I love the anticipation of exercise equipment… but the novelty of it tends to wear off… fast. I am still using my Reebok iRun treadmill that I got as an early Christmas present — but despite how much I yell ‘pain is gooooood’ and ‘if it’s hurting it’s working!’ I still don’t use it as much as I should do. Or my sit up bar. Or my ab cruncher. Or my dumbbells. Or the water weights that I brought back from Japan. Or the slendertone that I have asked for as another Christmas present so there will still be some novelty left to get my tummy back into shape after all the big boxes of Celebrations that they insist on selling for half price, dammit!
I also like fitness products on game consoles, but they do tend to suffer from some of the same problems as my other fitness equipment. My Balance Board and the copies of Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus are just, err… somewhere, but there is actually a fitness product that I do still use from time to time, and that is EA Sports Active: Personal Trainer… but I tend to use the follow-up disc — the ever so clumsily titled EA Sports Active: Personal Trainer – More Workouts… more.
For those unfamiliar with the first two EA Sports Active ‘games’, they were a Wii exclusive. You hold the Wiimote in one hand, the nunchuck goes in a neoprene strap on your leg and you move around based on the instructions on the screen. The activities tend to be more ‘workout-y’ than the activities on Wii Fit – as something else that comes in the box is a ‘resistance band’ — a piece of elastic like the ones you get in Pilates – which make some of the exercises more difficult. And boy, do the exercises get difficult. When you do EA Sports Active, you really do feel like you’ve had a workout — leading to me naming the woman who told me to do all the workouts ‘the bitch’. You can choose to have a man, but he just became ‘the bastard’ — so I switched back to ‘the bitch’ just because I thought I might be able to take her in a fight.
(Deep breath) EA Sports Active: Personal Trainer – More Workouts (exhale) brought in balance board compatibility — and ‘the bitch’ was back! Rather than just being a bonus disc which gave more varied exercises. While the controls weren’t perfect, they were a lot better — and some of the games, like the boxing mini game — genuinely did what the product was meant to do — they gave you a good workout, while also being a lot of fun. It still managed to kick my ass on a consistent basis ,though — so when I stopped, I didn’t instantly go back — but I can say that it is definitely the best fitness product that I have ever used on a console. Especially as I picked it up for a tenner and I needed a quick fix to fit myself back into a PVC Ulala costume.
So now, EA Sports Active 2 is out on the 19th of this month, and given that they’ve paid a scruffy and increasingly more tramp-like looking David Beckham to be in one of the adverts for it, they’re taking it seriously — and, for the first time, the game is extending beyond it’s Wii origins, to also be on the PS3 and XBOX 360. All three of the products are selling for around £69.99, with an RRP of £79.99, so what do you get for your extra money? Well on Wii, the first obvious thing that you get is a heart monitor — which means that your exercises will keep you at the right heart-rate, meaning that the whole killing you thing shouldn’t be as bad. The heart monitor also doubles as a wireless sensor, and there’s another one for your leg, avoiding the whole tripping up on the nunchuck cable thing and smashing your face in. There are supposedly more than 70 activities, and your exercise achievements will be automatically put up to an online profile, meaning that you can compare how well you’re doing with your friends, if you’re a masochist. Or competitive, which I am. If my best friend Susan got this at the same time as me, I would definitely try to beat her score, which might be better for my ass than constantly battling her for gamerscore on the Xbox 360.
For the PS3… you get another motion controller. That’s right, it means that rather than having to hold a Wiimote – or it requiring you to have a Move controller to play, you just strap things on your arms. The best version is probably the Xbox 360 – which you can only use if you buy their new controller — the Kinect. In the box, you get a heart rate monitor… and that’s it. But it does mean that you can do all the exercises without having to strap on any equipment. And you can do multiplayer without having to buy new equipment, and just use the camera It has games, like the ‘dodge ball’ which just work better with the recognition that the Kinect provides. You can realistically see this being used as a piece of gym equipment — as you can control it with your hands, there’s not even a joypad to handle and get sweaty. If you have a Kinect anyway, and you want to get fit — then you could get this for about the same price as two sessions with a Personal Trainer, and ‘the bitch’ will put you through the same sort of paces.
As a game, it’s probably not going to eat into your Call of Duty: Black Ops time — but as a piece of fitness equipment, it’s pretty good for the price… and to be honest, it’s the best reason yet to buy a Kinect. It might seem a little much to be charging essentially £30 for a heart monitor, or even £40 for a game which seems like it would cost a fraction of some of EAs AAA titles. But, they’re not selling it as a game, they’re selling it as exercise equipment… and in those terms — it rips you off a lot less than the gyms do. And that I highly approve of when trying to fit back into one of my Ulala costumes!