Published on February 4th, 2018 | by Paul Sturt
BOXVR (Oculus Rift) Review
Summary: BOXVR is the first Oculus Rift game to truly represent the boxing experience, and one heck of a workout while doing so.
Prepare for a work out!
While there has been several attempts at creating a solid boxing experience for a standard (2 sensor, forward facing) Oculus Rift setup, they’ve all fallen short. Of the two most popular and successful, one is wonky even in requested bigger spaces, the other more arcade-like and with questionable dodging mechanics.
In all fairness, however, I’m a boxing game snob. As a semi-pro kickboxer plus coach at a major national (U.S.) kick/boxing fitness chain, I judge these titles on the merits of immersion and realism. Meaning, I’m not going to give a free pass for endlessly flailing arms in an attempt to simulate a boxing workout. Nor yield a similar get out of jail free card for sensor cheating when actual dodging is required.
BOXVR, my friends, is the one boxing VR experience to score a stunning TKO on Oculus Rift.
To explain, it’s a legitimate workout, as in ‘you’ll be dripping and need to clean your sensor after 10 minutes.’ (I’ve been doing this for almost a decade…and it pushed even me through the ringer in the best of ways.) Moreover, BOXVR’s workouts – set to techno or rock music – are brilliantly choreographed sequences. Developer FitXR claims real fitness instructors designed each and every workout; I fully believe this claim. BOXVR estimates their workouts (at higher levels) capable of burning 100 calories in a single session. I would suspect this quite accurate and then some, especially if you’re new to this type of thing.
Logistically, BOXVR requires the user to enter height and weight. I’m assuming this is how it determines calorie burn estimates, also position of objects to strike. There are 4 selectable environments, two featuring generic balloons to punch, the others skulls (cemetery theme) and Christmas ornaments (winter theme). BOXVR features jabs, crosses, hooks (high and low) and uppercuts…likewise blocking, ducks and slips (right and left). Objects are set to music, enabling the user to develop a proper rhythm as sequences become second nature and in tune to the beat. Moreover, BOXVR requires users to occasionally switch stances (alternating front feet) to maximize workout sequences.
There are several modes, including the default workout one (beginner, power and speed workouts, respectively), also train (endless, set to music of your choosing) and survival (increasing speed and complexity with limited misses allowed). Beginners will likely default to beginner workout (fundamentals) and train, the more advanced users’ survival and high-level power and speed workout. There’s likewise a tutorial to familiarize with on screen prompts…a mode essential to understanding how things work. It’s not obvious.
Per above, you can’t cheat at BOXVR. The game requires proper stance, punch extension and hip turns or you will miss targets and reduce score totals. This is especially evident when throwing hooks, punches that correctly require keeping arms tighter to the body and properly turning hips on and into targets. Criticisms of this hook nuance by users (on Steam) points to lack of fundamentals versus tracking. When I dropped my hands and/or half turned, punches rightly didn’t register. I’m not being pedantic, rather if you’re going to do it…do it right.
Stating the above and for beginners, I suggest watching a quick YouTube video on how to throw BOXVR’s required punches, also stance (to include switching them) and dodging. You don’t have to be a professional like myself to succeed, but you will be expected to actually attempt the movements to the best of your ability.
Related, note that BOXVR is minimalist in its User Interface (UI). Stance is designated by foot forward (‘Left’ or ‘Right’) and an icon beneath your feet. That’s it. There’s also a complete absence of aforementioned fundamentals training. Trial and error will be required…but that’s what makes it fun. Rome nor Rocky was built in a day.
When I asked the developers about this, they indicated they’re well aware of shortcomings and opportunities within BOXVR. Future iterations will include UI and User Experience updates, also “support for multiple profiles, an improved activity dashboard to track performance, and more workouts.”
While BOXVR encourages score tracking, the most rewarding experience will be yielded from simply pushing limits, seeing how many workouts and/or minutes in survival mode one can execute. As the game is close but not perfect in tracking, unwanted combos and punch streaks ends will sometimes reduce overall scores.
Also and being Early Access, BOXVR does sport sister quibbles that need addressing. Height and weight selection sliders are wonky, there is occasional slowdown, and more workouts are sorely needed to keep things interesting longer term.
BOXVR is an amazing workout that beginners and experienced fitness boxers need to check out. While simple in its presentation and execution, it packs a fantastic exercise experience.