At a recent EA Sports event, I had a chance to take a look at the next game in the EA Active line, tentatively titled Active 2.0. While I wasn't able to get my hands (or, rather, legs and arms) on the title, seeing it in action gave me a good idea of what the developers hope to accomplish with the next generation of Active. Namely, more. A lot of it. And some soccer.
Active is making a leap. It's moving away from its Wii-exclusive roots and expanding to the PlayStation 3 and iPhone. Don't think that this means players will be shaking the phone up and down or using the PlayStation Move, though, the series is receiving a drastic upgrade in more ways than one. The PlayStation and Wii versions will both come with wireless sensors capable of reading players' heartbeats, enabling the developers to include exercises impossible with the corded Wii controller. It means that players can jump from one activity to another without changing the position of the controllers, something that simply wasn't an option before. This new doorway gives the developers room to add new gameplay elements, some of which were shown off at the event. Being able to go from running on a soccer field to kicking a ball without changing the controls wasn't possible before. Now, it is, and it looks pretty darn fun.
On top of helping them meet their goals, Active 2.0 comes with tools to help set and track them better as well. Online tools with all versions of the game were mentioned, and the ability to track calories burnt and heart rate should let players be more accurate with their workout. On top of that, the PlayStation 3 version promises to have downloadable content as well, giving the "game" even more legs past the original purchase.
While the last games in the series were fairly good, they both suffered from problems with the controllers not accurately representing the players' actions. Often, doing moves in real life wouldn't translate well to the screen, which put a damper on things when players were trying to get into the mood to exercise. There was nothing more frustrating than having to pause the game mid-workout to skip an activity because the game suddenly decided it didn't want to register movements. Now, with the inclusion of the new sensors, it should be much more accurate. Should, of course, is the key word here, as it really didn't seem like this was the case at the event. The early build still suffered from the same issues past versions have, and the on-screen prompts didn't seem to match what the player was doing. This will hopefully be addressed before release, though, since it seems like something that could make or break the game in the end.
I didn't walk away overly impressed with EA Active 2.0. I wasn't supposed to be. It isn't a "game," in the traditional sense of the word, and didn't contain any elements that were made to knock the pants off of a game journalist. What it had, though, is potential outside of the normal gaming audience, something the inclusion of the sensors expands in a big way. For a thing like Active, reach is more important than any review scores. If the problems are cleaned up by release, and I have to think they're going to be, we'll be doing a lot of exercise come year's end.