How can professional boxers get so tired when they are pretty much standing in the same place and each round only lasts three measly minutes? Doesn’t seem that difficult.
That’s what you might think if you’ve never tried it. Well, now there is a way to experience it without actually getting punched in the face and potentially ruining your lucrative Instagram modeling career.
The Thrill of the Fight is a VR boxing simulator that tries to bring realism to your HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. This isn’t a game where one or two punches knocks out your cartoon competitor. It takes literally hundreds of punches, dodges, and blocks to get even one knock down… and that’s if you don’t get knocked out first.
So does it really give you a workout? Let’s find out.
Intensity – 9/10
To test it out, I used a Wahoo heart rate chest strap connected to their iPhone app. For comfort and sweat elimination, I wore a simple headband and used a removable VR Cover and I didn’t notice any sweat or fogging in the headset. Zero.
The first minute or so I was getting into the headset and starting the experience. So the data below is really for 15 minutes of gameplay:
- Calories burned: 192 (768/hour)
- Average heart rate: 126 bpm (70% of my max heart rate)
- Max heart rate: 166 bpm (92% of max heart rate)
Using the 220-age max heart rate formula, you can see that I was very close to my upper limit which should increase my VO2 Max and increase my post-exercise calorie burn. I was giving my full effort for almost the entire experience.
Arms – 9/10
It goes without saying that my arms were active the entire workout. Even when I wasn’t punching, it was imperative that I kept my arms up to help block quick jabs and uppercuts. This further increased the burn in my shoulders.
Legs – 6/10
Even though you aren’t moving around very much, you are bending and jumping forward and back so your legs are not neglected like with many of today’s VR fitness experiences. My feet began to get very tired as I was moving and jumping around as well.
Core and Balance – 8/10
I don’t think I’ve ever had to bend and twist as much as I did in The Thrill of the Fight. It’s amazing how effectively this game makes you want to avoid being hit. The punches from your opponent come very quickly and are hard to predict. Each time they hit you, you not only are closer to being knocked down like the chump that you are, but your vision starts to grey out and become blurry. It’s a form of punishment that you greatly want to avoid. That next punch may be the one that turns your screen black as your character is lying face down on the floor while your girlfriend is admiring the winners ripped abs.
Time Perception – 5/10
One of the best aspects of working out inside VR is time dilation. You are focused on what you are doing and not the clock so time passes by quickly, especially compared to a traditional cardio workout on a treadmill or spin bike.
The Thrill of the Fight is a very intense experience, but it’s kind of repetitive. You fight different characters, but the basics are the same with each one. After a few fights, you get a little bored of doing the same punching and dodging. When you start to tire out, the next knock down takes its toll. Way better than an elliptical, but not mind blowing.
Pain and Effort Perception – 5/10
Another great feature of VR workouts is that studies show that you notice less of the burning in your muscles and lungs. While boxing, I definitely gave more effort than I would have noticed in traditional workouts, but as mentioned above, after doing the same thing over and over, I started to notice the lactic acid build up more than I wanted to.
Replayability – 7/10
With VR fitness games, you aren’t playing them for a long time in one session, but you need to come back at least a few times a week to get a fitness benefit. Jumping in for a 20 – 30 minute workout session in The Thrill of the Fight would still be fun and fresh each week, especially as you go through different fighters and adapt to their unique strategies. As new opponents and fight modes are released, the replayability will increase.
Fitness Scalability – 6/10
Can both fitness beginners and experts play this game and get a benefit? As you move through the ranks, each fighter gets more difficult to knock down. Sticking to more skilled opponents as you gain strength and endurance will keep you floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee for a long time.
Minimal Pauses in the Action – 10/10
Some VR experiences are intense for a few moments but then have a lot of downtime, making them useless for fitness. The Thrill of the Fight is the exact opposite. You’ll be begging for a momentary break when you get a knock down, and even then it only lasts for a few seconds. Once a fight ends, you can be back in the ring within 20 seconds to take on your next competitor. Perfect.
Enjoyment – 7/10
If trudging on a treadmill is a 1/10 and making out with my fiancee while listening to Eye of the Tiger on repeat is a 10/10, then this game is a solid 7 when it comes to how much fun I had. Unlike some games, the enjoyment doesn’t come from cute characters or collecting stars, but from the sheer satisfaction that you get when you finally knock that ugly punk down on the virtual mat. Of course, it does get a little repetitive so the fun factor starts to decrease towards the end of your fitness session.
Lack of Nausea – 8/10
With no false locomotion to cause dizziness or sickness, this game shouldn’t cause stomach issues with anybody but the most motion-sick sensitive among us. Games that keep you on a stable platform are usually the best for this, so boxing lends itself very well to a throw-up free experience.
At the same time, when your opponent gets a little too close and starts to feel like they are right in your face, it can be slightly disorienting. I tried to bite off his ear once or twice when that happened, but that functionality has not yet been added by the game developer.
Social and Competition – 2/10
I didn’t notice any leaderboards or social matchup features, so the fitness motivation that competitive or cooperative play brings to your workouts isn’t here… at least not yet.
VR Fitness Insider’s VR FIT SCORE – 10/10
As of May, 2017, there are no commercially available hardware devices to bring real resistance or sports training experiences into VR, so we can only use virtual reality apps to get a cardio, endurance, and muscle burning workout. We haven’t seen anything out there that competes with The Thrill of the Fight when it comes to sheer calorie-scorching intensity. With two to three 30 minute game play sessions a week, you will burn fat and get fit in record time… all while having fun.
It remains to be seen if my new VR boxing skills will fully translate to real life fighting, but I plan to test this out as soon as possible. I just need to find a roid-raging bouncer at a nightclub and tell him how ugly his mom is, and it’s on. If I win, I’ll know I’m a true champion. If I lose, my extended hospital stay and broken jaw will make it so I can only sip through a straw to eat for a month or two… pretty much guaranteeing that I’ll lose a lot of unnecessary body weight. So I win either way.