EA Sports Active 2 • Page 3

Which format is fittest?

Xbox 360

Oh dear. On paper, Kinect could have been designed for the fitness genre. A full-body, motion-tracking 3D camera sat in front of your telly? What could possibly go wrong? A lot, it turns out.

And the reason it goes wrong isn't all Kinect's fault. After all, Ubisoft's YourShape is a stunning technical achievement and a striking example of how Kinect revolutionises active gaming. Sadly, in that case the game around it falls well short of the standard set by the technology and by EA's previous efforts.

Active 2 for Kinect is in many ways the exact opposite of Your Shape: superb game design undermined by a baffling series of technical failings that, at best, suggest the game was rushed to release without proper testing.

Let me be clear: it's far from a total disaster. And when it works it can stand shoulder to shoulder with the other versions and in some cases, thanks to the body tracking, surpass them. But there are so many glitches and frustrations caused by poor Kinect implementation that it can just as easily ruin a workout.

Having played all three versions extensively, the problem now seems obvious enough. It's a design and resource issue: rather than create three bespoke fitness games, the team has created a single core experience that is tailored to fit each platform.

That process may have worked on Wii and PS3. Not here. Take menu navigation. It turns out that a game designed for use with controllers amazingly doesn't work very well with hand gestures.

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In five seconds the game will pause itself and he'll put his foot through the screen.

To work around this EA has made the whole game navigable via voice commands. But thanks to Kinect's tin-ear it won't be long before you're barking impotently at the stupid camera before reaching for the controller.

If that were the extent of the problems, it could be forgiven. Sadly, I can't be as charitable about the game itself. For instance, during exercises the jukebox menu has a bizarre habit of appearing at random. Which pauses the game. As do tutorial videos which start playing for no apparent reason.

At other times the game brings up the pause menu and I'm presuming this is what's happening because Kinect thinks my arm is making the pause gesture, even though the game is TELLING ME TO HOLD IT LIKE THAT.

It's not consistent, either. Some workouts, I only have problems a couple of times; others it's literally every activity. And yes, I've tried recalibration. And considered throwing it out of the window.

I also noticed that there are fewer events here than in other versions perhaps because they couldn't be made to work? That said, there are activities designed specifically for Kinect, such as Dodge Ball (the reverse of Kinect Adventures' Rally Ball), which works rather well, and target-based football.

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The supplied resistance band is too weak for blokes - you're better off using separate weights.

Space is a general issue with Kinect and Active 2 certainly demands more space than most. In my flat I have just about enough space to play pretty much everything I've tried. Here the camera tracks me fine when upright, but can lose me during floor-based exercises like pushups and crunches. No doubt if you have one of those football-field-sized living rooms 'as seen' in the Kinect ads you'll be fine.

The most damning thing to say about Active 2 on Kinect is not that's it's outright bad as noted, when it works, it works very well and at times you really can see the difference one-to-one tracking makes, though YourShape does it much better.

It's that EA would have been better off not bothering with Kinect at all and simply packaging the game with the same devices as the PS3 version. That's right, Kinect actually makes Active 2 worse. Amazing.

There's a solid, clever, comprehensive fitness game buried away in here that's fighting to get out. And I hope EA can at least issue a patch that resolves some of these problems.

And then the team needs to take several steps back a Microsoft-recommended six-to-eight feet ought to do it and have a long think about how it can deliver a game that does justice to Active's peerless content and Kinect's game-changing technology.

5/10

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