When it comes to physically demanding video games, I’m something of a sucker for punishment. I was elated to jump into the ring with Creed: Rise to Glory at E3, and while I had fun with the PSVR version, I’ve been been dreaming of playing the game in room-scale VR ever since. The final build did not disappoint, and after several hours of swinging, dodging, and far more sweating than a lady should admit to, I have to say that I am a big fan of Adonis Hollywood Creed.
Creed: Rise to Glory begins with the story mode. While this mode is fairly standard, it does leave a bit to be desired. Under the guidance of a couple of coaches, including the legendary Rocky Balboa himself, and with the aid of a montage (yes, reall. You’re going to be tackling a montage between every match!) you’ll prepare yourself, mind and body, to take on your next opponent. The story mode serves as the tutorial for the game, and as a tutorial mode, it’s somewhat limited. One of the coolest features is the radio which your coach plays in the gym, which recounts your exploits in the previous match as you train using the various mini games to prep for the next match. The story mode itself is a little fragmented; it jumps from one fight to the next with a few words of encouragement and a montage of training in the middle without ever building out a true narrative… but I suppose that’s what the actual movie, Creed II, is for.
The minigames themselves are entertaining and require both skill and observation–all except for the treadmill. I genuinely love the fact that Adonis runs on a treadmill before matches, and you have to press the Vive’s circle pad and swing your arms, Sprint Vector-style, in order to complete this mini-challenge. I found myself especially smitten with the game where you have to punch a bag repeatedly, cutting off all attacks and dodging it once it turns red and flies back at you. I wasted more time than I probably want to admit on these minigames, aiming to max out my score. But the gym is just the warm-up, the real challenge lies in the ring.
Stepping into the ring can be intense or laughably easy, depending on your experience and your opponent. While I was able to lay out Leo “The Lion” Sporino pretty easily, other opponents gave me more trouble. While I had little trouble subduing the final character in the story mode, I will be very happy if I never have to face Ricky ‘Pretty’ Conlan ever again. This is due to the fact that different characters have their own, unique fighting styles, including how they swing, dodge, and block.
I’ve done kickboxing and martial arts in the real world, and being on the smaller scale of things, instinctively duck down and to the left whenever a punch is thrown. I’m small enough that, against most opponents, their fist sails right over my head, and the same real-world instincts kick in whenever I’m playing Creed. Unfortunately for me, Ricky isn’t much taller than myself, and his fighting style seems to send him frequently aiming for the solar plexus. This unfortunate combination resulted in my playing Dumpling Man, ramming my head directly into his fist whenever I tried to dodge, and lead to my being KO’ed every single time I stepped into the ring with him, despite the fact that I was able to lay out every other fighter with minimal difficulty. Someday I’ll learn to adjust my fighting style…
The mechanics of the game work amazing in room scale, recognizing ducks, weaves, and even when you simply lean you head and body back in order to avoid a punch. Blocking is as easy as holding your gloves up, but when you successfully dodge, that’s when the magic happens! When you dodge a punch, time slows down, giving you time to assess your opponent’s positioning and pick the optimal place(s) to strike. Exposed ribs make for a brutal punch, and a jab to the nose? That can lead to a knockout. But why risk doing one or the other, when you have enough time to do both?
Of course, physical exhaustion is more than just physical. The more you swing, the more tired Adonis will become. His gloves will turn red, and your swings will start to slow down and carry less weight. You’ll need to stop swinging, hold your guard, and wait for your stamina to recover if you want to throw anything more than a love tap. Just a few rounds in the ring left me short of breath and sweating in real life, and I’m excited to strap on some wrist weights and see just how much I can tone my arms while playing. Balancing your stamina, looking for ideal times to swing, and following in-game prompts regarding the weak points of your opponent can spell a quick victory, but if your reactions aren’t fast enough, or you’ve drained your stamina by throwing wild swings, matches can drag on and on, taking their toll not just on Creed, but on you, the player.
Creed is so responsive to your body’s positioning that I found time slowing down before I even realized I was dodging. Blows are brutal, and while the game is entirely free of blood, you can feel the force of your opponent’s punches. The Vive wands vibrate in your hands, one side of your vision flashes red, streaked with white lines of the capillaries of your eyes, and when you suffer the most brutal of blows, the world goes black and white and you are actually tossed out of your body. This is an original system which developer Survios calls “Phantom Melee Technology,” and instead of giving an automatic game over, the system gives you a chance to recover and continue fighting.
Once you’ve been knocked unconscious you’ll need to realign your consciousness with your body, matching the position of the Vive wands with Creed’s hands, in the case of the more minor blows to the head. If you really get hit hard, then you’re going to have to sprint back to your body. This is accomplished by pressing the circle pad on the top of the Vive wants and swinging your arms like a mad person, allowing you to run back and re-inhabit your body before your consciousness slips away towards the light. It’s an exciting, incredibly fun mechanic that leaves you disoriented enough to drive home just how powerful of a punch you just took while also giving you enough time to adjust, recover, and get back to swinging.
I was able to complete the story mode in around five hours, ducking, weaving, and punching my way to the top, but the story mode makes up only a small part of the game. With the story mode complete, you can dive into both Freeplay and, most exciting of all, an online PvP mode. Freeplay allows you to choose between a roster of characters and locations, letting you customize your fighting experience. It’s a nice way to keep the game going after you’ve completed the story mode, but it doesn’t hold a candle to what you’ll encounter in PvP.
There’s nothing quite like stepping into the ring against another actual human being, wearing the same headgear you are. AI opponents can be challenging, but an actual person can be tricked and tilted, and still come back with incredibly unexpected moves all their own. The Quick Match system is quick, easy, and stable, and I had little trouble hopping into the ring against another person even before the game had fully launched. I do wish that there were a few more subtle gestures built into the gloves, such as raising your thumb when you pulled the trigger, enabling you to give a thumbs up/thumbs down gesture as a taunt before a fight, but that’s such a minor point given how well multiplayer works. I can’t wait to spend countless hours diving into the ring with friends and strangers alike, comparing my spring-loaded, always moving fighting style against other, unknown opponents to see who emerges victorious.
Creed: Rise to Glory is a robust, challenging, physically taxing VR experience that is sure to delight and exhaust boxing and VR fans alike. Unlike some other VR boxing titles, Creed encourages you to watch your opponent and look for ideal moments to strike, but also allows you to go on the offensive, creating openings and punishing your opponent for leaving their ribs or face unguarded. Of course, great reward doesn’t come without great risk, and your opponents won’t pass up the opportunity to punish you for dropping your guard. At one point, I experienced a near double KO, my opponent falling to the ground, needing to the count of six to get back to his feet, while I was physically thrown from my body, and had to sprint in order to get back in the game. Moments like that, while rare, add excitement and authenticity to Creed as an experience, and I can’t wait to see what other unexpected situations I uncover as I swing my way through the ring. I only wish that Creed had come out six months ago, it would have knocked Knockout League’s score down a point or ten.
Creed: Rise to Glory
Creed: Rise to Glory is an exhausting, sweaty, thrilling brawler title. It requires observation, reaction, and no small bit of stamina, as you read your opponent, dodge blows, create openings, and swing your way to victory. The story mode may be a little short and fragmented, but the PvP mode, allowing you to step into the ring with real people, more than makes up for it. It’s brutal, it’s highly responsive, making it the best VR boxing title, and one of the most addictive VR experiences I’ve encountered thus far.