Review: Liteboxer VR

Five years ago you couldn’t scroll through a virtual reality (VR) content store and not continually see listing after listing of wave shooters available. It kind of feels like it’s getting that way with fitness titles, as there’s been a boon thanks to the pandemic and people wanting to exercise at home whilst taking them out of their four walls for a moment. But which to choose, and do you go down the subscription route so many are now embracing? To make that decision a bit harder is the latest fitness app for Meta Quest 1 & 2, Liteboxer VR, and if you’re looking for a bare-bones boxing workout this is it.

Liteboxer VR

Liteboxer VR is based on its real-world sibling, a $1695 system that includes a six-zoned punching wall and floor stand – there’s even a free Quest 2 offer running at the moment! Kind of like those reaction walls, the idea is to punch a section in time with the music, following a rolling light that heads to the centre of each section. The more accurate you are the more points you score, easy yeah?

And that’s exactly what you get in the VR version, just without the solid thump at the end of every punch. So this makes Liteboxer VR a very simple setup, choose your song from the huge selection of both chart-toppers and more golden oldies and start punching away. The thing is it’s not exactly an engrossing fitness experience, especially when you’re dropping $19 a month on it.

Initially, I quite liked Liteboxer VR’s simplicity. No distracting visuals or glorious vistas to concern me with, just me the Liteboxer shield and some tunes. The gameplay becomes almost hypnotic at points as my eye trains on the centre of the shield to equally see all six segments. I keep swapping my punches so that sometimes they cross my body, right hand hitting a left target and vice versa, then at other points swapping that around as well. All the while using the Quest controllers so I kept that sense of physicality to each punch, like hands inside a mitt.

Liteboxer VR

After a while, though these fitness games make you sweat so it was time for a quick brow mop and to put those controllers to one side. Hand tracking time. This is almost my favourite feature in Liteboxer VR purely because so few fitness apps actually use it (this might actually be the first?). Meta Quest’s hand tracking has greatly improved over the years but even so, you can’t help think that it’ll struggle to handle the speed at which you need to punch. In reality, hand tracking works really well, just don’t look at your virtual hands is my only advice. When purely focusing on punching Liteboxer VR would record each hit but the visual rendering would take a slight moment to catch up. That delay would screw up my timing if I watched my hands so focusing on the shield proved to be a better option.      

It was also nice to see the rich roster of music thanks to Liteboxer’s partnership with Universal Music Group, from Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne, through to Lady Gaga, Papa Roach, The Beach Boys and The Weeknd. In the Punch Tracks mode, you can go through the entire music roster, star your favourite tracks or filter them into different genres. Further depth to the experience can be found by way of a couple of other modes such as the Trainer Classes and Sparring Sessions. The Trainer Classes feature nine Liteboxer trainers who’ll talk you through various workouts and they are nice to have around as the environment does get a bit dingy after a while. Sparring Sessions combine the Trainer and Punch Tracks together so you get multi-track workouts for a longer session.

Something was amiss however, boxing isn’t just about jabs and crosses which was all I’d been doing. It was in the Trainer Classes that Liteboxer VR thankfully added extras like an uppercut and duck option. Seems a bit weird that boxing fundamentals such as these didn’t regularly appear, and then I found out why; the slipping was just awful. Having gotten so used to slipping or ducking under a fist or rapidly approaching object, the fact that both of these motions are activated by a briefly illuminating light was such an anti-climax.

Liteboxer VR

The Liteboxer VR experience dissolves even further when comparing it to all the other fitness apps out there. Liteboxer isn’t offering you loads of interactive content for that price, you’re getting less. And it all comes down to that Liteboxer Shield system, staring at those same six illuminated points hour after hour. When it comes to subscription-based apps two instantly come to mind, Supernatural and FitXR. Both offer far more variety when it comes to working out, Supernatural has more of a Beat Saber vibe going for it, enhanced physical gameplay thanks to ducking and dodging obstacles as well as some beautiful visuals. Its major drawback, subscriptions are only for North American customers. FitXR, on the other hand, is cheaper and has HIIT/Dance and Box studios. Again, providing that full-body workout. Or there’s always Les Mills Bodycombat if you really don’t like subscription-based models.

Liteboxer VR is a slick set-up, for what it is, and leads the way in hand tracked workouts. Punching away – sans controllers – to some catchy tunes was fun, no doubt about it, and I wish more VR fitness apps used hand tracking. However, it’s hard to see the value in paying that amount of money per month for what’s essentially a digital punching wall; no hooks required. With the VR fitness genre as competitive as the sports they’re emulating, newbies have to bring their A-game and Liteboxer VR doesn’t quite hit the mark.