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2 Reviews

EA Sports Active 2

Unlike all that passive exercise we've been doing

We pity the people in the flat downstairs. The rhythmic thumping of us bounding from side to side, replaced by huffing and puffing, then followed by the rapid-fire pounding of an on-the-spot sprint has become the soundtrack to their evenings. We reckon we'd be more enamoured to our neighbours if we just went the traditional route and blasted drum 'n' bass at 3am - at least they'd be in no danger of their ceiling caving in and flattening them in their sleep.

We'll wear our ASBOs with pride, though. Our cavalier 'go hard or go home' approach to EA Sports Active 2's workouts just demonstrates the benefits of applying videogame structure to fitness. For once the dull ache in our extremities isn't a result of a few too many fizzy drinks the night before; it's the fact that we went gung-ho and selected a half-hour high-intensity workout to complete today's scheduled exercise.

Then when the trainer challenged us to pick up the pace towards the end of a set, we couldn't resist giving it a go. If you'll forgive the horrifying image, by the end we were drenched in sweat and thoroughly exhausted.

It's strange to imagine yourself getting a decent workout from simply standing in front of your TV in your own home, but there's remarkable intensity to the exercises on offer - not just in terms of frantic activity, but also endurance challenges such as held squats. Given all the fuss about Kinect being able to detect you when you're sitting down, we were pleased to find that there's floor work in Active 2 as well - the game manages to track your v-crunches just fine.

The addition of a resistance band as something to work against makes a huge difference as well both in terms of variety and intensity, given that in most Kinect fitness games you're operating within the limits of your own body.

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The only workout we found frustrating was the Cardio Boxing. Owing to some quirks with the game's detection, often when we ducked for the crouching jabs and hooks it would register as a hit, sending the bag backwards, stuffing up our rhythm something rotten. It's a shame, because when you're in the groove, it's a satisfying workout and a crucial portion of upper body exercise.

Where EA Sports Active 2 really excels is the structure surrounding the workouts, which is complex enough that you'll probably want a controller nearby to navigate the various menus. If you've ever used exercise management software like DailyBurn you'll recognise the various options available.

The difference here being that performance is tracked by the supplied heart rate monitor, meaning you don't have to manually record any of your work on Active 2. Specific training programmes give you workout and calorie targets, but if you just want the game to chuck together a series of exercises based on how much time you have and how much pain you want, it'll take care of that too. There's also the opportunity to join workout groups to track each other's progress and egg each other on - accountability goes a long way when you're looking for motivation.

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Aside from a voice recognition glitch - which halted workouts at random intervals until we switched voice control off - it's an extremely slickly designed and professional product. Instead of complaints what we have is a list of things we'd like to see in the next one - the main one being expansion beyond the confines of the game itself. Within Active 2 it's brilliantly organised, but we're hankering for better integration with the other exercise in our life. In particular, we'd love to be able to use the heart monitor when we're out on a run or in the gym, logging data that could then be downloaded back into Active 2 to complement our home workouts. While you can enter details of activities you've done manually, the options are limited to a handful of traditional forms of exercise.

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