Thrill of the Fight January 23rd Update
If you’re a fan of using virtual reality for exercise than chances are high that you are already familiar with Ian Fitz’s Thrill of the Fight. Launched way back in 2016 it instantly became the ultimate lung buster, the benchmark against which all other wannabe fitness titles are judged. You might have thought that being released within months of the debut of the first PC VR headsets that this game would be showing its age and getting a little long in the tooth. Rest assured that is not the case! Developer Ian Fitz has tinkered tirelessly with this title, updating it so regularly that is effectively a completely different game from what we reviewed way back in May 2017.
This latest big update came at the end of January and features several new additions.
TWO NEW OPPONENTS
In terms of content, the game has two new fighters. Alexei Petrov (Melky) is a youngblood Russian training out of Hazegood’s gym. He’s a newcomer, just learning his trade and represents the new first ‘real’ opponent after the sparring partner, and before you face Ugly Joe. His chin is a little weaker than Joe’s and he’s not as aggressive so perfect to start your boxing career with.
Mateo Vega (Matty) is a completely different cat however. Speed is his trademark. His slippery, defensive minded style is a nice change of pace for the game, testing your reflexes and accuracy much more than with previous opponents. Right now he’s the final fighter to unlock, meaning that after two years Duke Bell has finally been dethroned as the TOTF champion!
These two additions now take the fight roster to 8 professional opponents, plus 1 sparring partner and a few novelty Halloween opponents. Throw in an ever growing gym and you have a ton of content for the game’s sub 10 dollar price point.
I spoke with Ian Fitz and he told me that he is releasing one final opponent, hopefully before the spring. He didn’t want to give too much away other than saying he will be the new ‘champion’ and come with a new and appropriately grand venue!
Below you can watch veteran Thrill of the Fight user Leet Skillz test out the new fighters when they were released in beta on Steam in December.
The new opponents are nice but the most noteworthy addition to the game in this update is that the computer opponents now throw body punches! Previously, whilst you could you hammer your opponent’s solar plexus and sink them with a vicious liver shot, they were restricted to punching you solely in the face. With only your face to worry about it’s always been fairly easy to cover up and avoid damage when necessary, very useful late on in fights when you need to take a breather. Now however, if you put up ear muffs you’ve got to be prepared to be hit in the body. This is a really great addition and adds more complexity to an already challenging game.
I was intrigued as to how body punches would work, given that in PC VR the only things tracked are your headset and controllers. How does the game know where your body is?
I put this question to Ian, who in his usual verbose self provided me with a lengthy and detailed explanation. Basically it’s done with algorithms and computer jiggery pokery. It’s fairly easy for the game to work out where your body should be, and there are now full arm blockboxes, so that your entire arm and shoulder is now rendered in game. They are invisible to the player, you can’t see them, as apparently they would look pretty weird, but the game physics engine takes them into account for blocking.
For those interested in a fuller explanation Ian described it to me like this ‘
Your arms in TotF are treated as if your wrists are wrapped and inflexible, so your elbow comes straight out from your glove in-game. In previous updates, there was a gap in the upper arm between the elbow and the shoulder. I had intentionally left that section of arm out because the AI was frequently hitting it on accident, which would trigger a full block and result in no damage from the AI. In the new update, the AI has some small improvements in how it figures out which targets are blocked and has far more targets since it can now swing at the player’s body. This let me put the upper arm blockbox section back in without causing the AI much trouble. Shoulder blocking has been updated as well. Previously there were floating shoulder blockboxes that covered your chin which would activate and deactivate depending on your head and hand positions. The shoulder is now part of the upper arm blockbox, and can raise and lower to block your chin depending on your hand position and orientation.
One noticeable result of this change is that the player has more control in throwing a straight punch on the inside of an opponent’s incoming hook and stopping their attack with your upper arm or raised shoulder.
As you expected, the new body modelling isn’t perfectly accurate, which has been part of my hesitation in allowing the AI to hit the player in the body. Luckily, boxers won’t be dodging with their body in the same way they would be with their head, so it’s close enough to still feel correct. Most of the defensive interaction here is going to involve blocking with your arms, which benefits from the new filled-in upper-arm blockboxes.
So what I’m taking from that is that if you block body shots with your gloves and arms it should work pretty well. If you try and ‘snake hip’ your way out of trouble the game probably won’t register that and you’ll get hit. So just be mindful of that.
Finally to round the update off there’s new crowd visuals and the animations for blocking and parrying have been improved.
An Essential Game
If you haven’t yet picked up Thrill of the Fight and you are interested in virtual reality fitness it really is an essential title. Modestly priced, with a highly customisable fighter interface you really can tailor this game for any fitness level. If you want a full 12 round war against an opponent who your best punches just bounce off you can set it up that way, whilst beginners can fight 30 second rounds against the sparring partner whilst they slowly improve their cardio for bigger challenges later on.
The game is available on both Oculus Home and Steam, but for Oculus users note that this is a 360 degree room-scale game and as such requires a rear sensor. It also goes without saying that the bigger playspace and room to move around you have the better! For a more complete guide check out my OculusRift launch guide to the game here.