Ian Fitz’ Thrill of the Fight is a virtual reality, room-scale boxing game that’s currently in Early Access on the Steam store for $9.99. It’s one of the only few fighting games available for virtual reality headsets, which is kind of odd given the potential, but that’s how the dice fall.
The Thrill of the Fight is currently in Early Access on Steam. It’s been in Early Access since 2016, and has received some moderate updates over the last two years, including some Halloween-themed content that lets you fight off a zombie that tries to eat you, and a ghost that spends the entire fight sucker-punching you while fading in and out of being corporeal.
The meat of the game so far is in the training modes, allowing you to test your reflexes with the speed bag, test your power on the heavy bag, and test your accuracy on the punching dummy. Unlike a lot of other fighting games out there, each of the training modes actually do help a ton in being able to help you hone your skills, learn what style of punches do the most damage and perfect your technique.
Once you get done with the basic training, it’s time to step into the ring against a sparring partner, and here is where you learn the ropes of what does damage and what doesn’t, as well as how broken the fighting mechanics still are.
So, first of all you’ll probably want the TPCast wireless adapter for your headset if you plan on playing The Thrill of the Fight. Otherwise you’ll find yourself tangled up in the cords quite frequently since you’ll need to frequently move about a 2×2 meter room-scale play area. Why? Because your opponents don’t stay still, and you’ll have to tactically move around the area to avoid getting hit, to dodge, evade, attack, and counterattack.
The blocking works about pitch perfect, as you need to actually hold up your hands in real life to block incoming punches. The hit detection and blocking precision is about 1:1, which really adds some nice depth to the defensive mechanics in the game.
This is one of the highlights of The Thrill of the Fight because your opponents are only as hard as your inability to move about the room. So long as you duck, dodge, and block their attacks, you’ll be able to hang with even the toughest AI opponents. As you can see in the video below, Markiplier managed to knock the guys out by dodging a couple of their attacks and swinging for the fences.
But herein lies one of the game’s biggest drawbacks: actual boxing technique is basically self-inflicted punishment.
If you’re used to actually boxing or frequently partake in mixed martial arts training, typically you’re using to sticking and moving with the jab. Getting in hooks to the body when there’s an opening, and throwing uppercuts once the chin is exposed. That’s typically how it works in real life – leading with the jab, and everything else comes secondary.
Well that’s not how it works in The Thrill of the Fight.
The game’s damage system is based around the velocity of a punch, which is calculated around the acceleration plus the direction in which the wands are being aimed.
While this sounds like an accurate measure for gauging the power of a punch, it’s actually not a very effective way for fighting realistically. What ends up happening is that your most effective punches in The Thrill of the Fight will be the ones you wildly lob in an arc as fast as you can.
Overhand punches, wild uppercuts, and rounding-hook shots that would make Hollywood producers blush are the kind of strikes that do the most damage, just as it’s depicted in the video above with Markiplier.
While this might seem like fun, what this ends up doing is tiring you out rather quickly, messing up your form, and forcing you to fight as if you’re a child running around and throwing a tantrum by flailing your arms about.
Tantrum punches might be funny to kids, but that style makes it impossible to fight for an elongated period of time, or in an effective manner.
Basically you can knock out most opponents in a minute or two throwing these wild, overarching punches because according to the game’s scale of how it rates power, those punches are calculated as being the most effective and damaging.
This isn’t to say that normal jabs, hooks, crosses, overhands, and uppercuts aren’t effective – you can still win matches using real-life boxing techniques, but don’t expect any dramatic knockouts and don’t expect your hits to do much damage. For the most part, if you use real-life boxing techniques expect to go the distance and you might eke out a win based on points.
On the upside, whether you’re you like throwing wild punches or being technical with your strikes, The Thrill of the Fight will always give you a hardcore, upperbody workout. The first time I played I put in maybe half an hour to an hour’s worth of time, and later that night my entire back, shoulders, biceps, forearms, traps, and pectorals were arching for days. This game is no joke, and it will exhaust you very, very quickly.
As an Early Access title you likely won’t get much mileage out of The Thrill of the Fight unless you simply want to play a game for the express purpose of getting a workout. As mentioned at the top of the article, there’s only a few main fights in the game right now, and updates are coming in rather slowly. The last major update switched over to the latest version of the Unity game engine to improve both performance and visual scaling.
Otherwise, beyond the main fights there are the gimmick matches from the Halloween update, and the training modes.
A game like this could really shine with an online competitive mode, but that might be outside the scope and the budget for the indie team working on The Thrill of the Fight. If you already have a VR headset and you’re looking for a game that really puts you through your paces, I would say that this is possibly worth a try. So yeah…