The Thrill of the Fight Game Review – The Ultimate VR Boxing Workout

The Thrill of the Fight has finally made its debut on Quest. This VR fitness Goliath comes with a big reputation. Since its launch on PC way back in 2016, this game has been the undisputed champion for raising heart rates and burning calories. This is no mere personal opinion, it’s backed up by science, with the VR Health Institute submitting the game to a catalog of tests. Recording 9.74 to 15.32 kcals per minute they awarded it a fitness equivalent to rowing. Interestingly the only other game to be awarded the same is Knockout League, also recently released to Quest, and which I covered here.

We previously looked at Thrill of the Fight whilst in very early access in early 2017 for PC. Although the game intensity has remained, the graphics, character models and physics have been so comprehensively reworked it merited a complete review update for the Quest launch.

If you’re not familiar with TOTF it’s a boxing simulator that differs from Creed and Knockout League in two key areas. Firstly, it’s a far more realistic approximation of the sport than either of those games, with no gamified mechanics, scripted attacks or stamina bars. Secondly, it is a full room-scale experience with no locomotion options available. To move around YOU move around.

The advantages of this are an increased realism and immersion, and a greater physical workout, the caveat being that you will need to be physically fit, or at least want to get physically fit, to play it, and you’ll also need a large play-space, more on that later.

Check out the official trailer below.

Game overview and fight mechanics

Knowing this game as intimately as I do, I was worried the port to Quest might lose a lot in translation but I am delighted to report that on Quest this game is actually BETTER, because of the freedom you get from being wireless! Developer Ian Fitz agrees. In my recent interview article with him, he stated that he feels the Quest is the definitive way to play the game, and that its now his favorite version. The graphics are near identical with the only noticeable concessions being a reduction in crowd number and simpler particle effects. But everything else is present and works brilliantly. The visual damage system is surprisingly good with your opponents experiencing bruising and cuts on all areas of the face, but it’s subtle and realistic, not at all overdone.

Fighting is essentially the same as in real life, albeit limited to what the current technology allows. This means that the power of your punches is measured using algorithms and force multipliers, if interested you can read more about this in the official game guide here.

The mechanics for landing damaging, point-scoring shots are based around targeting weakness points. Basically you need to make precision hits, landing your blows on defined weak spots. Hitting a weak spot gives a damage bonus, so to knock your opponents out on higher difficulty levels you need to be accurate, the sheer volume of punches won’t have an effect if they aren’t hitting those weak points. This relates to scoring as well. Punches landed on a weak point score more than when they land elsewhere. When you increase the difficulty level fights are more likely to go to the cards so it’s important you land clean, accurate blows to win the rounds.

There is a training dummy in the game which has weak points labeled on it. Practice hitting them and you’ll be more effective in your fights.

As great as the game is there is a slight disparity in the computer opponent’s ability to dodge and land shots effectively. Generally, the player will throw and land a lot more than the computer AI. At normal difficulty levels, this isn’t noticeable but does come into play when you use the customization options. You can make the game more difficult by boosting your rival’s punch power so that he hits harder. You can further reduce your own punch power so your opponent can absorb more damage. Nonetheless, the opponent remains as easy to hit. What this means in practice is that you need to really pound on your opponent to do damage, whilst they only need to land one or two hard shots to drop you. It can lead to a feeling of imbalance or unfairness, but at present, this is an unavoidable limitation of the AI. As I’m only 5 ft 7 and 140 lbs it doesn’t seem that unrealistic to me, but if you’re a 200 lb muscular athletic guy you might feel your punches are not counting as they should on the higher difficulty settings. If you are able to look past this you’ll still find the fights to be engaging, visceral and challenging but I do occasionally see some people complaining their punches aren’t having the effect they should so it’s a point to bear in mind.

The game features nine main opponents, plus a sparring partner along with some free bonus Halloween foes. The game is relatively easy to complete on the default normal level. If you’re in good shape you can knock everyone out in a session or two, however, the real lasting appeal of the game is the fighter customization options. Once you have defeated an opponent on the normal difficulty setting you to unlock the ability to make changes to the opponent. Increase his speed, ability to dodge, raise his punch power or increase his ability to absorb damage, etc. You can also increase the number of rounds a fight lasts.

This means you can set up true twelve round fights, and with the opponent’s chin strength appropriately enhanced can pretty much ensure the fight will go to or near to the distance. I’ve had the game on PC for two years and have experienced multiple ring wars over the full distance, and they were some of the most immersive, visceral and satisfying exercise sessions I’ve ever had.

To see how the game plays in practice check out the excellent video demonstration from BMF’s Matt Quinlan below. BMF is often the first to show off hot new Quest content so subscribe to the channel if you want to keep up to date!

Now let’s get to the playtest!

Preparation

This is a full room-scale experience that will effectively transform your play space into a virtual boxing ring. Its space requirements are large too with a minimum recommendation of 6.5 ft x 6.5 ft or 2 m x 2 m, and more is preferable. One neat feature in the settings option is the ability to define how your play space faces. So if you have an expensive television you don’t want to break you can switch what way the game’s forward-facing position is. This is an excellent feature and one that all room-scale or 360-degree games should have.

With my area cleared I strapped on my headset, with a VR cover and headband equipped, and began my workout using a Fitbit Charge 2 to monitor.

Intensity 9/10

  • Calories burned: 341
  • Calories per minute: 7
  • Average heart rate: 141
  • Max heart rate: 168
  • Steps:3997
  • Active Minutes: 44

The Thrill of the Fight on Quest retains all of the physical intensity of its big brother PC counterpart. My heart rate scores here are actually a little lower than they could be because I decided to use the workout as HIIT training, going hard for 3 minutes then resting 1 minute between rounds. This meant the scores overall are slightly lower than my recorded Knockout League session this week, which was a nonstop 45-minute session on the mitts. But even with the between round rests this game scored almost identically, and of course, if you play without any breaks your calorie and heart rate counts will be even higher.

 

Arms 9.5/10

It’s fair to say there is no more punishing arm and shoulder workout in VR then this. The comparative realism of the fights means you can get totally absorbed and end up throwing haymaker after haymaker to put down a rattled opponent. Conversely, if hurt or knocked down yourself you might find yourself launching into full beast mode to reassert yourself back into the fight. By the end of a fight even keeping your gloves up to block hurts. It’s thrilling stuff as the game title implies, but it can do havoc with your shoulders if you’re out of condition so try and exercise some caution! You’ll certainly ache afterwards too!

Legs 7/10

If you have the play area to do it you can turn this game into a full ring size experience. Check out my step count of 3997 in 45 minutes. Free from the worry of dealing with a tangled cord I was able to dance around my opponent and really feel like I was in a boxing ring. Depending on how much room you have your mileage will vary but I was able to move a whole lot more on the Quest version than PC. Ducking low to avoid punches and when going to the body ensures some decent quad work too.

Core and Balance 8/10

The Thrill of the Fight is essentially a shadowboxing workout, and such workouts are known to be great for core and balance work. As you’re not striking anything but air your core muscles are activated in order to stabilize you and prevent you from toppling over each time you swing. Get into the experience by keeping your abs tight when your opponent is punching your midsection. It adds immersion and works your core too. Win-win.

Time Perception 9/10

I have no problems playing this game for up to 45 minutes. I love the game-play it’s both exciting and challenging so I never get bored or need to clock watch. Exhaustion, however, IS a thing and after a good twelve rounder, I’m done. If you’re new to the game you might find yourself on the floor after 5 minutes, but once you get used to it, and pace yourself a little better it becomes easier and so satisfying.

Replayability 9/10

Superficially the amount of content is limited to nine proper opponents and a rather underdeveloped gym. Delve under the hood however and you find a very complex simulation with a ton of customization options that allow you to always increase the challenge. Essentially what you have is access to nine virtual sparring partners, with a range of difficulty settings such that you can enjoy fighting them over and over for months or even years.

Fitness Scalability 10/10

There are so many customization options you really can tailor the game for any fitness level. If you’re overweight or out of condition stick to short 2 minute round fights. As your endurance improves consider making the fights 6 or 8 rounds. Before you know it you’ll be fighting 12 rounders. Or if you consider yourself a powerhouse complete a play-through on one of the preset difficulty levels and try and beat everyone in a single exercise session. This game really can grow with you.

Lack of Nausea 10/10

This is a room-scale only title that has no artificial locomotion. I can’t promise you won’t feel sick from the effort but you won’t get sick from any unnatural game movements!

Social Competition 1/10

This is a strictly solo experience, with no PVP multiplayer or global leaderboards. It’s best regarding TOTF as a virtual sparring partner simulation. Developer Ian Fitz has always been upfront that multiplayer is never coming to this title, although he may consider it on a sequel. If you want PVP boxing then Creed is the only game that offers it.

VRFI Fit Score 9.5

The Thrill of the Fight is fantastic on the Oculus Quest. The freedom of being wireless is liberating and leads to a much more immersive experience than on a tethered headset and the graphical compromises have thankfully been kept to a minimum. It both looks and plays just like the PC version. I was worried the Inside Out tracking on the Quest would struggle but it coped admirably, even when I was touching the controllers to my headset. It’s rare that a PC to mobile port actually results in a better game overall but it honestly feels like that’s the case here. For the absurdly low price of under ten dollars, there is no better fitness game on the Quest and everybody interested in getting active in VR should pick it up immediately!

The Good

Fully room-scale and wireless boxing simulator

Excellent boxing mechanics, with a gritty realism

Fantastic ambient crowd sounds and atmosphere

Extensive options to tailor the game to your ability

Ridiculously good value for money at ten dollars

The Bad

Requires a minimum play area of 6.5 ft x 6.5 ft or 2 x 2 m. Users with a very small play-space will not get a great experience

The Thrill of the Fight is available on Oculus Quest priced $9.99 and £7.99 and is cross-buy supported. It’s also available for PC VR on the Oculus Store and Steam.


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