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.
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.
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.”
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.