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Function VR Fitness Game Review- Personal Training in VR

VR has been reaching into the next realm of its existence lately. What I mean by that is it’s becoming more than just a gaming platform, there are now apps that act as social hubs and creator suites that can let you build your very own worlds within. VR is expanding and one of the biggest ways is in the fitness world. Several titles such as VR Workout have come out lately to try and create an at-home gym experience. Considering gyms throughout the country are mostly closed, what better thing to have in your home right now than a game that can recreate that experience to a high degree. Function comes along to do just that and while it’s without the bells and whistles that make experiences like Beat Saber so engaging to play, from a pure workout perspective, it’s a solid experience. How Function works in its current state is you start off in an open field where you’ll be spending your time while completing the various workout challenges assembled. Throughout your time with the game, you will be doing every exercise you can think of that would be VR supported. Calling Function a game though is a mistake because that’s not really what you’re getting here. This is for all intents and purposes a VR fitness coach that you can access in your living room. There are no different stages, there aren’t different weapons or bosses or anything like that. There also isn’t any music, which while a total bummer initially, you can just fire up whatever music you want to work out to in the background. So while this isn’t a game, there is still plenty of value in this experience if your sole goal is to get in shape, because it comes through in this area in a variety of ways.

There are a bunch of different workouts to choose from that vary in intensity. The goal of each one is to do the exercise told to you the number of times the cube on the block in front of you shows. So one exercise may be squats and you won’t be able to progress to the next one unless you complete 10 squats. You may be asking how the game tracks how many squats you’re doing. The clever way Function deals with this is by having icons that you either need to touch your headset or hand controllers to. The game asks that you adhere to the honor system and that you won’t cheat to complete these obstacles. That means you can complete exercises illegitimately, but there is really no point in doing so, just follow the rules and you’ll get an amazing workout out of it. The range of exercises is pretty impressive as you’ll be engaging your legs and core in ways that previously didn’t seem all that likely to be doable in VR. Function is still in early access so it’s clear that this isn’t a complete experience at the moment and that’s proven by the experimental exercises on the other side of the main menu. These exercises are interesting to mess around with like the find small ball exercise where you will punch through a bunch of big orbs to find the small one, but there is no point in doing them other than to pass the time.

I think that’s the biggest criticism of Function. It’s an amazing workout, but it’s so dull in its presentation that it’s tough to be inspired to keep returning. There is a ton of potential in this kind of game though but it needs to amp up the presentation to something that’s both visually and audibly appealing because right now, the dullness overtakes the benefits of Function. What it looks in overall enjoyment it does make up for it in pure fitness ability. So if all you are looking for is something to get you off your couch and to burn some calories without leaving your home, Function can certainly fulfill you there.

Virtual I/O created a $1000 pair of virtual reality glasses called “iGlasses” in 1995.

Preparation

This game is best played with a completely clear area 360 degrees around you and with a 5×5 play space available. You can play in small spaces, but between the lunges and other exercises that require you to move laterally at times, it will be difficult to get as much out of the experience as you normally would. I also used a VR Cover to help keep my headset clean and clear of sweat.

Intensity – 9/10

I recorded my 30-minute workout with a Fitbit using a Samsung Odyssey Plus Windows Mixed Reality Headset.

Calories burned: 322 Calories burned per minute: 10 Average Heart Rate: 134 Max Heart Rate: 134 Active Minutes: 30:43 While I won’t say I had the most fun time ever inside Functions workout fields, I did burn a ton of calories and sweat a great deal. If you are willing to play by the games honor system and do the complete exercises each time, you will get a lot out of it. Each circuit is built to make you work for the gold and the timer at the top of the screen has you constantly trying to best your previous high scores. In terms of where Function stands amongst the more intense experiences in VR, it’s definitely up there, it’s just not that thrilling while you do.

Arms- 8/10

You will get plenty of arm work here whether you decide to aide your workout with weighted gloves or not. Several of the exercises asked of you here are arm centric including punching corresponding colored orbs that appear. You’re also going to use your arms quite a bit for the experimental exercises as you’ll be reaching to pop various balloons and digging through more orbs to find the two blue ones required to activate the next round. I would say this is one of the VR games out there that is helped immensely with weighted gloves. The punching segments are helped immeasurably by this considering the disappointing lack of haptic feedback that Function provides you with.

Legs- 8/10

While most VR games don’t work your legs too much, the opposite is the case with Function. You are going to need to stretch before this one because Function features the most leg centric workout of any game I have played in VR. You will be doing lunges, squats of different varieties as well as doing reaching exercises. Front squats, forward lunges, and side lunges are all on the menu here and the best part Function is how it demands you to do the exercise properly or else it won’t count what you’ve done. After one round I was feeling some serious burn in my hamstrings and I appreciated that Function made you workout properly and not through some gimmick to get the exercise.

Core/Balance- 7/10

Similar to your legs, your core is usually not too engaged during your typical VR experience. Thankfully, Function makes sure that the core is very engaged. You will be repeatedly doing ax cutters and as well as various exercises involving twisting your core so be ready to get a solid workout in this area as well. While you aren’t going to be doing full sit-ups or anything like that at the moment, the repetition helps give you a better workout than you would expect in VR. The nature of the game demands that you do a proper ax cutter each time too so there is no cheating around it to get a high score. If you’re going to advance through the circuit, you’re going to have to earn it.

The Biggest Concerns. Despite the positives, there are some concerns about virtual reality. For example, some critics point out health and safety issues. If the technology is not used properly, users might suffer from health issues like seizures and other major discomfort. Some people could also trip and fall. There are also major privacy concerns with virtual reality. Some people fear that the headsets could lead to government surveillance, although there is no proof of that as of yet.

Time Perception- 6/10

Function isn’t the type of game that you can lose yourself in. It comes with very few bells and whistles to distract you from the rather repetitive workouts and that doesn’t allow you to be immersed in the world Function has created for you to exist in. After a couple of workouts, you get the feeling that there isn’t too much more to experience in here, and despite them providing you a timer for each circuit, the feeling that this is going on far too long was pretty pervasive during my time with Function.

Replayability- 5/10

If you’re going to instill Function into your everyday workout, then there is plenty of replayability to be found within Function. It’s updating new exercises into the circuit and the developers are dedicated into turning it into a full-fledged workout from the sounds of it. The problem is if you’re coming to Function for anything resembling your typical VR experience, you’re going to be sorely disappointed as the presentation is awfully dull and you won’t even have music to accompany your workout. Very little is here to keep you coming back to it in its current state.

Fitness Scalability- 7/10

There aren’t an endless amount of workouts to choose from at the moment, but what is there is several well put together workout circuits of varying difficulty. The ones that focus on lunges and squats proved to be the most intense physically for me, though your experience will vary depending on what muscles you’re used to working out with. It seems more workout playlists will be added to Function in the near future, so it’s possible the experience can become even more tailored to your workout needs.

Lack of Nausea- 7/10

In Function, you won’t be thrown on to a moving track like most rhythm or workout games that are currently available in VR. Despite this, I still found myself getting a little bit disoriented when it came to doing the lunges and squats and really any exercise that required constant changes in elevation of my headset. I just don’t think VR is at the point yet where it can pull off this kind of “move your head anywhere you want very quickly” playstyle yet without there being some nausea involved. The rapid change of headset height during the ax cutters were the biggest culprit here and seeing as they have you doing this exercise multiple times per circuit, I quickly felt like giving up not because of the physical aspect, but because of the, I don’t feel like getting sick aspect.

Most of the major brands worldwide are investing in some way in virtual reality.

Social Competition- 5/10

Function is not created to be a social experience, so I can’t knock them too much on this aspect. They do have a leaderboard however and that is nice to see when it comes to competing with friends and strangers on who is getting the best scores per circuit. A multi-player aspect would be a great way for Function to generate more appeal within its game model, but for now, it is strictly a single-player experience.

VR Fit Score- 6.8/10

The Good

Function gives you a unique experience in VR that is less a game and more a full-on trainer that you can follow in your home. It provides a great alternative in the current climate to going to the gym and has the potential to be put into a daily VR workout routine. The tracking for the headset into the various exercises is excellent and doesn’t allow you to cheat through some of the workouts like other similar games in the genre that have allowed you to do in the past. It comes at an extremely affordable price and the developers have promised a ton of updates including new exercises and circuits to be put into the Function

The Bad

Function really isn’t a game. It’s more of an exercise utility and while that may be okay for some, you can get a similar workout with other games while having a far more enjoyable time in the process. The dull environment can get a little bit grating to constantly look at and the lack of levels presented disappoints as other similar titles tend to give us amazing vistas and soundtracks to experience while Function currently has us planted on a field with no music for the entirety of the experience. The lack of haptic feedback while completing the exercises is also disappointing as it gives no real presence to what you’re doing and makes it feel like you could easily be doing this outside of VR far more comfortably. While it satisfies a lot of marks for our VR Fit Score, it’s hard to recommend for anyone looking to have a fun time in VR Function is available for $3.99 on Steam and is playable on Oculus Rift, HTV Vive, Valve Index, and Windows Mixed Reality Headsets.

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