Month: April 2016

“The Exorcist” is Coming to Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights for First Time Ever

ORLANDO, Fla., UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. (April 26, 2016) – For the first time ever, supernatural thriller, The Exorcist, will take possession of “Halloween Horror Nights” in all-new horrifying mazes opening at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando Resort beginning this September.

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The twisted minds behind the nation’s best, most intense Halloween events will bring to life one of the scariest and most nightmare-inducing horror films in history.

At Universal Orlando Resort, guests will see, hear, feel – and even smell – every iconic levitating, head-spinning, vomit-wrenching, skin-crawling moment from the film. They’ll be paralyzed with fear as they witness the power of the supernatural, scream uncontrollably as they become part of Regan MacNeil’s possession and run in terror as they try to escape the horrific battle between innocence and evil.

Universal Studios Hollywood’s “The Exorcist” maze will resonate as a real life interpretation of the demonic film, daring “Halloween Horror Nights’” guests to live the nightmare experienced by a tortured Regan and her determined mother.  The maze will recreate some of the film’s most haunting scenes, ushering guests into its unparalleled terror as if their very souls were possessed by the devil.

Revered as one of the scariest movies of all-time, The Exorcist earned its place in history as the first horror film nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.  Directed by William Friedkin, the film also established itself as leading influence in pop culture horror, affecting a multitude of subsequent films since its terrifying debut in 1973.

Universal Studios’ “Halloween Horror Nights” is the ultimate Halloween event. For more than 20 years, guests from around the world have visited “Halloween Horror Nights” in Orlando and Hollywood to become victims inside their own horror film. The streets of each coast’s event are transformed into highly-themed scare zones where menacing “scare-actors” lunge from every darkened corner. Multiple movie-quality haunted houses are erected throughout the event, based on anything from iconic slasher films to hit horror television series to haunting original stories.

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Universal Studios Hollywood Introduces All-New Preferred Hotel Program

USHR//Universal City, California, April 25, 2016 – Universal Studios Hollywood is rolling out the welcome mat to guests booking their stay at any one of over 20 Los Angeles partner hotels as part of the destination’s newly launched Preferred Hotel Program.

The diverse array of hotels extends from ocean side in Santa Monica to the heart of the San Fernando Valley, and from a vibrant Hollywood and West Hollywood to a bustling downtown L.A., providing travelers with a broad selection of neighborhoods that best suit their vacation and business needs while visiting the City of Angels.

The Preferred Hotel Program, accessible through Universal Studios Hollywood’s desktop and mobile websites, features a listing and descriptive overview of each of the hotels along with a “book now” option designed to make the process as easy as possible. Many of the select hotels also offer a variety of amenities, including complimentary shuttle service to Universal Studios Hollywood, free hotel parking and complimentary breakfast. When guests confirm their hotel package, which consists of hotel accommodations and tickets to the theme park, they will receive the added benefit of one hour early entry to “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™.”

Over the past five years, Universal Studios Hollywood has undergone an unprecedented revitalization. Today, over 75 percent of the destination has been reimagined and can be characterized as an entirely new theme park experience.

In addition to the just opened “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” the summer arrival of “The Walking Dead” permanent attraction, and the recent additions of “Fast & Furious: Supercharged” as the grand finale to the world-famous Studio Tour, “Springfield,” “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem,” “Transformers: The Ride 3D,” the “Nighttime Studio Tour” and the new “Special Effects Show,” Universal Studios Hollywood is continually exploring new, groundbreaking ways to provide guests with the ultimate Hollywood experience.

More information is available at http://www.UniversalStudiosHollywood.com.  Guests can link directly to the Preferred Hotel Program by visiting http://www.universalstudioshollywood.com/hotels.

Review: The New Revolution Gear VR Roller Coaster

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Courtesy Six Flags

This post is published on both this site and our sister VR site, VReview due to the overlapping areas of interest. The New Revolution Roller Coaster is slated to open to the public on April 21st, but I got to ride the attraction early; here are my thoughts on it.

Remodeled from The original Revolution steel coaster which opened on May 8, 1976 as the Great American Revolution; the creatively named “The New Revolution” is North America’s first dedicated VR Roller Coaster, powered by our beloved Samsung Gear VR opening at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita, CA. From Six Flags:

“The New Revolution — North America’s first fully-integrated VR roller coaster using Samsung Gear VR, powered by Oculus — was unveiled, providing a multi-dimensional virtual ride experience never before done on a looping, twisting coaster. From the moment riders board and don Samsung Gear VR headsets, the traditional roller coaster experience is transformed. High-definition imagery and storytelling sync with the unique track configuration creating a one-of-a-kind seamless “real world” to “virtual world” thrill-ride experience. Riders are now co-pilots seated in the cockpit of a true-to-life fighter jet, flying through a futuristic city while virtually engaged in a battle to protect the planet against alien invaders, all while racing over the 3,500 feet of twisting, turning, looping coaster track.”

It sounds like an interesting proposition. A mobile VR experience synced to an intense roller coaster. I got in the queue and was presented with the choice of a headset or no headset… I obviously went with the Gear VR. These were mostly consumer Gear VRs, with some modifications because, y’know, it’s a roller coaster. Headsets are given out individually to each rider.

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Tougher straps with metal hooks and the addition of a chin strap make sure the Gear VR doesn’t fly off on the ride. It is a very tight fit, which is to be expected. The cover is also much larger, and is better at sweat resistance. The headsets are cleaned with antibacterial wipes before being given to riders.

 

 

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The actual phone used is the AT&T Galaxy S6 edge. To prevent theft, metal bolts are holding the phone securers in place, where you would normally be able to slide them back to release the phone. That black strap in the top of the picture is a lanyard, which you are asked to put on your neck immediately after receiving the headset.

As I entered the all-American ride trains, I did not have any difficulty putting the headset on, however it should be noted that I am very experienced in operating the Gear VR, so this was probably a factor in this; my group displayed some difficulty in putting it on as the straps were very tight, but the employees were very helpful in this regard. It was admittedly a bit disconcerting to lose awareness in the boarding station and not see my friends around me; as I put it on I immediately was greeted by a screen that said “calibrating..” which took a second or two. I’m pretty confident this was not focus, just the gyros, as the screen was still blurry and I had to adjust the focus manually. Here’s one of my biggest gripes: there was NOTHING about focusing or the focus wheel in the queue or told to us. I could only alert my friends that were in my immediate area (we were on separate trains). If I had not had this knowledge with the Gear, my experience would probably be a lot worse.

On to the actual ride, after the calibration screen I was transported into an aircraft cockpit in a hangar, with text on the screen saying “tap the touchpad on the right side of the headset to shoot” or something to that effect.  As the ride train started on the lift hill I started ascending into the virtual chaos. More on the story from Six Flags:

“Seated in sleek new red and white custom trains, the epic battle begins. From the cockpit of the aircraft in an underground bunker, the massive vehicle quickly ascends up the lift hill through the bunker’s roof, onto the launch pad ready to take flight. Once cleared for takeoff, the heroic adventure commences as riders are forced to navigate dangerously through the narrow city streets, up and over skyscrapers while avoiding obstacles and incoming fire from alien drones. The battle intensifies at the edge of the skyline where the mother ship is revealed ominously hovering above. Heavily protected by drones, the mission is clear, penetrate and destroy the mother ship to save the Planet.”

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If you’re curious about the graphics, they look exactly as they do in Six Flags’ promo video (good on them for an accurate representation of graphics):

 

There was no overheating, probably because you’re rushing through the track at 60MPH; even though the S6 edge is notorious for the issue (and this is my biggest gripe with the hardware). Pushing the back button let me see the battery level of the phone (couldn’t go to anything other than that), I was at 72% while my friend next to me was at 40%. The story was exactly what was described, but I felt the shooting function was just added to further justify inclusion of VR and had no real consequence. On to my thoughts: I really was not that impressed. It was good, but not amazing. Interestingly, my friends who had never experienced VR were amazed and astonished and highly recommended the ride, so I suspect my reaction is because I am a VR enthusiast and have been somewhat desensitized. The FPS dropped when the mothership was in full view, and the graphics were the largest bottleneck to total immersion for me, although I was fully immersed at some moments due to the fact that it was a roller coaster synced to the ride film (like, ducking at flying debris immersion). If you don’t care about that stuff, you will definitely be amazed and think you’re actually fighting off an alien invasion for the entirety of the ride. I did not feel motion sick whatsoever as the ride was synced very well, I assume over Bluetooth.

In conclusion, if you’ve experienced VR this will most likely not be a ground breaking experience for you, but if you have a Six Flags pass or are a coaster/theme park enthusiast like me you should (and probably are already planning on) checking this out, if only to see the breadth of applications for VR. The thing is, most people are not VR enthusiasts like me, and will not nitpick about the aformentioned issue. If you haven’t experienced a higher quality level of VR than Cardboard (or at all), then this is a must-ride, and Samsung is going to be selling a lot of Galaxy phones and Gear VRs due to this ride; it’s that good to those who haven’t experienced VR. The New Revolution opens April 21st.