When played together, these three fundamental VR fitness titles form the backbone of a complete full-body workout.
Following the initial groundfloor of consumer-grade 6DOF VR in 2017, the budding 2018 VR catalog was full of games and applications that mix VR gameplay with physical activity. We heralded a decent share of new active titles like Beat Saber and Creed: Rise to Glory. We uncovered crafty ways to boost fitness potential in titles like Skyrim VR and Rec Room. And we reported on the unknown existing fitness potential in titles like VRChat.
Through all of 2018, VR Fitness Insider has been on the tail of the newest active trends in the VR industry. But recently, I’ve felt like something’s missing. As if all of the new trends in VR are still shadowed by the game that, for a long time, was known only for its mythically extreme player brutality.
I’m speaking, of course, about The Thrill of the Fight. The game that we previously noted as the single greatest VR boxing game to exist as of its initial early access launch. To this day, I subconsciously compare every physical challenge I face in VR back to the harrowing three-minute long skirmishes which define The Thrill of the Fight.
One of the key problems of VR-for-fitness is that, most of the time, it’s easy to miss out on giving all of your muscles the right amount of action they need.
Beat Saber, for instance, is the best consistent cardio workout you can get in VR. Playing around with new songs and challenging yourself to beat global leaderboards will get you up and moving around every single day without you compartmentalizing your game time and your workout time separately. It also teaches you how to be more flexible and dextrous in your movements.
But Beat Saber is not a better leg workout than BOXVR. And it’s not going to challenge your pectorals and triceps like The Thrill of the Fight. In practice, while each of the three games greatly teases the territory of the other two, they each do one thing particularly better than the others.
Beat Saber’s custom song websites allow for near-infinite content on PC VR. If you get really lucky, you’ll run afoul of a track or two that was made by somebody who’s knowledgeable about physical fitness. But Beat Saber is not a game that outright punishes you for poor form.
If you tap boxes or hit them like drums, you still get to keep going and you still earn points. If you forget your form while playing BOXVR, you’ll miss your squats and be unable to land punches. And if you forget your form in The Thrill of the Fight, your opponent might plow your face into the ring.
The Thrill of the Fight is a wild ride. A horribly underrated wild ride, but a wild ride nonetheless.
As the player, you may not receive any information from which to telegraph enemy attacks, and that’s what makes The Thrill of the Fight brilliant. It’s random, chaotic, and you don’t know whether your next punch is what it’ll take to down your opponent. Instead, you keep fighting, blindly trading blows and haphazardly weaving out of the way of perceived weak positions; only to be smacked in the face with the sheer force of the enemy AI’s impossibly fast, impossibly powerful robofists.
More often than not, it’s unfair and unforgiving. “Things break,” is more of a status quo than an issue. Your controller’s tracking might give out and screw up the velocity of your haymakers, but you’ll punch again. Harder. And you’ll feel the burn later. The Thrill of the Fight is a game that puts you against insurmountable odds, whether deliberate or due to a technical error, and even sometimes against yourself.
And then it tells you to do better.
Meanwhile, BOXVR is a mix of both. You practice your jabs, hooks and uppercuts between squats and lunges, but it’s literally HIIT fitness boxing in VR form. Where Beat Saber has you ducking its sound walls, it’s almost deliberately set up for you to bend over and duck rather than squat with proper form. BOXVR is entirely about going all the way down and pushing your leg muscles.
BOXVR is the fitness game where uppercut prompts are set up just right as you finish a squat so that the added momentum from your recovery helps you land the next punch. It’s a simple design trick that subconsciously motivates you to do everything “correct”. In Beat Saber, and in The Thrill of the Fight, “correct” is whatever wins you the level or keeps you alive. Anything goes. Both aren’t just less regimented, they’re almost anti-regimen in their gameplay approach. BOXVR is, however, weighed down by its adherence to its own regimen.
Here’s the thing though: all three of these games will make your heart rate hit peak efficiency if you practice them regularly. But “cardio workout” isn’t enough here. You want to feed all of your muscles.
The reason you’d play all three of them in a workout cycle is to hit each of the muscles that each of these games hit. You should definitely choose to play each game for only a short period of time, instead of giving an hour over to each of the three. But as long as you hit all of those muscle groups, you’re getting a full-body workout completely in VR, which is a fantastically cool thing to be able to say.
Do you play all three regularly? Let us know in the comments.