It would be fair to say that FitXR’s transition from a base game with optional DLC to a monthly subscription service model did not go as smoothly as they’d have wished. Some backlash from users not wanting to pay for a monthly service was to be expected of course, but FitXR had hoped to minimize negative feeling through assurances that all content previously purchased would remain in the user’s possession forever, whilst also throwing in a generous 90 day free trial of the new premium service to all previous customers of FitXR.

FitXR was one of several companies offering premium monthly content as part of the new Oculus subscriptions service that went live on April 15. Unfortunately, the date seemed to come a little early for FitXR, as much of their vaunted new content and features justifying the move to a subscription service were not available at launch.

Fast forward a few weeks and we finally have the first major new piece of content, an all-new FitXR Studio, HIIT, that promises short bursts of intense activity to really get your body moving and heart pumping. I’ve been provided access a day early to check it out for our website and I’ll  give a full hand’s on report below, but first I’ll let FitXR describe their new studio themselves with their official press release;

The Official Press Release

FitXR, the leading VR fitness company, today announces the exciting launch of its third studio – HITT – adding even more variety and depth to the virtual reality fitness club.

The new HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) studio joins Box & Dance as a brand new way to exercise using FitXR. It boasts a mix of instructor-led exercises and reaction-based fitness games and continues FitXR’s goal to continuously evolve and offer users new, fun, and immersive ways to reach their fitness ambitions.

The brand new HIIT studio is inspired by traditional High-Intensity Interval Training classes as well as professional F1 driver reaction training. It involves short bursts of intense activity to get your heart rate pumping. Through a mixture of fitness, or reaction-based classes, the new HIIT studio targets different muscle groups to increase heart rate.

Fitness Activity classes are based on functional movement and created to challenge the user to move in different directions, whereas Reaction Activity classes combine speed and reaction to hit a wall of fast-paced cues.

With HIIT, the class mechanics are switched up every time you play, so no two classes are the same. The new HIIT Studio totally redefines what’s possible to achieve in VR fitness. 

HIIT does not rely on the beat of the music, but rather how much users push themselves to complete blocks of exercises. HIIT classes provide a higher calorie burn, increased metabolic rate, and improved oxygen consumption. The new studio also supports users in achieving wider health benefits, such as greater strength, speed, and reaction time, leading to an overall improved athletic performance.

 Like all of FitXR’s total-body cardio classes, the new HITT classes have been expertly designed by FitXR’s team of professional fitness instructors and can be enjoyed as part of a solo or multiplayer workout.

Sam Cole, CEO & Co-Founder of FitXR said: 

“We’re excited to launch a brand new way to workout with FitXR with the introduction of HIIT classes. We were inspired by the rush of endorphins and sense of achievement you get from completing a high-intensity class, and a desire to continuously develop and evolve the FitXR virtual fitness club. The HIIT Studio brings a style of workout that is completely different, but equally as fun and entertaining. We know how important variety is for our community, who use FitXR every day to reach their fitness goals. 

FitXR introducing HIIT workouts also signals a true coming-of-age moment for VR fitness. This is the start of the next phase of what’s possible to achieve and what FitXR plans to continuously deliver against as the technology continues to evolve.”

 

Hands-On Impressions – It’s really good!

Let’s cut to the chase. FitXR created some bad feelings following their abrupt announcement of a move to a subscription service last month. Launching without any substantial new content didn’t help things much either. Now, several weeks in, it was really time for FitXR to start delivering on their promises, so you could say a lot is riding on this new studio being a success.

I had intended to play it for half an hour to get to grips with it, then record more footage when I knew what to do so that my performance looked better in the video. That plan has been aborted, I can’t go again today, I’m done. Thirty minutes in and the new studio has exhausted me.

I will say though, everything about this studio really exceeded my expectations. Upon selecting the studio for the first time you’re presented with a brief, but an instructive tutorial video that succinctly explains the basics.

The video below captures the tutorial in full, note that a recommended playspace of 2 m x 2 m or 6.5 ft x 6.5 ft is recommended for safe play and full engagement.

Upon beginning the session you’re placed inside an attractive cliff house overlooking the sea, with a choice of day or night settings. The environment looks great, as do the glowing orbs that you smash. The orbs shatter on impact into shards of glass and flashes of color.  I found the visuals really appealing.  The music was different from what I had heard previously as well, although I have to say I didn’t pay much attention to it, the demands of the workout preoccupied me.

I completed three HIIT workouts, in which Ianthe, FitXR’s head of fitness and instructor lead was present in animated form. She introduces the workout and demonstrates what you are required to do. Being HIIT, each session features a number of short, explosive rounds, each lasting 30 seconds or so.

Gameplay Structure, Simple But Addictive

A holographic grid appears in front of you and glowing orbs appear within it. You need to punch or tap them as quickly as you can to shatter them, prompting more to appear. elsewhere. There was quite a bit of variety in the workouts I tried. Purple orbs can be hit with either hand, whilst yellow orbs must be hit with the yellow gloved hand and blue orbs with the blue gloved hand. Later intervals involve ice covering over the orbs meaning you first have to smash that before you can break the orb itself, so necessitating a quick double punch or tap.

You certainly don’t get to avoid leg day with HIIT either. At various points, you’ll see downward facing arrows meaning you have to squat down to punch lower orbs. Just aiming your punches downwards doesn’t cut it, you need to lower your headset below the arrows for the punches to register, which of course means squatting down. You’ll then be ordered back up and have to reach for high orbs, before descending again. This is both physically demanding and a lot of fun.

There was a lot of trainer feedback in these workouts with Ianthe constantly shouting encouragement and providing tips for relaxing my shoulders and moving effectively. I felt the interactions worked well and gave the illusion of my workout being a social experience, despite me playing it alone. Of course, for those who prefer real group activity, HIIT will offer full multiplayer functionality for up to seven players simultaneously, a feature that should allow for this studio to really shine.

I’ve recorded some video footage below of one of the beginner workouts. It was only 13 minutes long but you can still hear me breathing hard between intervals.

 

There were a couple of quibbles. First off, the Quest 2’s FOV, or rather lack of means that you can’t quite see the entire grid at any one time. As you’ll see in my footage there were moments that I stopped punching because I thought I had popped all the orbs, only to realize there was one still above me. FitXR has anticipated this problem by having your gloves indicate where the next orbs are so once you’re familiar with how these workouts work then this problem should disappear. I also had some collision detection issues when colored orbs were shielded by an ice wall. The ice would smash on the first hit, but then my hand would sometimes go through the orb with the next punch, requiring me to hit it again. To be fair, I couldn’t tell if this is a collision bug, or a deliberate feature, as I could fix the problem by drawing my hand back further after the first hit and then punching again. So rather than a collision glitch, it might just be a way for these cruel taskmasters to ensure we don’t slack and have to double punch properly.

In terms of intensity, I definitely found this more physically demanding than the traditional Box studio. It should be noted that I do have fairly severe lung scarring from extensive cancer treatments years ago, so I get breathless easily. That said if you’re younger and fitter than I, you’ll likely be pushing much faster than I am capable of going as well, meaning this studio should really test you even if you have David Goggins’s level of endurance capacity.

A Return To Form For FitXR

Overall, I think the HIIT studio is exactly the shot in the arm that FitXR needed to get people talking positively about the brand again. I’m definitely going to continue using this, and I can see this being really well received by the FitXR community group members. If you’ve been actively looking forward to this studio, then you’re not going to be disappointed, and if recent events had left you feeling jaded about the direction FitXR has taken, HIIT might go some way to making amends.

FitXR now has three very different studio modes, allowing for a decent variety of workouts. All three studios allow for multiplayer groups of up to seven players, making FitXR the best group-based fitness workout program currently available in VR. HIIT promised intensity and for me, it really delivers on that promise. As is likely true of many people, the last year of lockdown has seen me get rather lazy, and lapse in my training. I can see that HIIT will be a great way for me to get back into shape for the summer and I’m looking forward to seeing what new workouts FitXR brings for us in this studio over the coming weeks.

FitXR’s HIIT studio is live now as part of FitXR’s monthly fitness subscription program for the Oculus Quest. The program is $9.99 per month to sign up and a free 7-day trial is available for new users. In addition to the HIIT studio, FitXR also offers boxercise style workouts within their Box studio and choreographed dancing in their Dance studio. You get access to all three studios with the membership fee.


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