Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Electronic Arts
Release Date: 05/18/2009
It’s funny how life goes. When Wii Fit first came out, reviewers were slobbering all over each other trying to praise the thing and all but calling it the answer to the prayers of millions of lethargic overweight couch potatoes. But then, those reviewers weren’t what one would call “in-shape” themselves.
Then you had me. I am a pretty active person with a bit of an exercise obsession. I actually tore into the Wii Fit for being a pile of crap that taught incorrect stances, procedures and motions and that the game could potentially hurt one far more than help them. In my review, I enlisted several exercise professionals or enthusiasts ranging from tri-athletes to yoga instructors to long distance runners. We all unanimously agreed that the Wii Fit was modern day snake oil preying on the innocent, naive and stupid alike. However that didn’t stop people from buying the game in droves, only to watch it sit unused and gathering dust a week later. Now nearly a year later, even sites that gave the Wii Fit an “A” or 9/10 rating admit they were suckered into the hype and have since called it a “miss-fire.” Good to know that other gaming sites have both integrity and the ability to actually review products with a discerning eye so as to help their readers rather than relieve them of their expendable assets, no?
Over the past year, many a game has come out trying to promise exercise and health benefits while playing. To this day, only one game has gotten it correctly. That’s Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout . Now EA Active has finally come out, boasting Balance Board compatibility and a few new items to help you like a resistance band and a hip pocket for your numchuk. Has EA made the second quality exercise game on the market, or is this yet another piece of crap designed to take a lot of gamer’s money?
Before we start, I will say this: I finished the “30 Day Challenge” in five days. I did four days worth of exercise (all on High Intensity) each day for those five days. Please do not try this at home. I realize the vast majority of gamers are not in condition to do this, so doing this may cause injury simply because you’re not used to that level of exercise. Please do not try that unless you are certainly you’re in fairly good shape. I also want to point out that my reason for picking up EA Active was due to the fact that on April 15th, I suffered pretty severe bone bruises to multiple vertebrae, and as such, have not been exercising up to my usual level. I wanted something easy to slide me back into working out before I went back to my usual routine before i was ready.
Again, for full disclosure I want to show you want I normally do in a day so that you understand this is not Joe Schmoe without any real knowledge of proper techniques writing this review. Being a bit obsessed with exercise and my physical state does NOT make me a better gamer, but it does make me a better candidate for writing this review due to my knowledge of proper techniques, stretches, exercises and the like. It also lets there be a review out there for those already in decent (or better) shape and are curious if this would be a nice addition to their workout or replacement for some reps.
Current Daily Regiment (Or Rather, What I Did Before I Bloody Injured Myself…)
100 Push ups
100 AB Crunches
5-10 miles of jogging a day (Depending on the weekend)
1,000-1,500 punches via Gold Gym’s Cardio Workout
All the above means is that this is commentary being written by someone that actually engages in about two hours of serious exercise each day, and not someone that is trying exercise for the first time via EA Active and is excited that a few toe touches caused them to perspire and now they can eat a whole chocolate cake. I will say that EA Active is no substitute for a gym membership or getting a personal trainer to straighten out your nutrition habits and also watch you do exercises for the first time to ensure YOU ARE DOING THEM CORRECTLY so as to avoid injury, tearing, pulling, or even breaking something. I am writing this review not to brag about what I do every day (Or did before the injury). I am writing this review as EA Active was my excuse to not only get in shape myself after a month of lethargy, but to also give you a far more informed opinion on what the game does right and what the game does SEVERELY WRONG so as to better protect you, our readers, from waking up the next morning with rubber legs or a torn ligament.
With that in mind, I do want to make one last important point before starting this review. If you are serious about getting this game after reading my review and doing the exercises, for the love of god, GO OUT AND BUY A REAL RESISTANCE BAND. The one enclosed in EA Active is pretty much crap and it will break before the 30 days are up if you are doing things right and intensely. The replacement/multi-player pack is selling for over thirty dollars, which is insane considering how shabby the band and hip pocket are. For a third of the price you can buy some solid and well built Xertube bands, each with their own resistance level. Hell, for the same price as the replacement kit, you can buy the excellent “Resistance Band Workout Kit” (It comes in a men’s and a women’s version)which comes with multiple bands and exercises for you to do with them. This is a MUCH better investment than the replacement kit, which is just a crappy flimsy third rate band and a hip pocket that your pretty much have to put on ala a tourniquet in order for it to stay on for the whole workout. In a nutshell, the accessories with EA Active are overpriced and poorly designed, so you’re going to have to upgrade for any real exercise development to take place.
To be honest, I was shocked at how little there was here. You start off by making your character from a limited number of options (There is no ponytail or long hair options for the guy?) and then the game gives you three choices. That’s it. You can either take part in the 30 Day Challenge, where you do a preset workout based on how far you are into the challenge and what intensity you choose or you can engage in a preset workout outside of the 30 day challenge. There is no ability to just choose a single exercise and run with it ala Wii Fit. This is it kids.
You can create your own custom workout. What’s nice about this is that the game will tell you how much of your customized workout is geared towards your upper body, your lower body, and cardio. This way you can either exercise one specific region or have it even balanced. It’s your choice. Unfortunately, once again, you can’t just go quickly into a single exercise and make your choice.
In either of the latter two you can also choose to work out with a friend, but that’s where the $30+ add-on pack (RIP-OFF) comes into play.
With your daily workout there are two interesting pieces adde din to ensure you are living a healthy lifestyle and not just playing a game half-heartedly for half an hour and then drinking a six pack of Mountain Dew. There is your health journal which chronicles things like how much you slept the night before, how many glasses of water you drank and so on. This is a great addition to an exercise game, but most gamers won’t be in the mindset to appreciate how important a lifestyle journal is when you first start making a commitment to living healthy. The more you use it and play EA Active however, the more you will realize what a valuable tool this is if you are serious about exercising and losing weight. You also have the daily exercise survey that checks what you do each day besides this game.
There last two pieces and your daily workout add up to give you a medal and your overall fitness level. For example, I am currently at 94%. Huzzah.
There are also trophies to unlock, which is basically pabulum, and the ability to check your progress via charts and graphs. These are all nice touches and an a true workout game, EA Active is certainly more professional and serious than Wii Fit. However, that inability to just let someone say, play the dance games for twenty minutes without having to make a custom workout, is a huge killer for me. There really needed to be a quickplay mode in this game. Still, what’s here is acceptable and even if you just stick to the journal, survey and 30 Day Challenge, you should be okay.
Modes Rating: Decent
Out of all the exercise games out for the Wii right now, EA Active is certainly the best looking. Character models are realistic and well formed. Even better, unlike Wii Fit, EA Active gives you video footage of a human being doing the exercises repeatedly and TALKS YOU THROUGH THEM before you actually start to ensure you are doing them correctly. Previously, we had only generic badly rendered models doing motions in ways the human body doesn’t actually move. I can’t begin to tell you how important it is to watch a real human being do these things as it drastically reduces your chance for injury or just plain doing the exercise wrong. Kudos to EA for the forethought of video footage being available not only before the exercise, but loadable at any time by pressing the minus button.
As the majority of your exercises involve you standing on a weird circular mat (Get a yoga mat or some kind of padding. Seriously people, if you do this on concrete, you will hurt yourself. Get a mat or pad. Yes, I know with the purchase of a REAL resistance band, EA Active gets pricey, but if you want the game to actually help you, you’ll need to do these things and spend that money.), you get to watch your character do motions along with you. Okay, not really with you as there is subtle to outright noticeable lag between your motion and the computer character/the game noticing your movements. This can be dangerous as it means you may hold a stretch longer than you are meant to or that you may have to repeat reps. Sometimes with my side lunges, the game takes so long to notice my movement, that the game starts the rep over due to the lag and then it goes into the motion while I’m just standing there. That’s messed up.
This is the best looking game for the Wii in terms of fitness gaming, but that slowdown/lag can be a real killer and at times, makes the game almost unplayable if you’re taking this serious for exercise content.
Graphics Rating: Good
Wii Fit had awful music tracks. We can’t deny that. Gold’s Gym had only MIDI’s, but they were fun and catchy. Heck, it even included Survivor’s, “Eye of the Tiger.” EA Active however has a full range of music selections. Sure they’re all generic, but you have the ability to choose for over a half dozen genres of music, and to even create your own workout place list. How awesome is that? I mainly stuck to dance club and electronica. The fact that EA Active has quasi goth music as an option was both hilarious and a welcome surprise to me. I mean, they really covered all the bases. Best of all, none of the music is annoying. It’s not like you’d burn any of these tracks to a CD and go jogging with them, but they’re enjoyable for what they are and fit the theme and tempo of the game.
The voices of your trainers (You have a choice between male and female.) are also well done. They speak slowly and clearly with perfect enunciation. They also will praise you when you do something correctly at a fast (for this game) pace and also gently chide you when you are too slow or incorrect with form and movements. Not bad.
Much like the graphics, the sound area is one piece where EA Active is indeed the best exercise game in the market. It’s just too bad sound and graphics mean diddlysquat for this type of genre.
Sound Rating: Good
4. Control and Gameplay
Alright, I’ve already mentioned the issues with the resistance band. I also want to point out I am NOT a fan of the hip pocket as the only way to keep it in place for the whole routine is to have it at near tourniquet level tightness. There were several times the thing just slid down my leg. At one point I had to go commando to get the pouch to stay on my thigh. Although I’m sure I’ve scarred you with the thought of my floppily doppilies being exposed to the world, this is not the only time you will here me talk about my balls in this section.
One huge fundamental flaw with EA Active is a cardinal sin that it shares with Wii Fit. Only an idiot would think to go for a Wiimote and numchuk combination for a game like this. One of the reasons Gold’s Gym remains the best exercise game on the market is that it’s primary control scheme is for TWO wiimotes rather than two controllers connected by a all too short cord. I am only 5’7″ and there were many times the cord between both controllers was too short for me to do the exercises properly. As well, when engage in the varied bicep curl activities in the game, the cord between the two would either whip me in the dick coming down, whip me in the face coming up or damn near garrote me. If EA had been serious about making this a true exercise game where a player could retain full body motion and thus do stretches and flexing properly and accurately, it would have completely jettisoned the wiimote and numchuk combo and went for the dual wiimote setup. The fact this is absent and was somehow never considered is a big reason why I can’t recommend this game.
I’ve already covered the lag between your movements and the character on the screen and how that can be trouble. Now I’m going to mention the problem exercises. As in, things that should NEVER HAVE BEEN INCLUDED IN THE GAME BECAUSE THEY ARE BAD FOR YOU AND DOING THESE LONG TERM WILL LEAD TO ARTHRITIS AND OTHER SEVERE PROBLEMS DOWN THE LINE. What the hell EA? Why would you put in things like running in place? That’s one of the worst things you can do to your knees! Things like this make me wonder who advised the developers on what to put in. Never ever EVER run in place. It is bad for your knees and especially your cartilage. The same with the inline skating and side to side jump exercises. These are awful for your knees. Sure, you might get short term calf and thigh muscles out of it, but long term you are doing severe damage to your knees and ankles and will erode your cartilage. Hell, Day Four on High Intensity might as well be called, “I Can Has Knee Replacement Surgery Plz?” It is that bad for you and on you. I explained a few of the exercises like jump lunges to friends of mine and their reaction was, “I can’t wait to see the class action lawsuit against EA.”
There are also two sets of utterly useless exercises that do absolutely nothing for you. The first are the dance exercises, which are just a waste of your time. You want to do dance exercise, get yourself a DDR disc and mat. The EA Active dance is literally worthless. There’re also the tennis exercises which, as a person who used to play on his school’s tennis team can tell you are not only worthless, but are nothing like actually tennis strokes and motions. They have you hold the Wiimote and Numchuk in two different hands for god’s sake! You don’t play with two tennis rackets. WTF? Just tell the gamer to only have the wiimote. Worst of all collision detection and aiming are severely off in this mode. If there is one exercise to skip after running in place, it’s tennis.
That leaves you with the resistance band exercises. These are actually all really good and properly done. Out of all the exercise games, only EA Active and Gold’s Gym gives you proper movements and worthwhile exercises. It’s just too bad half the exercises in EA Active are either worthless or will do more harm than good. The bicep curls, lunges, shoulder presses, cross knee punches and the like are all excellent, and when you design a custom workout, really stick to these so that you’re getting a proper workout. I’d include baseball and boxing in there, but there are better games for both exercises on the Wii. (Again people, get Cardio Workout if you are at all serious, or even curious about using a game for exercise!)
Most of the exercises options in EA Active are just derivates and variation of the same few exercises. I would have liked a little more variety and a better selection of exercises for the resistance band. I’m also disappointed that several of the exercises are hampered by the nature of the Wiimote/Numchuk and the cord that joins the two together. Full wireless and thus free motion would have made EA Active a better game and providing better exercise techniques, but for some reason EA decided to screw themselves here. Finally, there are exercises in this game that NO ONE should EVER PLAY if they are serious about their health. However, as an astute reader you now are aware of these problems and can compensate for them. It’s okay to go through the 30 Day Challenge as it won’t kill you knees and ankles due to the brevity of the exercises, but at least you’re warned for when you make your own custom work outs. As the majority of the exercises are quite well done and are actually beneficial (Unlike Wii Fit), a smart gamer or someone already exercise conscious will make the right decisions and use EA Active for some quality workouts. Well, quality for exercise gaming anyway. Just remember you can get a better workout by joining a gym or going for a multiple mile run each day.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Decent
Well, if you’re serious about completing to thirty day challenge, you’ll be putting in 15 to 35 minutes a day on this game for a month (Depending on intensity level) and that’s more than most games get. As well, once you design a quality workout, you’ll be able to do it on a regular basis and really tone your forearms, biceps, calves and thighs. That’s really all the game is good for though. The lack of variety, ability to quick play, and the fact that half the game are exercises that are literally worthless or actually harmful if done regularly really hurts the replay value of the title. To be honest, there isn’t a lot reason to keep this game past the thirty day challenge. My advice is to buy some quality cheap exercises pieces like real resistance bands, some push up bars, maybe a pull up bar, and a book on toning. You can get all of those for less than the cost of EA Active and you’ll get a better, more rewarding workout. After all, you’ll only be burning 150 calories per 30 minute workout, and you can do that in about ten minutes on a treadmill at about five or six miles per hour.
Hopefully if EA decides to make a sequel, they’ll have learned from the huge mistakes in this game and give us more variety and more worthwhile exercises.
Replayability Rating: Mediocre
It’s important to note that although the game is filled with some poor exercise choices, EA Active does try to lay out a workout correctly. The game suggests you exercise for two days and then take a day off. This is a really important thing to do if you’re not used to exercising daily as it gives your body time to recover. As well, the focus of the exercises changes each day, with one day focusing on upper body and the next focusing on your lower. This is a great way to start exercising as well. I also love that EA Active tries to keep you aware of your exercise distribution in the custom workout option, something that was sorely lacking from Wii Fit.
However there are some issues with the preset workouts that I’ve already covered. Things like your first day having three run in place exercises. That’s a horrible way to start someone exercising, giving them bad techniques that are actually going to hurt your body and having that be something they do three different times on day one (If you’re on high intensity. Please remember, I eschewed the other versions.). I was often flabergasted by the preset exercises due to the order you would do them in and how often times, the worst of the exercises (Tennis, Dancing and Running in Place) would be the focus each day. Awful awful AWFUL decision making here.
Even thought there are far less exercises to do in EA Active than Wii Fit, at least there is less of a snake oil salesman routine going on with this game. You can tell the developers meant well and that the biggest flaws in the game came from ignorance as to what exercises to focus on and even what to actually put in the game. Yes, EA Active is heavily flawed, but with determination, you can actually make some well developed custom exercises that can be a helpful SUPPLEMENT to a real exercise routine.
Balance Rating: Above Average
With exercise games being all the rage over the past year for the Wii, what was a brand new genre a year ago is now a bit stale. There have been complete misfires like Wii Fit and Jillian Michaels, a port of the best exercise game ever under a new name of My Fitness Coach and the current king of the genre, Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout. EA Active is just another game in the all too full genre, and with its larger than usual price tag and the insane cost for the expansion/multi-player pack, EA Active is just an overpriced middle of the road title for this genre. At least they added a resistance band. That was a nice touch. It’s just too bad the band that comes with the game is a flimsy piece of crap that costs more than a SET of real high quality resistance bands. Bad EA. BAD.
Originality Rating: Mediocre
EA Active is going to suffer the same fate of all exercise games. After a week, the majority of people who purchased the game simply won’t be playing it any longer. Of those who do keep playing, they’ll most likely stop after the 30 Day Challenge is up. The only reward for playing this is a healthier, toned you and that’s not really at the top of most gamer’s goals. Honestly? We’re a bit of a lazy cadre by and large. That’s obviously not all of us, but by and large the stereotype that exercise is a novelty rings true.
For me, even though I saw a great deal of flaws in EA Active and there is no way I could recommend this game to someone serious about losing weight or getting in shape, I stuck with this through the entire 30 Day Challenge and I’m actually going back for a real day by day version of the challenge so as to write a series of twenty articles on EA Active. You can look for that starting Monday, June 1st.
For most of you, EA Active will be an expensive novelty item that sits in a corner after a few days like your Wii Fit. For others, you’ll probably get a month’s worth of use out of the thing until you too get bored with it, or your resistance band breaks. For a small group who are serious about exercising but can’t afford a gym or a personal trainer and want to do more than cardio boxing, EA Active might become party of your daily routine.
Addictiveness Rating: Decent
9. Appeal Factor
By now, a lot of gamers are burned out on the exercise genre as it’s been 95% shovelware. Expensive shovelware mind you, but shovelware nonetheless. Still, EA’s brand name carries a lot of weight and they are best known for their sports games, so there has been a lot of buzz about this title. This means a lot of gamers will be giving this genre a second try, especially with the added bonus of EA Active being balance board compatible AND because the game comes with neat extras. As the average gamer won’t realize the quality of the exercises are a bit underwhelming and the quality of the resistance band is actually quite poor, you’ll no doubt see a lot of people (and sadly uniformed but well-meaning reviewers) praising this game as everything Wii Fit should have been and that will get the trusting and naive to go out and drop seventy dollars on this title.
Sadly, EA Active is a step in the right direction as it does several things better than Wii Fit and yet it continues with several of the mistakes and even makes a few new ones of its own. EA Active is a better “gateway drug into the world of personal fitness than Wii Fit, but it’s still neither the king of this genre nor a very good game.
Appeal Factor: Decent
Overall, EA Active is a better game than Wii Fit. It uses actual video footage of real people playing the game unlike poorly designed character models that do exercises wrong and thus teach you poor technique. EA Active gives you actual workouts so that you are constantly moving instead of the pick and choose format of Wii Fit. Of course the best answer would be to have BOTH as options, but for actual exercise, it’s better to have a constant 30 minute workout that doing minor exercises followed by a huge gap as you select what next to take and the balance board has to load and then you finally do the next exercise after several minutes of waiting.
Of course, EA Active does several things wrong by having a much smaller set of exercises than Wii Fit. Because there is much less variety to EA Active it’s easier to notice the harmful and ineffectual exercises and it makes the game all the more disappointing that these are the ones the game really wants you to focus on. I’m also really disappointed, EA didn’t provide an actual quality resistance band which would have made the game perform better and give you a better workout. $30+ for a third rate band and another hip pouch is highway robbery with EA preying on the ignorant. This is shameful to the nth degree, and it’s why I encourage all of you to never buy the replacement/expansion/multiplayer back. This is corporate greed at its worst.
Finally, EA Active really should have focused on the two wiimote scheme for full range of body motion reasons and to keep you that cord that connects the wiimote and numchuk from being a constant annoyance. The fact that only Gold’s Gym has done this, and that it is only $19.99 to boot, is why Ubisoft’s often overlooked exercise title remains the king of this genre. If you’re really looking for an exercise game that does more than works your upper body though, EA Active is a distant third after the budget priced My Fitness Coach which was awesome when it was on the original Xbox.
So yeah, only go for EA Active if you are curious about resistance band exercises and if for some reason you really don’t want to admit the two best games on the market for this genre are put out by Ubisoft. At the end of the day, EA Active is overpriced and the good only slightly outweights the bad in the overall product. Save your money as in the long run, the lack of foresight and the ignorance of the average gamer on what exercises you should not do may add up to bodily harm.
Miscellaneous Rating: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay: Decent
Balance: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Decent
FINAL SCORE: DECENT GAME!
Short Attention Span Summary
EA Active is a better game than Wii Fit, but it’s still a piece of flim-flam chicanery that really doesn’t do what it promises. The enclosed resistance band is a flimsy piece of crap and for a third or the price of the replacement pack, you can buy a real first rate resistance band, but EA’s greed is counting on the average gamer being unaware of these things so you can keep buying overpriced ineffectual equipment. The game uses the numchuk/wiimote combo instead of two wiimotes which limits the accuracy of these exercises in tall or wide people. Double Wiimotes would have allowed everyone to do the exercises properly and without hitting themselves with the adjoining cord. Finally, many of the exercises in EA Active are downright ineffectual and some are actually detrimental to your body in the long term. As such, I can’t recommend EA Active at all except to those that are already exercise conscious as they will know what exercises to avoid and that you’re going to need to invest in a mat and a real resistance band in order to get any quality use out of this game. Of course the irony there is that those people are exactly the niche of gamers that will know to avoid EA Active as they already have a real healthy exercise program enacted in their lives. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t positives to EA Active – it’s just that the negatives keep the game from being a sane and rational purchase. Being a step or two better than Wii Fit doesn’t change the fact that both are overpriced snow jobs and that your money is best spent on other things.