We reviewed a virtual reality boxing game before in the form of Knockout League. That was very much an arcade-style game, whereas Creed: Rise to Glory takes itself a lot more seriously. Which has both good and bad repercussions.

We have a special place in our hearts for VR games that encourage you to get into the swing of the action - requiring plenty of physical movement to really get into the game. Creed: Rise to Glory certainly ticks that box, but does it punch above its weight? We sunk in some sweat-inducing hours to find out.

Training your way to victory

Creed: Rise to Glory puts you in the shoes of Adonis Creed, son of boxing champion Apollo Creed, who is following in his father's footsteps and battling his way to greatness with the help of Rocky Balboa. Yes, that does mean you get to see and train with Rocky in the game, which is something special indeed.

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Like the Rocky movies, Creed: Rise to Glory has a heavy focus on training as well as boxing (cue montage!). Before each bout you're put through the ringer with various different boxing exercises which includes everything from punching large hunks of meat to running on a treadmill, dodging hits from a flying punchball and hitting targets in order and quick succession.

We thought this was a somewhat tiring design touch - as the initial training is intense, but also reasonably paced so you can go at your own speed and the difficulty adjusts accordingly. It's also a warm-up before the real fight, which can be beneficial to get your limbs and body warmed up ready for throwing punches and ducking incoming fists for real.

Whenever you're not fighting you're inside a gym surrounded by punch bags, boxing equipment and opportunities to practice your fighting style. These are essentially mini-games - which are fantastic fun in themselves. Beating the heck out of a punching bag by hitting specific points (highlighted by green spheres when they appear) is brilliantly challenging.

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To make things even more interesting, there's a leaderboard to compete not only with your own best scores but with friends and the rest of the world too. This mini-game can therefore potentially add hours of extra exhausting fun to the game.

Fighting for the championship

Where the game really shines though is in the ring. 

We found Knockout League to be enjoyable, but also a little formulaic at times - punches coming in sequence and learning the patterns - whereas Creed: Rise to Glory gives you more freedom.

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You can still duck, dodge and deflect incoming attacks - and you should if you want to win - but it feels like there's more freedom to actually strike the opponent in the way you want and when you want. Sure, you'll still have to avoid their jabs and time your punches correctly, but when there's an opening you can hit stomach, chest, head, and with straight punches, hooks, and uppercuts.

We watched as our opponents started to bruise and swell up after landing several blows to the face and rejoiced when they finally hit the mat. Other game mechanics are marvellous too.

Getting knocked down yourself knocks your spirit out of the ring like a transcendental out-of-body experience. You then have to rush back into your body to carry on the fight before the referee counts to 10. This is done by swinging your arms wildly like you're running - a movement mechanic we've seen before (and loved) in L.A. Noire the VR Casefiles. That's also the way you run on the treadmill when training so it's easy to pick up. 

Get knocked down too often and you find yourself with further to run, which means less time to get back to your body. When you're already exhausted it's almost impossible to swing your arms fast enough to get back into the ring in time to not get knocked out of the match. A clever game design that we loved as it basically keeps you exhausted and worn down, just like you would be in a real boxing match. Especially one that had gone on for several rounds.

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Opponents get knocked down too, but they often get back up, so you need to keep landing successful punches and dodging incoming ones in order to win. It's not obvious how much damage you can take - there's no health or stamina bar like there is in Knockout League, so you need to be conscious of how many hits you've taken and act accordingly.

It's a fast fight too. Throwing too many punches too quickly results in you losing stamina which is shown by a glowing red haze on your gloves. You need to raise your hands into a blocking position and give yourself time to recover before you carry on or your punches become ineffective. Again a nice mechanic and one that keeps you in the game, even if you aren't exhausted in real life.

Smashing through an opponent's defence and landing successful punches can open up the chance to give them a volley in slow motion too. Quick punches to specific areas will bruise and batter them, weakening them and making it easier to knock them out entirely.  

Unfortunately, the main campaign is rather short. It only took us around an hour to complete on the easier difficulty setting, but that was smashing through the game without doing much of the extra training.

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As well as career mode, there's also free play - allowing you to compete in the side game leaderboards freely or replay any of the matches from career mode in varying difficulty levels. You can opt to do those bouts without going through the intro or the mini training session beforehand too. So if you're enjoying the fighting action the most you can leap straight into it with ease.

The harder difficulty levels really give you a hammering. We found we were easily getting knocked down more and having trouble knocking our opponents down, even when landing a multitude of punches.

Stamina is pretty important - this game is not for the feint-hearted. It's also a great way to get fit, as long as you don't mind your headset getting steamed up or find yourself dripping with sweat.

Verdict

Creed: Rise to Glory is a magnificently crafted, highly polished and enjoyable experience through every heart-pounding second.

If you're only interested in the storyline then you might find it a bit lacking, but with plenty of side games and replayable matches, there's lots to keep you coming back for more. 

Boxing in the Rocky universe, even with the man himself, along with the nostalgic soundtrack is fantastic fun. It's a great workout too!

Creed: Rise to Glory is compatible with both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive and is available to buy on Steam or via the Oculus Store

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Alternatives to consider

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Knockout League

Knockout League is another smashing VR boxing game that we had a lot of time for. It's got a much more arcade-like feel to it that Creed: Rise to Glory, but it's also full of character and hilarity. Other highlights include a calorie tracking feature that allows you to see how many calories you've burnt during play and a variety of mini-games based on drills and training also make it thoroughly interesting. It's regularly being updated with new content, so well worth a look.