A robust boxing game with mini-games galore. Comfortable enough for entry-level with ambitious plans.
Virtual Boxing League starts with a kickin’ soundtrack and an introduction to Willie Jackson. He’s your trainer and leads you through the Virtual Boxing League (VBL).
Look around the room to spot challenges, mini-games, and Easter Eggs galore. We’ll break it all down for you in our Virtual Boxing League VR game review.
I used a FitBit Charge 2 for tracking my fitness stats. It’s simple to configure, feels small on the wrist and won’t wiggle around if I sweat. I’ll also make sure to include my cloth VR cover and a sweat headband.
Aside from those basics, and some light and loose clothes, I am ready to go!
Players begin in the VBL gym, where they can select opponents within their league (difficulty), or one of the game’s many mini-games.
I went an entire circuit of opponents on Journeyman, then fought two more before ending with one round of Ping Pong Punch. I did a previous test where I’d played more mini-games and saw a decrease in my heart rate (an average of 109 vs 113), so those seeking a fitness boost will want to stick with the boxing portion.
For me, this is a very typical session lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on how winded I feel that day and how quickly I can KO my opponents.
Before I get into the review, I want to run through the options for mini-games quickly:
- Ball Blaster is a lot like BoxVR.
- Punch-A-Tron will remind you of the dummy in The Thrill of the Fight.
- Bum Rush is weird. Seriously. Beat up bums in a bathroom to bizarre music. It’s weird.
- Body Bag is all about testing your punching strength with proper stats.
- Ping Pong Punch is one of my favorite mini-games, but a poor workout. Your gloves are ping pong paddles.
The first thing to note is that punching physics don’t work the same in this game as they do in The Thrill of the Fight, even though it feels like they should. You can judge the strength of your punch by the color of your glove. Check out the grid that appears during your swing. Redder is better!
VBL uses a scoring system, so you have to land enough blows to completely KO an opponent, or run out the clock while holding the higher score. After each match, you receive a star rating determined by how quickly you knocked your opponent out, your final score, whether you were knocked down, and a host of other hard-to-determine factors. A fun challenge for yourself is to five star all opponents on a single difficulty before moving on.
Higher difficulties seem to influence the aggressiveness of your opponent more than how much damage he or she takes. I have also noticed the same opponent can be a Southpaw or not depending on the factors when the match loads.
It’s unclear how this is determined, but it does add some diversity to the gameplay.
Every punch does damage to the boxer’s score. There’s an option in the gym lobby to display damage statistics, so be sure to toggle that on if you care to know how much damage you’re doing to maximize efficiency. As you can imagine, critical strikes do higher damage. Criticals appear to be mostly centralized to the face, temples, and solar plexus, and how hard you throw a punch matters.
This game is a lot more aggressive than The Thrill of the Fight or Knockout League. You should pick and choose engagements, but the game rewards you for playing offensively against the AI. Not many counterpunchers or sidesteppers to be found here. They mostly back off when they get hit, look for an opening and try to reverse the pacing. I often destroy my opponent’s scores in terms of the number of blows and criticals landed.
Here are the calorie counts and critical exercise data from this session:
Calories Burned: 306
Average Heart Rate: 113
Max Heart Rate: 124
I don’t need any fitness hacks for VBL. The game intensity feels just right for me, with downtime that helps me catch my breath and get ready for the next fight.
Virtual Boxing League is all about arms and shoulders. I love doing the Dempsey roll to gain an edge on my opponents, then wailing on their guard and looking for an opening. My arms and shoulders love it too, even if they groan a little to remind me I went too hard.
Try the same strategy on The Thrill of the Fight, and you will find your arms dead while your opponent is very much alive and ready to take you down.
Outside of VBL, I’ve taken to punching with weights. My speed dramatically improved since I started and I’ve thrown much harder punches more consistently.
There are many opportunities to get a good squat workout in this game, so I rate the legs somewhat higher. I like to dance and move to get better angles, and I don’t let my opponents retreat for long unless they step outside my boundaries.
As a result, I’m able to keep a consistently moderate to high step count and box better.
Core and Balance 6/10
My core gets a good workout because I need to do a lot of torso work to dodge incoming attacks. I find I perform the best ducking or juking incoming attacks, then stepping in for the knockout punches. I still haven’t quite hit that sit-up feel, but I’ve noticed an improvement in my stance and my balance. My punches are much less off balance, and I get much better power from how I use my body.
Time Perception 8/10
Each round is about 3 minutes long but feels slightly faster to me while I play. Breaks are brief as well, faster than they are in The Thrill of the Fight. But the game itself is less intense on cardio. Punches in VBL are more straightforward to land, and harder to guard. Try scoring a hand guard, and you will see what I mean. While hardcore boxing enthusiasts might feel the game is too easy, almost anyone can run through the cast of opponents in a single session. Regarding the structure of a workout, you can’t ask for a better routine.
Rounds and load times offer natural breaks, but the time between matches is fast. I like that I can find a new opponent and load a fight quickly. Mini-games are also accessible in the same space as boxing opponents, so I can play VBL the way I want to.
VBL has tons of replayability, and many of you will find yourselves returning throughout its development lifespan. I prefer the realistic mechanics behind The Thrill of the Fight, but VBL is just “fun” enough to feel worth my time. In Thrill, I feel challenged and drained at the end of a session. With VBL, I feel energized and ready to face a new challenge. Like a 5 AM run versus a midnight gym session.
Both are great, and each has a distinctly different feel.
Virtual Boxing League gets the blood pumping in a self-contained session. It’s also super easy to structure a workout routine.
Fitness Scalability 8/10
Different difficulties present a different challenge, and mini-games keep the experience of Virtual Boxing League feeling fresh. As a result, I think this game scales well with most people. Those who dislike the realistic mechanics of other boxing games will appreciate the ease and structure of VBL.
Even in-shape users will appreciate scoring knockout blows, and angling for speed runs on the toughest AI opponents the game has to offer. It’s an open-ended boxing experience with decent mechanics and solid physics.
Social Competition 5/10
VBL has a lively sense through its development. There are podcasts to update users on recent changes, and a forum full of discussion. Changes feel noticeable and meaningful, with lots of attention paid to fan requests. That said, the developers have been promising multiplayer with an intricate betting system. Multiplayer is undoubtedly a difficult task, and the game is full of features to keep anyone entertained.
For now, users will need to settle for leaderboards that rank their mastery of opponents against the rest of the community.
VRFI Final Score 8/10
Virtual Boxing League is full of fast action and good boxing mechanics. Several opportunities for fitness hacking exist within the game, with ample game modes to add diversity. Every experience feels fresh, especially if you return to the title after a period away from it.
Unpolished presentation and some wonky tracking make for a frustrating start. Some of these issues have been improved, and it is evident development is ongoing for the title. I’m mostly satisfied with VBL, and confident its problems will be fixed. Whether its multiplayer will come anytime soon, though, is anyone’s guess.