FitXR VR Game Review – BoxVR Now Packs A Bigger Punch!

FitXR, from the developers of the same name, is the newly rejuvenated and re-inspired version of the perennial VR fitness favorite BoxVR. Arriving as a free, and automatic update for Oculus Quest users, it replaces the original BoxVR, at least on that platform. PCVR and Playstation users will presumably get this update later on, but no ETA has yet been given.

I did write an initial first impressions article of the new FitXR when it launched, but didn’t feel ready then to give it a full review. First off, there were a couple of clear glitches that I hoped would be fixed, and secondly, I needed time to familiarize myself with this new iteration, before judging whether the game’s new feature additions (along with the odd omission compared to BoxVR) and gameplay changes, compared favorably to its predecessor or not.

FitXR, like BoxVR before it, is basically a virtual boxercise class in VR where you punch approaching orbs to the beat of the music. You’ll need to employ a variety of hooks, jabs, crosses, and uppercuts, as well as block, duck under or sidestep other non-destructible obstacles. You’ll be switching between orthodox and southpaw stances at intervals during each session as well, to ensure you alternate between leading with your left and right hand. Don’t worry if you’ve never thrown a punch in anger before, there’s a great introductory video tutorial that demonstrates how to play and adopt the correct form.

That’s essentially all there is to the gameplay, but fortunately punching objects to a musical beat is inherently satisfying and physically demanding, both highly desirable qualities to have in a fitness title. FitXR ostensibly classifies as a rhythm genre title, it’s a musical game after all. Yet unlike Beat Saber, Dance Central, or Synth Riders, you don’t need to have any natural rhythm and coordination to enjoy it, instead, the focus here is primarily fitness orientated, punch hard, punch fast, punch often.

As with BoxVR before it, the game uses royalty-free music. This means you won’t hear any current chart-toppers or iconic rock anthems, but the song selection here is nonetheless well put together and matches the workouts well. I’m a pretty casual listener admittedly but I certainly enjoyed most of the soundtracks and songs on offer here.

Preparation

As always when getting ready to do a fitness playtest I sweatproof my headset with a VRCover replacement interface and faux leather cover, and also wear a headband to further keep my headset safe and moisture-free. I also cleared my playspace but it’s worth noting that for such a physically demanding game FitXR requires very little room to play. Although you’ll be punching furiously and ducking under obstacles this all happens from a fixed stationary position. You literally place your feet on the feet graphics on the floor and adopt the appropriate stance. Most highly active games require a lot more movement, and a resultant larger play area, making FitXR a fantastic choice if you’re limited for space. If you want to get a solid workout in your office at lunch or maybe play in a small motel room whilst traveling then FitXR has you covered.

For the test itself, I selected the 20-minute workout of the day and wore my rather aged, but still reliable Fitbit Charge 2.

Finally, to make the game’s squat sections a bit more challenging I wore a 10 lb weighted vest and put some gloves.

The addition of a 10 lb weighted vest makes the squats more challenging and will increase the intensity of your workout. Depending on your size, gender, and fitness level consider starting with a light 5lb vest then increasing to 10, 20, 30, or maybe even 50 lbs if you’re physically fit. I find weighted vests work excellently with FitXR and will enable you to progressively overload your training.

Intensity 9/10

  • Calories burned: 160
  • Calories per minute: 8
  • Average heart rate: 147
  • Max heart rate: 167
  • Steps:1894
  • Active Minutes: 21

Note this playtest was only 20 minutes rather than the usual 30, making these numbers all the more impressive.

There’s no doubt about it, FitXR is more physically demanding than its predecessor. Under the new scoring system, streaks now require that you not only connect with the orbs to register a hit but that you hit them hard and fast enough to satisfy FitXR’s stern taskmasters. Whilst I’m not wholly convinced it helps with my motivation, it undeniably makes the workouts more punishing. After just 20 minutes I was exhausted.

Arms 10/10

Whereas I found BoxVR was great for long sustained cardio sessions, a FitXR workout can give me noodle arms in well under half an hour. To maintain your hit streaks, an essential prerequisite to earning a high score, you need to hit each orb hard and fast enough to count. I often ended up swinging wildly and burning out faster than a cheap sparkler.

It’s also worth noting that this game provides a perfectly balanced arm and shoulder workout. More often in games, you’ll be working one arm considerably more than the other, think archery or ball sports where your dominant hand does all of the work whilst your other arm just provides balance. Not so in FitXR, both shoulders will be feeling it afterwards.

One notable graphical change is that you no longer wear boxing gloves. Instead, you are now visually depicted wearing a kind of knuckle duster, not too dissimilar from the ring on the Quest’s Touch controllers.

Legs 8/10

Although FitXR is primarily an arm workout, it doesn’t neglect the legs. Interspersed throughout the workouts are head height obstacles that you’ll need to squat under to avoid. These will often come in rapid succession and are generally timed to appear between combinations of punches, so jab, duck, rise up and uppercut, left hook right hook, duck again, and repeat. This ensures you get some lower bodywork in and also enhances the variety of the movements.

As I did in my playtest you can further increase the stress on your quads by wearing a weighted vest.

Core and Balance 8/10

FitXR provides excellent core and balance work. Throwing air punches necessitates the activation of your stabilizing muscles around your abdominals, hips, and spine. As the name suggests these muscles contract during movement to help you retain balance. They are the reason that you (hopefully) don’t topple over when you throw a wild swinging hook. Thanks to FitXR’s punch variety and the mix of standing, lunging, and squatting actions your core muscles are engaged throughout.

Throughout most of the levels, you will encounter these energy beams that must be squat ducked under. Strap a weighted vest on and you’ll work your legs and core much more efficiently.

Time Perception 7/10

FitXR’s virtual boxing gameplay hook might appear simple and repetitive, and to be fair it is. Yet there is something undeniably rewarding and satisfying in punching objects to loud music. It’s a great way to let off steam and even though the music is royalty-free the song selection still works to get you fired up. Some people might get bored playing in the game’s one single environment over and over, but I suspect the FitXR developers will be adding more soon. The overly fussy scoring system and the constant hit streak failures do personally sap my motivation to keep playing however and can end up turning a longer session into a grind. I do find I get frustrated if I start to miss orbs for no discernable reason and at some point, it reaches a tipping point and I exit out. If the collision detection was better, however, the scoring system less punitive, or maybe if I was just plain better at the game, this could easily score a 9 here.

Replayability 8/10

There’s a lot of workouts here varying from short, under 10 minutes, medium, under 30 and long, up to an hour. There’s also a host of different musical genres and soundtracks. The workouts themselves are similar in the way Beat Saber levels are all similar. In other words, whilst the mechanics always remain the same individual levels do somehow feel sufficiently different. The pace might change, and some punch combinations can actually feel quite memorable in a strange way. There are also several DLC packs available to purchase that add new workouts and some additional music. In summary, if you enjoy the idea of virtual boxercise as a workout choice there’s a lot of content here for your money.

Fitness Scalability 6/10

Ok, so this might be a weird analogy but hear me out. To my mind, FitXR plays like a cocky, younger upstart nephew to the older, slower but more pleasant and likable BoxVR. Yes, BoxVR is Scooby-Doo, and FitXR is definitely Scrappy-Doo, (which I guess makes me Shaggy?). Full of energy and always looking for action, with his ‘lemme at em!’ mentality I always found Scrappy-Doo a bit annoying. FitXR is similar. In theory, workouts are categorized as light, moderate and intense, but in practice whatever workout you select it’s a case of ‘puppy power!’, and you have to smash everything as hard as you can. If you’re a young pup with a ton of energy then you’ll likely love this tougher, more aggressive approach, but if you’re older, overweight, and out of shape then expect this game to make you very aware of that and give you constant reminders of punch failures and having your hit streak reset.

Lack of Nausea 10/10

FitXR takes place in a stationary environment with you standing in one spot at all times. With no motion, you’re unlikely to feel any motion sickness at all. How you feel after all those squats though is a different story…

FitXR’s particle explosions have drawn criticism from some users for obscuring approaching orbs. Personally, I love the flash of color and energy flares that result from landing a solid hit. It makes the game a lot prettier than its predecessor in my opinion.

Social Competition 7/10

When compared to BoxVR, FitXR represents both a small step forward and a step back as regards multiplayer. The direct play with a friend is gone, at least for now, but replaced with a ghost multiplayer mode where you compete for each level against six past scores of real players. It’s really rather neat, you see them line up alongside you and as you play you’ll see all of your scores on the leaderboard. I like the idea and it does give the game a boxercise class feel which is nice.

I also want to mention the FitXR Team Workout Group on Facebook. They are a small, but active group of players who organize friendly competitions each week to see who can get the best score on a selected level. Definitely check them out if you like the game and want to participate in some fun weekly challenges.

Regular competitions take place on the FitXR Team Workout Group. Carolyn Cudmore is the standout FitXR boxing champion so far. If you think you can challenge her scores, then sign up for the group and take part!

My major complaint, and a possible solution

When comparing the level of fitness challenge FitXR definitely ups the ante over the former BoxVR with a new power punch scoring mode that requires you to hit hard and fast to maintain your combination streaks. As soon as you fail to hit an orb hard enough, your streak resets back to zero! Personally, I find this new scoring addition rather controversial. It does make the game harder but at the expense of making me feel like a loser. When I think of all the great fitness games I enjoy, Beat Saber, Thrill of the Fight, punching pads in Knockout League, one consistent ingredient they all contain is that no matter my actual real-world abilities, when playing these games I feel like a badass. FitXR is the only game that makes me feel like I suck, often struggling to put together even a ten punch hit streak, whereas in BoxVR it was possible to score in the thousands.

What makes it worse is that many times my hit streak is reset not because I didn’t hit hard enough, but that for some reason the orbs just go straight through my gloves. I’m not sure whether this is a glitch due to bad collision detection, or an incredibly strict targeting system that demands precisely accurate hits, either way, it sucks.

If you watch the video of me playing below you’ll see what I mean, many left jabs especially just pass straight through my gloves.

Now if this wouldn’t bother me if the game wasn’t so high score focused, but as FitXR seems to want you to fixate on your score attempting a 20 or 30-minute workout with random misses occurring every few seconds can quickly become maddening.

It also feels incongruent to the game’s real goal, which is to promote and encourage fitness. If a user is throwing the punches, then they are doing the work and should get the credit for it, not be punished because FitXR wasn’t happy with your punch velocity or whether you hit the orb clean in the center or caught it more from one side.

The positive here however is that this is such a simple fix. Just allow users to enable or disable the scoring model. Personally I don’t care about an artificial score. What I do care about is useful fitness based metrics. How many punches did I throw? How many squats did I do? I would rather the game counted those metrics instead and that I could set daily and weekly targets and the game lets me know when I’ve hit 1500 punches for the day, or squatted 200 times for example.

More user choice is what I’m asking for. The scoring mode IS great for higher intensity workouts and does encourage you to throw as hard as you can. But if I’m doing a 40-minute workout I can’t maintain that intensity for the duration of it, so the lack of an option to switch that mode off is my major gripe.

FitXR Overall Score 9/10

Despite my criticism of the scoring system and some glitchy hit detection, I really like the rest of the game. The workouts are fun and challenging, especially if you put a weighted vest on, there’s a ton of workouts to do, and the new ghost multiplayer mode and trainer voiceovers really make workouts feel like you’re in a virtual gym class.

I’m also excited to see where FitXR takes this new app, as I believe they are planning to use this as a new platform for additional features and content. If you can overlook FitXR’s scoring demands, or maybe you even relish that challenge then FitXR is without a doubt one of the best complete full-body workouts you can get in VR today.

The Good

More physically demanding than before.

Carefully structured workouts work both upper and lower body, and both arms equally.

Requires a much smaller playspace than most games of this intensity.

The Bad

Not everybody will welcome the new scoring model, which disadvantages older, slower, or more out of shape players.

Hit detection on jabs seems very glitchy, although hooks and uppercuts work fine for me.

The game could definitely do with some additional environments to maintain variety.

 

FitXR is available now on Oculus Quest. If you previously owned BoxVR then FitXR will replace that game via an automatic update.


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