Six Flags New England, Agawam, Massachusetts, USA
Hey all, just wanted to share my thoughts on the new virtual reality experience they added to "Superman: The Ride" at SFNE. Gotta say my feelings are mixed.
So on the one hand, the implementation of the headsets wasn't as much of a disaster as I expected. The headsets fit comfortably enough, and while the loading of the trains was slightly delayed, it wasn't too significant. Then again, today was a season pass preview day so only 10-20% of the riders on any given train were wearing the headsets. I'm certain loading times will increase dramatically once every one is given the headset option. Thankfully the headsets will be optional going forward so you are never required to wear one.
These aren't state-of-the art VR headsets mind you (like an "Oculus Rift" or "HTC Vive"). Six Flags has cut down costs by utilizing Samsung VR headsets powered by some Samsung smartphones. As a result, while the images are fairly immersive and do a fine job of making you truly like you are in Metropolis, on the other hand I'd by lying to you if I told you the images were crystal clear. In fact, they're almost distractingly blurry (and I have perfect vision). I can't imagine someone who has to remove their eyeglasses to wear the headset being able to see much of anything.
The "film" you see in the headset is a fairly basic 3D fight between Superman and Lex Luthor as you soar through Metropolis with the Man of Steel (so far as I can tell, you (the rider) are supposed to be inside of a metro car in Metropolis (I think). The animation is OK (about on par with slightly better than PS2-level graphics). The effects during the fight are surprisingly well-timed to the drops and airtime hills of the coaster. In particular, the use of a series of flames and fire blasts that are encountered at the bottom of the first drop were not only marvelously terrifying, but a nice callback to the actual flame effects that once adorned the coaster as "Bizarro" back in 2009.
Unfortunately however, I was only able to conquer about half of the coaster before I had had enough of the VR experience. Folks, I DO NOT get motion sickness. Like ever. I once road this coaster seven times IN A ROW with no problems whatsoever. I once road Mission Space at Epcot (Intense Version) three times IN A ROW with no problems whatsoever. But I kid you not, about 15 seconds after the first drop, I felt myself getting ready to hurl. After about another 20 or 30 seconds I simply could not take any more, and I slightly lifted the headset so I could stare down at the train and the ground beneath the coaster for the remainder of the ride.
The immersiveness of the VR headset combined with the extreme G forces of a ride like Superman simply proved to be too much for myself to handle. Wearing the headset on this coaster was without question, far and away .the most disorienting and nauseating experience I've ever had in my life
Honestly, I can't imagine how much this feeling would be multiplied for those who have never ridden the ride in the first place and had their first ride with the headset. If I hadn't ridden this coaster 500+ times in my lifetime at this point (I could tell where I was on the track based on each airtime hill) I would have likely hurled in under 20 seconds.
So bottom line, Six Flags New England did in fact do a decent job of bringing the "virtual reality coaster" experience to life on "Superman: The Ride". Unfortunately, the intended effect works TOO well and in my opinion doesn't add anything to the coaster experience and if anything at all, the potential for motion sickness has never been higher in the themed entertainment industry.
That being said, I'll give credit to Six Flags for attempting something totally new. While I'm definitely not a fan of the VR coaster experience, I think there's something here. I think if the headsets included a camera that would allow you to see the track and your actual surroundings IN ADDITION TO computer graphics (an augmented reality or AR experience) now that just might be a pretty cool thing.
For those of you who have ridden "Superman: The Ride" at SFNE or any of Six Flags' other VR coasters this year, what did you think? Do you agree?
Interesting report, thank you. Kind of confirms my fear... that I would get sick doing this, as I *am* prone to ceretain types of motion sickness. (I mentioned in another thread that I've gotten slightly queasy using the Valravn Google Cardboard ap.)
But how cool would it have been if the real flames still existed and you felt the heat as the video flames went off?
I get a little queasy just watching 360 coaster POV video in the Samsung VR googles while sitting on my couch.
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