Sometimes, an idea sounds so good on paper, but just doesn’t ever seem to come to fruition when the project is completed. Unfortunately, that is the situation with SET VR. It promises to do something that is amazingly unique to VR; provide a hand-to-hand combat simulator, which for us here at VRFI, sounds like a dream come true to recommend to our VR fitness users out there. This sadly isn’t the case for developer DVNC Tech‘s SET VR and whether it was budget or just lack of vision, the result comes up woefully short of what seemed to be something great conceptually.
SET VR starts you off in a dojo room with a dummy character in front you. Here you learn the basics of what to expect during your gameplay. You’re given the option of choosing from a small variety of different combat scenarios such as being mugged in a back alley or being mugged in a back alley with a knife. Each scenario plays out slightly differently, but the idea remains the same, take down your attacker without taking damage. You are able to track your session through a consistently updating fitness tracker which is a nice touch, but once you realize how shallow the experience is, you’re not going to want to remember it.
What it Feels Like to Play
I was expecting something along the lines of The Thrill of The Fight when I first booted into SET VR. To my surprise, comparing these two games is like comparing apples to a crudely drawn picture of an apple. SET VR claims to give you an experience that will be vital to helping you defend yourself in real life. This is a bold and honestly dangerous claim to make if you’re not able to back it up SET VR does not back it up. You start off getting the option to warm up with a virtual sparring partner and this was by far the most functional part of the game. You can set up a dodging mini-game where the virtual sparring partner throws a ball at you and you must dodge it, or you can do actual Yoga. The Yoga portion of the game is by far the best mechanically and actually, really helps both relax you as well as stretch to ready yourself for the actual combat scenarios. I was quite excited by the Yoga portion because it told me that this game will have a lot of care put into it based on how accurate and helpful the Yoga was. I was very, very wrong.
One thing that needs to be said is you’re supposedly able to have virtual hands during this game based on the gameplay preview, but instead, you’re just shown your actual controllers, so unless you’re taking your VR controllers into a back-alley brawl, this already makes little sense. Then you start the phases. Phase 1 has the attacker pulling off one attack at a time maneuvers, phase 2 has a two-hit combo coming at you and phase 3 has a 3-5 hit combo coming at you. This is all well and good except these attacks come at you once every 3 seconds about and the “aggressor” is about as aggressive as a comatose box turtle. SET VR claims in many of its introductory videos that this is how you defend yourself against an armed or unarmed attacker in an alley. I can’t stress enough how bad it is to say something like this and then have the following video attached as an example of how to do just that. Please, watch.
In this video, he’s not even holding controllers to start, so I have no idea what’s even tracking him, but he also is basically inside the attacker’s body half the time and unless we’re playing a Doctor Strange combat simulator, this doesn’t exactly feel realistic. Adding to that is what I can only describe as the “Calling a false start in Football” Attacking style taking place. I’m not a combat expert, but this doesn’t seem like a good way to survive a fight. Then, we’re shown him taking on the kicking phase of the combat and he’s….stepping over the opposing kicks? How? Leg tracking in VR? Since when? I’m guessing he’s just doing that to be immersive but it’s blatant false advertising.
I respect the creator a lot for wanting to create something that can help people learn self-defense and practice it inside their home, but this game is barely functional. For example, each time you “block” your attacker, he freezes for 2 seconds while you hit them as many times as you want. Unless you’re Neo from The Matrix, this is not how real-life combat works! Furthermore, there is 0 haptic or visual feedback from landing a hit, and the lack of having virtual hands makes it seem like you’re swinging machinery at a lifeless doll, it’s the furthest thing from an actual alley attack as I can imagine. There needed to be some kind of hit recognition or physics involved, but instead, your hands get phase through the attacker like he’s not even there. SET VR claims to let you grapple with your opponent to stop him from hitting you, this is only done through the aforementioned freezing ceremony that takes place and doesn’t let you actually grip any body part of your attacker. I understand that perhaps the creators are not VR game experts, but it would greatly benefit them to rework their game to incorporate some actual physics to give this “self-defense simulator” some actual legitimacy.
What Will Keep You Playing
Have you ever bought a seed for a plant? It starts off as the dullest thing imaginable, but with time, it can grow into something beautiful. That’s the one hope I have for SET VR. It’s a great idea that really hasn’t been tried yet in VR. It needs an entire makeover gameplay wise though and the marketing for it needs to be less dangerous with its suggestions of this being an actual way to take on attackers. As detailed above, this is not a combat simulation at all right now unless you strictly fight people waking up from wisdom tooth surgery. If all the issues get worked out and a physics system is put into to place to actually realize the idea being sold to us here, SET VR would have lasting longevity because a self-defense course you could take in your living room is a brilliant idea, but right now it’s in no way ready to be used as such.
You’re going to need at least a 5×5 space because each scenario lets you navigate a full space to get the best attack off on your attacker, so be aware of that when creating your play area.
I recorded my workout using a Fitbit on a Samsung Odyssey Plus, Windows Mixed Reality Headset.
Calories burned: 109
Calories burned per minute: 3
Average Heart Rate: 93
Max Heart Rate: 120
Active Minutes: 17
I suppose if you REALLY wanted to, you could get an intense workout playing SET VR, but nothing in the game even remotely inspires it. Whether it be the lack of music to amp you up, the low speed of attack animations, and the complete lack of participation you feel during almost every second of it, you might as well be playing in literally any other VR environment because nothing here inspires you to kick up your workout a notch. The lack of haptic feedback is the biggest problem and it feels like you’re fighting air because of it.
If this game gets fully working one day, your arms will get a solid workout in the process. The entirety of the attacks you can pull off are via your arms, so this is inevitable, it just comes down to how much time you’d ever be willing to spend playing. Blocking is also done via your arms too, so the harder phases are going to a better workout in that regard. The big hope here is a revamping of the physics system and incorporation of a VR body that will give you an idea of where you’re being hit. Right now it’s a decent enough arm workout though.
There is a surprising amount of leg work that goes into SET VR as you’re given a full area to navigate around your attacker. The problem with all of this is the attacker rarely adjusts to your position and like in the video above, you just get a comically bad representation of how an actual human might react to someone trying to attack them from their blindside.
Core/Balance – 6/10
You’re going to need your balance while playing SET VR because whether it’s trying to duck or dodge around the flurry of attacks coming from your opponent, it can be very easy to fall off balance here. Your core can get a decent workout if you’re trying to duck the kicks or the ball in the mini-games presented to you too. The yoga meditation/stretching portion is also fantastic for core work and will require some serious balance to get the hang of.
Time Perception- 6/10
SET VR cares very little about immersing you in a world from what I saw. There is nothing engaging visually to keep you in there and even though most workout games are straightforward, here the presentation feels like it’s pushing you away rather than welcoming you in. That being said, if the mechanics satisfy you, you can really endless beat up on the attacker and that could immerse you enough to forget about the clock for a little while.
In SET VR, there is a tracking system that follows your progress throughout your time with the game. Being able to track your workouts is a great thing for a game like this, and although the gameplay might not hook you, the ability to see your physical progress tracked is an impressive feat. You could also theoretically just use this game as a VR yoga replacement and in that way, the replayability is infinite.
Fitness Scalability- 6/10
The only way to really scale your workouts on SET VR is by choosing the different phases of attackers. You can fight armed or unarmed, with unarmed being more dangerous, but usually the same attack speed, or you can do phases 2 and 3 which increase the number of attacks coming at you in more complex combos that will surely amplify the workout. The mini-games such as dodging the ball don’t offer much scaling either, but it’s on you to decide how physical you get with the game so that can change how intense your workout is as well.
Lack of Nausea- 9/10
I didn’t feel any nausea while playing, though the jerky motion of your attacker can be a weird thing to look at and occasionally phasing inside their body when you get too close can cause a weird visual effect that is not pleasant to look at. Mostly though, the visuals and frame rate are stable enough to offer a pretty seamless experience with little dizziness involved.
Social Competition- 0/10
There is no social competition in this game and therefore we won’t be counting this against the score.
VR FIT Score- 6.7/10
Game Score- 5.0/10
The idea of SET VR is really great and would be a positive leap forward for the VR fitness world if the execution could actually be realized. The setup is nice enough and the ability to switch between self defense and yoga/meditation gives the game a unique feel compared to most workout games. The graphics aren’t amazing, but they’re solid enough and the frame rate stays stable during play which is crucial to this type of game. You can track your workouts as well, giving you the ability to use the game as an everyday workout tool if you so please.
The gameplay is just not engaging. Between the lack of haptic feedback on your hits and the inability to figure out where you can stand without getting hit because of the lack of a visual VR body, you’re left guessing in a scenario where you should be focusing on survival. The blocking mechanic is just completely unrealistic and feels so out of place. The game is advertised as a way to improve self defense, which is a reckless thing to do when the gameplay is so unrefined and janky.