In May of 2017, Steam launched a new VR home platform to offer users a different kind of interface. The idea was to interact with games and collectibles, not just click a button and launch. VR sometimes struggles with backward implementation, the idea that we’re in a three-dimensional environment, but we still need to point and click. Steam’s launcher needed an update that would provide some interactivity, claimed Valve, so they have been steadily adding to it for the previous 6 or so months to try and create something like a virtual home for players.
One of the big new features released is a boxing ring, packaged for free with Steam VR and available now for anyone who opts into the beta program. How does the game stack up to other modern titles, and is this worth firing up Steam VR for?
Boxing in VR
The concept of boxing benefits from Valve’s physics systems, which makes this old idea feel more enticing. Anyone who was around for the unveiling of the second Half-Life can remember the wonder and awe of its physics puzzles, which taunted players with brick stacking and flimsy boards used as makeshift bridges.
The attention to detail in the boxing ring feels very similar. Swing an uppercut and connect with your opponent, and they’ll go flying: bouncing off walls or bounding over the ropes. You’ll need to cover up to avoid strikes, and a life meter in the background tells you how many blows you’ll need to inflict to win the match. Strength doesn’t appear to be a factor in the game, so it won’t matter if you try and dodge and lunge with all your weight for that jab.
The ring is designed to get you fumbling with controls and learning what the Vive can do, so it’s not a serious simulator where you can expect to hook up a treadmill and really move. Dodging is more or less done by moving your upper body and your head.
It’s also not superbly accurate, in terms of registering hits and dodging. This isn’t a terrible problem for exercise purposes, but it might frustrate you from match to match and prevent serious players from achieving top times.
Most of the application is throwing punches and ducking incoming attacks. As such, expect a lot of upper body strength training. You can adopt a boxer’s stance and really accentuate your movements, but it’s more for your benefit than the game’s.
Also, the game is all about beating the opponent quickly so sessions aren’t likely to test you for hours. There’s no sliding scale difficulty curve to fumble with, but there are a lot of extras involved. If you get tired of beating up the AI, you can walk around to find bags and weights, or watch other characters spar within the beautiful three-dimensional space.
The boxing ring is packaged with a few interesting updates that promise a more immersive and customizable experience for Steam VR. You can hang screenshots you’ve taken onto the wall of your virtual space, for instance, or play your favorite music and hang out in a virtual world with Steam Audio integration.
The point of Steam VR’s home application is to try and provide a more immersive way to get into VR. This new update adds more reasons for the casual player to interact with the world and personalize it.
Steam’s boxing ring is a nice nod to VR owners and gives us something to do to work up a sweat. What it doesn’t do is provide the nuance you expect with a fully developed game. It looks visually appealing and moves very well (although some players do report some frame dips before having adjusted some settings).
As a whole update, however, the boxing ring is part of a suite of tools that will make the VR UI a more interesting place to spend your time. Most players will love some of the customization (like the shelf for your game trophies), but the real draw are the VR games themselves. Providing players this extra space will help entice people to use Steam VR, and this update is free. However, the workout potential is a lot stronger in other applications.
At this moment, the update is in beta and you have to opt-in to it.
*To opt into SteamVR Beta, find SteamVR under Tools in your Steam Library. Right-click to bring up Properties, then select ‘beta’ from the dropdown in the Betas tab.