On Wednesday June 8th, we were lucky to be invited to Six Flags America’s Superman Virtual Reality Coaster VIP Event. We went to the park, driving through some terrible rush hour traffic on I-495, and had the chance to ride the park’s latest attraction in the evening. After getting a little bit of food, we hopped on the roller coaster. By the time we got back into the station, I was amazed. I was able to get four rides on the roller coaster before we left at 7:30, and by the end of the night I thought I might have a new favorite ride.
With the addition of Virtual Reality, Six Flags turned a good coaster into what might be the best ride I’ve ever experienced. No, I’m not exaggerating, this is my genuine opinion on the ride. Here’s why:
- The ride is more immersive than anything else I’ve experienced. Although rides like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey are praised for their high levels of immersion in the theme park community, this is way more immersive. You don’t have issues of things like sight lines or seeing things such as ride equipment because you are literally in the themed environment when using the VR headsets.
- The VR is perfectly synchronized to the track. Although several were concerned about issues such as motion sickness on these VR Coasters, everything worked out perfectly. As I went up a hill, the ride went up in a way that felt good. It worked perfectly. You don’t get any motion sickness like you sometimes do on simulators, but you get an experience with similar levels of immersion.
- You can do things you can’t do on the conventional ride. On this ride, you literally feel like you are flying with Superman. Although there certainly are rides that make you feel like you’re flying, such as Forbidden Journey at Universal, this ride feels much more like you are actually in the story.
In the next paragraph, I am going to give a more detailed description on what happens on the ride. If you want to keep from spoilers, then you may not want to read this section.
As you put your Virtual Reality headset on, you are put into a station for Metropolis’s sky-tram. You exit the station as you turn right, but suddenly Lex Luthor shows up. He destroys the train tracks as you go up the lift and sucks you into the air with an anti-gravity gun. He throws a number of objects around including a police car. Suddenly, the officer inside the car falls out, but Superman catches her. Next, the battle begins. Superman punches Luthor, and the anti-gravity effect wears off as you go down the drop, but luckily Superman catches you before you hit the ground. On the ride’s first airtime hill, you are launched over a building. In the helix, a tanker truck explosion has caused a fire, and you watch as Superman puts the flames out. The ride continues through the final helix and airtime hills with more battle scenes, but in the end Superman catches Luthor and brings you safely back to the station.
Although I find the VR to be an outstanding experience, there are some issues. The largest issue by far is the reduced capacity on the ride. With an increased staff working the ride, it still took the park a long time to dispatch trains. This could be an issue in the future if crowds get bad at the park, but in my experiences at the park there have never really been long lines on any ride, so it may not be too bad. The only other issue was the ride’s audio. For the first two rides I didn’t realize there was any audio on the attraction, but on the third ride I noticed a volume button on the VR headset and apparently there was. The thing is, it relies on the phone’s speakers to play the audio, and the volume on the phone isn’t even easy to hear on the lift hill where you don’t have the sound of a multi-ton train moving at fast speeds. If there was a different method of audio used, I think it would significantly enhance the experience, but that is something that Virtual Reality coasters can begin to add over time. It’s more of a suggestion for future versions than this early version.
I find both the audio and capacity issues to be things that parks will likely work out over time. Virtual Reality is still new technology on roller coasters, and I am excited to see how ride designers improve the experience in the future! Six Flags did a great job on their early versions, and I can’t wait to see the future of VR Coasters!
The final thing I would like to do in this article is to thank Six Flags America for allowing us to attend such a great event!
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