then  it may speed it up, asking you to move at a faster pace, at which point the game fails to recognize my movements and tells me I’m doing it too slowly.  I’m damn near running by now and the game’s trainer (your choice of a male or female) is telling me I’m moving to slow!  I’ve gotten so fed up with this exercise that every time it comes up, I whole the controllers in my hand and just swing them around while I do the exercise properly.

Now, the Wiimote and Nunchuck already pose a problem: the cord that tethers the two devices together.  Many of the exercises require you to raise the controls near or above your head.  These usually involve me hitting myself in the face with he cord.  I know there are wireless Nunchucks you can by, and I’m tempted to get one just to use with this game, but using the stock controllers causes some annoyance because of that damn cord.

I’ve also heard reports of the resistance band breaking after only a few uses; I can’t attest to this as my band hasn’t broken yet.  The band itself does an admirable job of mimicking weights, but for some you might want to go ahead and get a tighter band, or find some way to use real weights as the pack-in band may not be enough.  Oh, and some of the exercises are really lame, like the dancing.  I also didn’t get a chance to try out the game with the Balance Board, as I don’t own one,  but I’m sure many of the exercises might be improved when used with this peripheral.

Here’s what I do like about the game: you sweat.  Personally, I don’t feel like I’m getting a workout unless I’m sweating profusely, and this game will make you sweat.  Even on the ‘light intensity’ mode you’ll probably workout up a light sweat by the end.  Also, the varied exercises keep things fun, for the most part, until EA releases the just-announced expansion.  The shoulder workouts really work your shoulders and I can tell that by the end fo the 30 days, I’m going to see results.  Not to sound like a press release, but this game really is made for people looking to fit in a quick workout if they can’t get to the gym.  You get a nice, basic workout (minus any ab exercises) that gets your heart rate up and your muscles burning.  Also, the including journal, which helps track your sugar intake, sleep, food, etc. does a decent job at accountability, making sure that you’re getting rest and a decent diet alongside the workouts.

Another thing to keep in mind: the game advertises that you can get a good workout in 30 minutes a day.  The exercises themselves run about 30 minutes or less (you can set them for any time up to an hour), but expect to be running the game for anywhere from 35 minutes to an hour on every session.  This is due to the (optional) videos and short breaks as the game is prepping you for the next exercise.  But, there is a timer that monitors how long you play, and each workout generally runs at about half an hour of actual exercising.

EA Sports Active is another step in the right direction for the burgeoning workout-at-home market of the video game industry.  While many ‘hardcore’ gamers dismiss these games as silly, you have to look at it from the point of view of the game’s target audience: adults with families that may not have time or money to invest in a gym membership.  If that’s the case, this game is for you.  Keep in mind that the game isn’t without its issues, but the workouts, coupled with a healthy diet, should provide results in the end.



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