Wednesday, December 2, 2009

EA Sports Active More Workouts video game review

EA's new fitness game builds on the solid foundations of its predecessor to offer a more well rounded home exercise experience.
Ever since Wii Fit (and later Wii Fit Plus) demonstrated that there were oodles of cash to be made from fitness applications, developers have been falling over themselves to create the next big workout video game. It now seems that a new fitness title is released every other month. While their sheer numbers certainly prove that this genre of game has become big business, no game of this type has yet presented a credible challenge to the Wii Fit franchise's dominance of this market. The only title that has come anywhere near close is EA Sports Active which was released earlier this year and has since sold nearly two million units. Now, with the festive season upon us, and the promise of an ever expanding girth brought on by parties, dinners and calorie-rich Christmas pudding, EA has released a sequel in the form of EA Sports Active More Workouts. If the title seems unimaginative, take heart in the fact that at least this fitness game does exactly what it says on the box.

EA Sports Active More Workouts doesn't really offer an experience that differs all that much from its predecessor. Rather, it builds on the solid foundations of EA Sports Active, while expanding its content to include larger workout challenges, stretching and cool-down periods and exercises that target more areas of the body. The overall formula here is the same as before; players use the Wii Remote and Nunchuck in conjunction with a resistance strap and a leg band to perform exercises that are aimed at toning muscles and burning fat. At the time of this writing, EA Sports Active More Workouts is only available as a stand-alone entity; newcomers to the franchise will have to fork over around £15 for the game's accessories, which are currently sold separately. It's unclear at this time whether it will ever be sold as a bundle, but the cost of EA Sports Active: More Workouts and the EA Sports Active accessory pack add up to the same cost as the first game anyway. Veterans, for their part, will save a little bit of cash and will be able to import their fitness profile from EA Sports Active over to their new game.
Aside from a couple of tweaks, the experience of exercising is the same as before. Players tuck the Nunchuck into the pocket of the leg-strap in order to perform exercises below the waist (such as lunges) and most of the longer cardio exercises. The Wii Remote and Nunchuck are used for upper body exercises, both on their own (for cardio boxing or squash) and with the resistance strap for toning exercises (bicep curls, lateral raises and so forth). There is the option to use a balance board, although owning one isn't essential to play the game. Each exercise is introduced with a brief video in which the player is shown what to do and also what position to stand in. Players can set the difficulty of their exercises as well as set goals for burning calories or hours spent working out. All throughout the workouts, the players will be encouraged by a virtual trainer whose gender they can pick from the start, and whose psychotically cheerful demeanour will eventually cause them to fantasise about hurling a brick through their television's screen.
With the core experience basically untouched, EA Sports Active More Workouts differs from it predecessor by the depth of new content and a handful of cosmetic changes. Owners of the first game will notice a couple of tweaks right from the loading screen; the soundtrack is a little more sedate and all of the scenery has changed. The avatars now mirror the player's activities in an island paradise which not only looks better than the slightly bland track and field environment from the first game, it also offers some new activities. Another big change is that the first game's 30-day challenge has been replaced by a new 6-week challenge, presumably to increase the possibility that exercising in the living room will become more of a long-term commitment. Once again, the challenge also encourages players to fill in details about their daily diet and activities to help build up a more accurate trajectory of their progress. However, all set workouts now have warm up and cool down periods, which corrects a potentially harmful omission from the first game – especially for players who habitually worked out on the hardest settings.
The new game offers around 35 new exercises in total; some are evolutions of exercises in EA Sports Active (such as cardio boxing with moving targets) and some are only available with the balance board (such as step-ups). There are also a lot of brand new exercises which use the peripherals in new and interesting ways and allow players to target areas of muscles on their bodies. Probably the most noticeable collection of new exercises – which were conspicuous by their absence in the first game – are those that target stomach muscles such as crunches and (horrendous) leg raises. There are also a large selection of exercises which take advantage of the game's tropical paradise setting such as water skiing, paddle surfing and obstacle courses involving flotation devices.
Unfortunately EA Sports Active More Workouts carries over a couple of gameplay drawbacks from the original title. The Nunchuck and Wii sometimes takes longer to register one leg than the other during lunge exercises. The journal entries are improved somewhat, but they're still too just general to offer any worthwhile nutritional advice and the workouts have too much of a heavy reliance on calorie counting. As far as the peripherals are concerned, the fabric leg-strap is still a solid piece of kit, but the resistance strap is fairly useless as a toning implement. It's a shame that the new game doesn't offer a better peripheral that could actually help build muscle on the upper part of the body – especially when the rest of the game seems to offer a more well-rounded exercising experience than its predecessor. The only other problem the game has is that it may seem like a bit of a cash-grab to anyone who bought the first instalment in the series; asking full price for what could be offered as DLC (at a substantially lower cost) on either Xbox Live or PSN may cause a little consternation.
Then again, maybe not. The arrival of EA Sports Active More Workouts barely six months after its predecessor hasn't caused fans of the original to start a boycott, after all - which if anything proves fitness games just don't have the same hold over players as zombie shooters. Niggles aside, it's a huge improvement on EA Sports Active. While EA hasn't tinkered too much with the foundations of the franchise, the tweaks, tucks and additional content make EA Sports Active More Workouts feel like a far more effective fitness package than its predecessor. For players who want to work up a sweat in front of their consoles it's one of the best titles available. Read More....


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