You've seen Wii Fit, but now EA is hoping you will get into your jogging bottoms for its sports fitness game, EA Sports Active, that promises to be a "virtual trainer in a box". So are you fit enough and will the game really help you shed some pounds? We managed to get some hands-on time with the first outing of the full version of the game at an EA preview day in London.
According to EA the premise is simple. Unlike Wii Fit that focuses on an Eastern fitness regime of wellness and balance in your life, EA Sports Active takes the Western approach of making you sweat to burn off calories.
The game is certainly more fitness focused, you won't find any yoga or Pilates classes here, nor will you find the opportunity to dodge any pandas. This is first and foremost a title that is designed to help you burn calories as part of a controlled fitness regime rather than a bit of fun for 10 minutes. That said it is still plenty of fun, but we will come to that in a bit.
Power the game up and you get to create your own character with your key statistics such as age, height, weight, etc, before moving on. That stage is there so the game can work out how many calories you are burning.
Even more interesting is the calendar element of the game that lets you track your progress both playing EA Sports Active and any other exercise you do, be it going for a run or tidying the garden (yard).
The home screen is simple and you are presented with the option of choosing a number of pre-determined training programmes, creating your own or even opting for the 30 day challenge, which as you might have guessed will challenge you to better yourself over the next 30 days. We only had about 30 minutes with the game in our First Look so didn't have enough time to test out the challenge, but seeing highlights from it, it's clear that it will offer a variety of training sessions.
Back to our hands on and we opted for a basic three and a half minute session (we don't want to over do it) that saw us do a bit of inline skating, boxing, running, dancing and tension work.
In the box you get a neoprene leg strap that allows you to slot in your Wii Nunchuk for simulated running stages and a standard tension thingy-me-bob for working on your upper body sessions. EA has promised more accessories but for now that's all you get in the box.
The running level, surprisingly fun and knackering at the same time, sees you fitting the Nunchuck into the leg strap and then running on the spot. This allows you to simulate running around the track, the faster you run the quicker your avatar on the screen moves and although you can't run a specific distance (down to not knowing your stride) you can opt to run on the spot for however long you like.
The boxing level is all very predictable and anyone who's played Wii Sports will know instantly what's what. The hardest one wasn't the dancing - although it will make you look like the biggest fool - but in fact the inline skating as in reality it's squat thrusts in disguise. You stand in a skiing position in your living room before jumping into the air to make a jump in game; 3 minutes of that and you'll be feeling the burn, 20 minutes and you'll feel like you have run up 12 flights of stairs. Ouch.
Once you've completed your training session you're given calorie data so you can then work out how many Mars bars you're entitled too. In our case: one-tenth (30 cals). Brilliant.
To mix it up a bit there are plenty of other disciplines to practice, learn and master such as basketball, baseball and football and EA, keen to make this into more than just a one-off, have told Pocket-lint that there will be plenty of add-ons to come.
Understanding that exercising on your own can be lonely or embarrassing, there is even a two-player mode where you can work in co-operation or competition against each other. Interestingly it takes into account your details from the beginning, meaning blokes don't have to work as hard as the girls as we supposedly burn off more calories when prancing around the living room - it's a tough life.
EA Sports Active does what it sets out to do which is getting you to be active in your living room and feel good about it.
It is of course by no means going to replace time in the gym or going out for a run, but then it's not aimed at those people or designed to do that. It's aimed at getting the average Wii owner to do a bit of exercise under the guise of a bit of fun and for that reason like Wii Fit before it, this is going to be huge.
While we must admit we do miss dodging pandas or trying to achieve maximum distance on the ski jump, EA Sports Active does feel like you are achieving something, giving you that warm glowing feeling, and actually making you exercise.
If, and we are sure it will be, playing the game at home is as much fun as on the preview day, then those looking to get active will be in for a treat. The only thing we can think will work against it, is the lack of "fun" games to play. But then, as our amazingly knowledgeable Canadian guide kept trying to drum home to us, EA Sports Active isn't a game: it's a "virtual trainer in a box".
EA Sports Active is due out on the 22 May 2009.