As you may have inferred from reading some of my other previews from E3, I’m not hugely excited about Microsoft’s Kinect. It’s not that I think the product itself is dumb, I just think that most of the games that have been announced for it aren’t really showing off the peripheral’s full potential. With the right game, I could see Kinect taking it to the next level, instead of adding just a bunch of gimmicky controls, and the exercise genre seems like the perfect fit for controller-free gaming. Though the exer-game craze has received plenty of criticism, I’ve been a big supporter, and I thought that EA Sports Active and its ensuing expansion were great options for gamers looking to burn calories. I was hoping that getting to see EA Sports Active 2 being used with Kinect at E3 would give me a valid reason to care about using my body as a controller, but between the pricey game and the pricey peripheral, this may no longer be a sensible weight loss option.
From the start of the presentation, it was obvious that the developers of EA Sports Active were trying to take the game even further than its previous iterations. We were told that it was “not just a workout, it’s a holistic program”, and all versions will come with a working heart rate monitor. There’s also a stronger resistance band, but gamers have the option of using their own weights instead, one of the benefits of not having to hold a controller. In addition to preset and custom workouts (the latter of which was my favorite feature of EA Sports Active), there’s a new option for a trainer-generated workout, focusing on specific goals instead of general calorie burning.
With all exercise games on the Wii, the motion sensing could only accomplish so much, making it possible to “cheat”, or not execute proper form while the game registers your movements as correct. Personally, I never understood why someone would spend the time and money on any exer-game and then not go through with the exercise, but there were occasions when EA Sports Active wouldn’t register my movements, and I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong. This is another huge benefit of using Kinect with this genre; proper form is crucial, and there’s no more half-assing. Of course, Ubisoft already approached this idea with Your Shape in 2009, but hopefully Kinect will be able to take it even further.
There are some new features in EA Sports Active 2 that I definitely think will be helpful, in addition to the trainer program. A record of your workouts will be stored online, and you can even create workout groups with your friends if you want and compare progress on the EA Sports Active website. Of course, how much you want to share is totally up to you, so if you’d rather keep your workout habits a secret, you can set the privacy settings to do so. Having a good support system can be really encouraging when you’re trying to get healthier, which is no easy task. There are also plenty of new activities, and the way you exercise will work your entire body.
I was impressed by what I saw, but not so happy about the price: because of the inclusion of the heart rate monitor, EA Sports Active 2 will retail for $99.95. It was pointed out that most good heart rate monitors can cost hundreds of dollars, but for that price I’d rather just get the game and the resistance band, which won’t be an option. You can’t put a price on good health, but at $100 for the game and a rumored $100-$150 price tag on Kinect, are we just better off joining a gym? I’m certainly not going to buy Kinect just for one game, so I might be sticking with the Wii workouts until controller-free exercising gets a little more affordable.
EA Sports Active 2 will be out November 16, 2010, for the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii.