Review: Thrill of the Fight
Barebones and better for it.
Fighting should never be encouraged as there are far better ways of resolving issues. However, that doesn’t mean a bit of the old fisticuffs can’t be used for good when combined with virtual reality (VR); namely healthy entertainment. There are a number of boxing titles you can choose for Oculus Quest, BoxVR goes for a musical rhythm-action style while Creed: Rise to Glory offers a fancy, Hollywood experience in the ring. If you want to keep things simple to just enjoy the sport of boxing then Thrill of the Fight is where it’s at.
Originally a PC VR title which arrived via Steam Early Access way back in 2016, indie developer Ian Fitz has relentlessly improved and updated the title, not only managing to create a solid PC experience but one that’s ideally suited to the wireless freedom Oculus Quest gives players. On Quest that pursuit of immersion seems a little step closer, allowing you to really get involved in each fight, stepping, dodging and blocking in your own VR ring.
To make this possible you do need some space. Thrill of the Fight advises a minimum of 2m x 2m but if you have more available then it’s preferable. This is a videogame that wants you to get involved whilst creating a natural feeling of being in a boxing match. So there are no quirky gimmicks to move you around the ring or help if you’re losing, you need to move your feet and time those punches accordingly. Simply throwing punch after punch in a haphazard fashion just isn’t going to cut it, especially in the higher stages.
Before jumping straight in the ring it’s very advisable to do a little training first. Thrill of the Fight is the closest to a boxing simulator you’re going to get on Oculus Quest, with a Speed Bag, Heavy Bag, Focus Ball and Dummy all available to help hone those skills. It’s the Dummy which will help you the most as it highlights the weak points to go for in a match. Hitting areas like the solar plexus or the correct angle on the chin will deal not only more damage but points as well. While the Dummy is good for accuracy, the Heavy Bag is great for gauging the strength of each punch and seeing whether your right or left arm is stronger. Just like in a normal gym, you could spend hours training before even stepping into a ring.
Of course, that’s not going to happen as the fights are where you truly hone your craft (and work up a sweat). Right from the start, the AI proves to be a decent opponent, blocking and countering well enough to cause some hindrance. Thrill of the Fight isn’t like Creed where you can expect a knockout every fight, or at all. Without a little training first, the likely chances are each match will go to points, meaning you have to play strategically and not like some drunken idiot. Punches matter just as much as guarding yourself, giving Thrill of the Fight a nice tactical vein running through it, just like a real boxing match.
This also makes Thrill of the Fight superb for those that want to exercise. Unlike a lot of fitness-focused VR experiences which do everything to a musical beat, there’s none of that fluff here. Just working your way through each round – which can’t be left, by the way, you have to finish – wearing your opponent down. A three-round match isn’t too bad, do another and for those new to boxing, you’re going to start feeling your arms get a little tired. Several matches later (if you manage to get that far in one session) and Thrill of the Fight will have felt like a proper workout.
Fitz has managed to take the core essence of what makes boxing so compelling and distilled it down into Thrill of the Fight. Immersive and a great use of roomscale, Thrill of the Fight has all the hallmarks of an indie gaming gem, especially being so cheap. All you really need to worry about is having enough space so you don’t start putting holes in walls.