Hands-On: Creed: Rise to Glory is an intense (and exhausting) VR boxing game

Powerhouse virtual reality developers Survios were showing off two new games at the 2018 Game Developers Conference this year. One, Electronauts, is a deliberately chill, laid-back experience in which two players can cooperate to make and modify electronic music. It's relaxing, light-hearted, and free from any concern about scores or competition.

The other game was Creed: Rise to Glory. It's a fast, brutal, physically demanding virtual boxing simulator that provides the most realistic pugilistic action the world of VR has seen yet. If you're going to play them both, do what I did: start with Creed, then cool down with Electronauts.

Real boxing techniques and strategy

Creed is an official tie-in with the upcoming Creed II film, which means it's also part of the Rocky Balboa universe. This will be clear right from the start of your virtual boxing journey, as you'll be greeted by grizzled old Rocky himself, ready to teach you the basics of punching and blocking.

The Creed development team claims that their game will actually teach players some of the fundamentals of real-world boxing, and after punching my way through a number of drills it was quickly apparent that they could be right, in a broad sense. The speed and accuracy of your punches are both important in Creed, and going for high scores in the game's gym drills involves hitting fairly small targets on different areas of punching bags or dummies, as fast as you can, over and over again.

The game also monitors the speed of your punches to determine how much damage you deal to your target, so when it's all put together you'll need to get better at fast and accurate strikes if you want to succeed in Creed.

Creed will always be several steps removed from a real boxing experience, of course, since there is no actual foot movement involved. You won't need anything near the size of a full boxing ring's worth of space to play Creed - just enough room to swing your arms without punching through your monitor. Survios devs told me that it was important for them from an accessibility perspective to make a game that could be totally played from a seated position. That's admirable, though it means we're still going to be waiting for the full "running around the boxing ring away from your opponent" experience.

I was very satisfied with the way my opponent responded during the match, and I felt as though real boxing strategy actually came into play. When I went for a lot of low body punches, the other boxer started dropping his guard to compensate, leaving him open jabs and hooks to the head. After repeating this pattern a few times I knocked him out permanently (including a few very illegal extra punches while he was already on his knees).

Defending in the game is much more about raising your hands to block at the right times, rather than physically dodging out of the way of punches through real world movement. Visual cues like glowing gloves let you know when you need to turtle up and block a series of powerful punches, but most of the match will just be about timing.

When you get hit hard enough in a match, you'll be temporarily stunned, and you'll need to recover by matching the position of your real-world hands to those of your boxing avatar, as quickly as possible. And sometimes you'll be knocked clean out of your body, and you'll have to wave your arms (in a motion specifically adapted from Survios' own Sprint Vector) in order to run through the dark and fight your way back to consciousness before it's too late.

With all these physical motions taken together, Creed is a serious, dripping-with-sweat workout. The Survios dev teams recommends investing in VR headset masks (either disposable or easily cleaned models) and some cleaning fluid that won't damage your skin, if you're concerned about keeping your Rift or Vive clean.

Head to Head with Knockout League

Creed: Rise to Glory isn't the first quality boxing game that we've seen in virtual reality. I've previously written about my love for Knockout League, one of the most popular genre entries so far, and it's interesting to examine the differences between the two games. Creed is much more focused on realism and strategy, rather than the pattern memorization and repetition of Knockout League. Where and how well you punch matters a lot more in Creed, and reading your opponents is much more like reading a real person, rather than a cartoon character. 

Creed will have a full story mode eventually, allowing players to climb up the ranks against different opponents and truly Rise to Glory. The developers also spoke about multiplayer experimentation they've been doing with the game, and though that would require some significant changes to the formula compared to single-player bout, it's a very exciting possibility that could give the game a lot of replay value over the long term.

Creed: Rise to Glory is currently planned for release some time in 2018.