|System: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii|
|Dev: Electronic Arts|
|Pub: Electronic Arts|
|Release: November 16, 2010|
|Screen Resolution: 720p, 1080i, 1080p|
by Andrew Groen
So far Kinect's standout ability is its ability standout ability is to make you sweat your pants off, and its release list has reflected this enviable quality. Both PlayStation Move and Nintendo Wii would love to have the exercise game potential that Kinect has. A lot of people are going to be wondering if the Kinect version of this highly popular sequel is going to be worth it. Can the motion-control camera offer an experience that surmounts the original Wii game?
I recently had my socks blown off by the awesome Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, and I expected EA Sports to lavish Active 2 with tons of development time and polish in an attempt to gain market share in the workout game genre on Kinect. However, I was surprised to find that EA didn't do that at all. In fact, Active 2 is quite a bit worse than Your Shape in many important ways. Fans of the workout genre will still find that this game has some redeeming qualities, but in almost every respect, Your Shape blows it out of the water.
The first major reason that Active 2 isn't quite as good as Your Shape is that the Kinect control is only slightly competent. In some areas, it works fine. For instance, most of the sports games like mountain biking, dodgeball, and running have good Kinect recognition. However, in many other instances, the Kinect control is utterly infuriating and a wretched example of how the system should be used. The menus are not optimized for Kinect. It's frustrating to use Kinect to make selections, and you'll probably need to have a controller nearby at all times (which defeats the purpose of paying $150 for a motion-control system.) The menu icons are tiny, and selecting items from a small list is ridiculously difficult.
During the workouts, the motion control is seldom competent and often infuriating. Big motions like jumping register fine, but smaller motions do not work at all. Some exercises call for you to get on the ground (reverse crunches, push ups, etc) and this is where the Kinect control truly breaks. The game will lose sight of you most of the time when you get down to do the exercise, even if the camera is aimed right at you. This means you'll have to stand back up again and go through the process of logging back in. I had to get back up and log back in an average of three times before I could begin the exercise. Once the exercise actually began, my motions were almost never picked up. The only way I could find to pass the workout was to flail wildly to confuse the system into thinking I did the exercise. Worse, the narrator will continue to tell you you're not doing it right. Excuse me? No, you've got it backwards.
I still feel ambivalent about the other exercises (read: not the ground exercises.) The problem is that not all of them even use Kinect to map your motions. They simply show your trainer on-screen, and then you have to mimic that. You'll receive points whether you do the exercise or not. On one hand, this brings Active 2 dangerously close to being a workout tape rather than actual software. On the other hand, it removes some of the problems that other exercises have in understanding your motions. So, it's really a toss up. It removes some frustration, but it also arguably removes some of the value from the product.
EA Sports' big addition in this installment of the Active franchise is the inclusion of the heart monitor accessory. You don't really have a choice either; the game only comes packaged with the heart monitor. So, I was disappointed to find that its usefulness is extremely limited, and in no way justifies the ridiculous price of $100. The only function the heart monitor serves is to tell you how many beats per minute your heart is pumping. Given that modest task, one could at least expect it to be accurate, but in several tests at both resting and active heart rates I found the monitor to be consistently too high by between ten and twenty beats per minute.