I’ve been on a bit of a personal quest to find the VR equivalent of an old Konami arcade machine called Police 911. You stood on a matt, which read the pressure of your foot while sensors on a rack above you tracked the motion of your gun and your body. You had to duck and move to avoid incoming fire. Many at the arcades couldn’t physically last long without breaking a sweat.
It turns out that VR developers think as I do. There is a vast assortment of titles to choose from that cater to this kind of movement. My VR workout regiment is heavy on arms and shoulders, using steps and some cardio to help lose weight. I’ve been missing squats and leg workouts. I’ve managed to get my hands on a few of these shooters and offer my thoughts on workout potential below.
I’ll first break down fitness potential, any issues I had of note, then jump into a review and some fitness hacks I found that work.
Fitness Potential: Medium
Notes: A little on the violent side
Overkill VR is exactly what I was looking for, but it still has some small issues I don’t like. The game pits you against a faction in some kind of armed resistance. You can upgrade weapons and equipment between rounds, even calling down airstrikes to finish off big enemies.
This cover system is exactly what I wanted from Police 911. Crouching behind a wall, reloading and peaking for target acquisition, then coming up over the top to fire and duck behind a nearby wall. This is all room scale, mind you, so you’re actually doing these moves. Try squatting, or assuming horse stance to lower yourself. You’ll quickly feel it in your legs. You can also pivot by the waist behind standing cover, which works your shoulders and back.
Rounds are fast-paced and offer enough time to feel a burn without overexerting yourself. Plus, you earn new goodies every time you finish a level. If you’re a fan of on-rails shooters and want a core workout, this game is for you. That said, it’s a bit on the violent side without an option to tone that down. I got used to it because the game gives me the workout I want, but it’s not for everyone.
Fitness Potential: Light to Medium
Demo: Lite version exists at a similar price to full version.
Notes: Movement can cause motion sickness
Sairento is a game about being a cyber-ninja, and it does a great job making you feel the part. Enemies come from every angle, so you will need to master sword strikes and gun handling if you want to stay alive. There is a demo, of sorts, in the Lite version. I recommend diving straight into the full version if you don’t have a Viveport subscription. The Lite version limits your weapons, upgrades and enemy variety. It also uses only one or two maps and gets repetitive fast. There isn’t a cover system, but this game doesn’t need one.
Sairento uses a unique movement system where squatting simulates a “slide” effect. Simply squat as you land from a jump and you will slide for as long as you can stay low (or until you hit a wall). It also utilizes bullet time so that you can do all these cool moves with reasonable precision. My fitness hacks for Sairento are threefold. First, set your squat height as low as you can comfortably go, lowering gradually the more you play. Second, rely on melee. Your swords are good weapons and you will up your heart rate the more of your body is in use. Third, increase that difficulty! Bullet time or not, upping the difficulty will make you have to do more melee strikes and face tougher enemies.
Remember: you can turn off dismemberment and gore effects in the options menu if the game is too violent.
Fitness Potential: Light
Notes: Shotgun can be a little wonky, but the feeling is there.
Bullet Sorrow is a game where you fight everything from space marines to demons assaulting you in waves. You use a pistol primarily Occupying a decent-sized space, you fight room-by-room through various levels. Level design is very futuristic, and there are lots of opportunities for both standing and crouching behind cover. Bullets come somewhat slow, so they are dodgeable too.
I get a better workout from others on this list, but I enjoy the gunplay in this game. It has an arcade feel, and the cover system offers a hint of what I want. I found that squatting, as opposed to staying on my knees, felt better on my legs. You can also fitness hack by dodging bullets in bullet time. I like this kind of movement, but the state is very brief. Enemies swarm me quickly and I can’t sit behind cover like I want to. As a result, the fitness potential decreases. The action is too fast-paced. Good for a lighter day.
Fitness Potential: Light
Notes: Unfinished! “Full” version is light on content
Torus Syndicate is a throwback to some of my favorite shooters. It looks a lot like Virtua Cop with a Time Crisis feel. It also has a cover system built in that varies from position to position. You can teleport to various locales around the map, using waist-high and standing coverage. Bullets also come slowly, so you can dodge the same way you might in a boxing sim.
This didn’t make the cut because it’s not finished. There’s a great game here if the devs ever return to it. It’s got a lot of the same coverage mechanics as Overkill, which is excellent for workout potential, without the violence. Many of the same mechanics I used to hack Overkill work here, there’s just not enough game.
Fast Action Hero
Fitness Potential: Light to Medium
Notes: Movement made me motion sick
Very Matrix inspired. Fast Action Hero does some cool stuff and reminds me of old Sega Games like Ghost Squad. Cheap looking in a charming sort of way.
This game has a great cover system and lots of breakables in the environment. Enemies are constant, levels aren’t very long, and lots of coverage requires crouching. So, what’s the issue?
This game’s movement system made me very motion sick. You teleport, but then the game slides you where you need to go in the most nauseating way. I didn’t have time to formulate a fitness hack before I needed to remove the headset. To be clear, I loved the gameplay in this game. Simple, cover-based shooter with infinite ammunition and not a lot of storyline. I just couldn’t handle the movement system. However, there’s an awful lot of dynamic movement in this game for those who can handle it.