This ain't a Wii boxing game. You can't playfully swing your arms around. You really have to punch.
My plan of spending decades completely neglecting every element of physical fitness has finally paid off: I am looking down at my body and seeing muscles. I am, at long last, swole. I feel like Michael B. Jordan, because I've got the physique of Michael B. Jordan, and all it took was a VR headset and boxing game Creed: Rise to Glory, which puts you into the virtual body of Michael B. Jordan. Creed is being developed by Survios, makers of FPS VR game Raw Data, and I had a chance to play a demo of the work-in-progress Creed at GDC in San Francisco.
I can report that this boxing game is not messing around. This isn't some kinda weak-ass Wii boxing thing where you playfully swing your fists. You actually have to punch. It's work. I've thrown objects around and used melee attacks in VR games before, but this is the first time punching has felt like punching. While I've virtually got Jordan's muscles, my real-life ones, the few I have, get exhausted quickly.
I begin with a warm-up, in which a virtual, mumbling Rocky Balboa trains me at a gym. I work the heavy bag, which at first doesn't even register that I'm connecting because I'm doing what I've always done in VR: as little as possible. Only when I really snap my jabs does the bag consider me a boxer worthy of notice. I work on combos, targeting punches, and speed, and at the end of the tutorial I am awarded one star out of five, probably because there's no way for the game to award me zero stars.
Now that I'm warmed up—by which I mean sweaty, exhausted, and deeply ashamed to be faring so poorly in front of the developers—it's time to face my opponent in the ring, which is downright alarming. He's a hulking, intimidating figure, and as the ref explains the rules and my opponent and I touch gloves, I say out loud "Oh, I'm gonna die."
Creed is fun, tiring, and humbling all at once. It is pretty satisfying to land a solid jab or combo against my opponent, and ducking and dodging work pretty well and feel like completely natural reactions when a huge gloved fist is coming your way. At one point my opponent's gloves flash, indicating a flurry attack, though for most of the single round it's just straight-up, toe-to-toe boxing rather than Punch-Out style gimmicks.
There are some interesting challenges to boxing in VR, such as what to do when the player is knocked down, which happens to me almost immediately and repeatedly. In first-person, I imagine it would be jarring for your virtual self to be lying on the mat while you, in reality, are still standing. Survios' solution is to yank you from your body into third-person view at certain times, such as when you've been staggered by a punch or completely flattened.
When you've been knocked down, it's as if your opponent's punch has hit you so hard that your mind has been thrown from your body and across the arena. You can see the ring, surrounded by the darkness of impending unconsciousness, and you have to run back (by swinging your arms at your sides) before the ref counts you out. It's sort of the VR equivalent of button mashing to get back on your feet, and a novel approach to the problem of how to handle your virtual body being in a different position than your real one.
By the end of the round, which I assume was three minutes but felt much longer, I feel like I've been really boxing because I essentially have. While I did get in a few decent jabs from time to time, I have a sneaking suspicion I was allowed to win. My final, underwhelming uppercut suddenly felled my opponent who, until that moment, seemed to have barely noticed my timid jabs and awkward body-blows. And then suddenly he was KO'd, just about the same moment my allotted demo time was up.
It's okay. I didn't mind being fed a pity victory. Frankly, I needed it. It's bad enough I have to take off the headset and return to the reality of looking down at my flabby, disappointing body: at least I can do it with a win under my belt. Creed: Rise to Glory is due out later this year.