BoxVR just got updated to FitXR on Oculus Quest. But are all the changes for the better? Find out in our FitXR review!
BoxVR was once the go-to for my VR fitness routine. Truthfully, I’ve rarely found this workout app, which mixes Beat Saber with boxing, to be utterly exhausting but it’s always served as a welcome supplement to more intense exercise sessions, especially with the option to select marathon, 40+ minute playlists. And, like other good VR workout apps, simply playing the game is fun enough that the health benefits are almost incidental.
But the game also had some issues that, in these crucial recent months, pushed me towards more professional alternatives like, say, the subscription-based Supernatural or the more dynamic OhShape. This week, however, BoxVR transforms into FitXR, and brings with it some key changes. Some of those tweaks could put the game back into my schedule, though not everything here is an upgrade.
The core of FitXR remains the same. You’ll still be punching orbs to the same set of tracks as they arrive to the beat, racking up extra points based on the speed at which you throw your arms out. It’s a tried and true mechanic that, while perhaps not as deep or complex as other VR rhythm games, makes VR exercise instantly fun and accessible. Over time, developer FitXR says it will be launching new styles of activities to make the app a more rounded fitness platform. I’m excited to see what those possibilities are, though it’s a bit of a shame none of them are ready at launch to prove intent as, without it, FitXR doesn’t feel as varied a VR workout app as, say, OhShape. Plus, new exercises could have helped distract from some of the things the app loses in the update.
But the biggest upgrade here, at least in my mind, is what appears to be a slight tweak to one of the tougher elements of BoxVR. Along with your standard jab and cross hits, you also perform side-jabs and uppercuts. In the previous version of the game, these could be incredibly challenging to pull off accurately and, while mastering them provided some depth, missing these notes when you were sure you were pulling off the correct technique could be hugely demoralizing — not what you need in the middle of a workout. It might be the new visual style or tweaked mechanics, but this seems to be much less of an issue in FitXR. You’ll still need to plan ahead to make sure you’re hitting notes on time, but you shouldn’t be missing stray hooks and uppercuts anymore.
Those changes, combined with clearer indication of when and how to squat, can make FitXR a less-frustrating workout than its predecessor in some respects. That said the new combo system, which only counts towards a streak if you hit a note fast enough, can still detract from your enthusiasm. It’s meant to encourage you to give every punch your absolute all, but you’ll need a moment to reign it back in even in the shorter workouts, and punishing you for that isn’t right. There’s also some new guidance from a voice-over, which does give the app a little more personality if not any specific workout benefits. More helpful is the overhauled UI, which more easily lets you filter through playlists to quickly find sessions of the length and intensity you’re looking for.
Calorie counting, however, seems overly generous to say the least. After one nine-minute playlist, the in-game counter told me I had burned off 350 calories. I would expect to burn off that much in a 5K run across 30 minutes, so I’m pretty sure FitXR is being a bit over-eager here. I appreciate wanting to encourage progress but this counter seems misleading to me and you’d be better off with your own estimations.
The most troubling aspect of this update, though, is what’s been removed in the process. While I personally like the new studio, its dark aesthetic won’t be for everyone, and the original version of the game had three environments to choose from. This has just the one.
Also gone is the option to make custom playlists. BoxVR never had the most compelling tracklist, but the ability to create a workout to match your tempo was one of the game’s most welcome features, and its removal is truly confusing.
Multiplayer might be the worst-hit aspect, though. Technically, it’s not really multiplayer anymore. You can now jump into studios with other player’s ‘ghost data’ to see virtual avatars boxing alongside you. It’s great to have a visual representation of others with you in the room, which the previous multiplayer integration was missing. But there’s no longer any ‘live’ element to the multiplayer in this regard, meaning it’s no longer possible to specifically meet up with friends in-game and launch into workouts together. It’s a big shame I can’t pair up with someone else for a workout anymore; it may have been a rare use case but being able to challenge a friend in the same room as me at the same time — asking what each other’s combos were and trying to top that — provided great motivation.
FitXR Review Final Impressions
FitXR brings seemingly more forgiving gameplay and — for some — a nicer visual aesthetic to the BoxVR foundation, but has made some puzzling sacrifices in the transition. Loss of live multiplayer and custom playlists has us scratching our heads, and other players will miss past environments. Still, this boxing game remains a fun, if relatively light, workout experience but the bigger question concerns where FitXR will take the platform in the future. A robust platform with a diverse set of exercises could quickly transform FitXR into the definitive VR workout app. For now, it sits comfortably alongside its contemporaries