EA Sports Active NFL Training Camp Review (Wii)
The cynical side of me sees EA Sports Active NFL Training Camp as a simple rebranding of an existing product, only existing to sucker football fans into buying another NFL game and stretching the value of EA’s exclusive license. My idealistic side argues that this game is trying to reproduce the NFL training experience while providing a more interesting backdrop for daily workouts than generic aerobics and yoga instructors.
After spending time with NFL Training Camp, it turns out that both sides of this argument have merit. This is, at its core, a rebranding of EA Sports Active -- not an entirely new game. However, the NFL branding permeates every aspect of this product and may provide the incentive some need to start a regular exercise routine.
NFL/EA Sports Active Matchup
To begin, this game is very much an EA Sports Active title. The activities, setup and functionality of the game are remarkably similar to the "vanilla" version of EA Sports Active 2. This is so much the case that if you own that game, there is no need to purchase this one -- unless you are such a big NFL fan that you plan to leave your life savings to Roger Goodell. The game is that similar in concept and execution; many of the 70 or so activities are identical. Even the accessories are not "NFL" oriented, unless you plan on rebranding them with the provided stickers (seriously).
Speaking of the accessories, you get four: an arm sensor/heart-rate monitor, a leg sensor, USB transmitter and an exercise band. The two sensors and the USB device work in collaboration to track the movements of your limbs and work as you would expect. This is not a Kinect or even Move level of motion detection, but it is enough to successfully track repetitions. Of course your Wii remote is involved, and it occasionally becomes awkward to hold.
The heart-rate monitor is also effective, and its data is ever-present. This is a great tool and a crucial addition to the fitness genre.
This Is the NFL
It is the look that truly separates this game from EA Active 2. The entire game, from the opening training camp montages to your avatar’s clothes and screen transitions, screams National Football League.
The NFL Films music is invigorating, and it is much more appreciated (by me anyway) than the generic music in the other Active titles. Voice-over work and feedback are given by a guy who sounds like a stereotypical coach (thankfully he's not annoying), and Deion Sanders makes token appearances.
Your on-screen guides are NFL players, but they are simply interchangeable models that don’t speak or show other elements of personality. Instead of the "spa" setting of the other Active games, all workouts take place on a practice field or stadium. This is an interesting but perhaps meaningless change -- though it certainly fits the theme.
Other aesthetic changes include NFL unlockables and clothing (how many people will want to unlock anything but their favorite team?). Menus and transition screens are also done in a typical NFL fashion. Basically, it's like exercising while watching the NFL Network.
Gearing Up for Draft Day
While you are working out, your goal in the 60-day program is to increase your position in the draft, which is represented by a meter. You start as the last pick and progress from there. I like that some of the more competitive exercises include a leaderboard that not only tracks your best times, but includes NFL players' scores as well. These are obviously falsified to give you something to strive for, but it is nice to see your favorite player on the leaderboard -- below your name.
Other workouts beyond the 60-day program seem a little arbitrary. There is a workout for each team, but other than the included exercises and guiding player, there does not seem to be a lot of difference. I can’t say, for instance, that the Eagles workout contains anything that’s truly representative of the team.
Pick Your Position
Beyond the "team-specific" workouts are the very intriguing position-specific workouts, which even by themselves can be pretty fun. These consist of various activities related to a position, usually strung together into a course of sorts that can be completed for a score. These activities are also much more related to actions you might do in football, and they save this game from purely being a rebranded title.
For instance, the QB challenge consists of a timed event where you jog through a course, occasionally stopping for some passing drills. These measure your timing and vision more than any physical ability, but I still found the whole course rather fun.
The kicking drills are also very enjoyable. They included punting into the corner and nailing field goals. The receiver and running-back challenges are less enjoyable and original, but still replicate something related to football. When put together these little events almost work like those infamous Madden mini-games, except with motion.
This game contains all of the positives and negatives of the other versions of EA Active 2: fast-paced workouts, ability to workout with friends, online stat tracking, lack of real feedback, data overload and occasional motion issues.
But if you are looking for a Wii fitness game, and you are a football fan, you may want to pick this up instead of EA Active 2. If you already own EA Active 2, just know that you are not getting a significantly different product, at least beneath the glossy NFL finish.
On the Field: Fast-paced workouts are fun, especially with the NFL backdrop. The positional drills are my favorite, and most original, part of the game.
Visuals: Solid graphics, including the modeled stadiums and players. The NFL branding is consistent and well done.
Audio: NFL Films music and the "coach" change things up, but you still are not getting feedback that’s of much value. Occasionally, even his countdowns to end a stretch did not sync with the onscreen clock.
Entertainment Value: Like the other EA Active products, this is going to set you back a bit ($100). You are getting the necessary equipment, but you’ll need to be both committed to the program and an NFL junkie to get optimum value.
Learning Curve: Like the other titles in this series, it does a good job of explaining what to do for each activity. However, a lack of personalized feedback can be frustrating if you are doing something wrong.
Online Play: The website and online community are really beneficial for these types of games, and they are included here. I had occasional server issues when uploading data.
Score: 7.5 (Good)