Reality Check: Six Flags Revolutionizes Coasters with VR
March 25, 2016, 10:15 AM ·
The idea sounds ridiculous, we know.
Strapping a virtual reality headset to your face while riding a roller coaster? That's just crazy talk. For years, we've been telling people to keep their eyes open and to watch the track when they ride a coaster. That provides the visual cue your brain needs to help your body prepare for the drops, twists, airtime, and turns it will encounter on these high-speed thrill rides.
Yeah, people ride coasters in the dark. Or backwards. For some, not having that visual cue amplifies the thrill. But it's one thing to deny yourself a look at what's coming on the ride ahead. It's something else entirely to replace what you see with an alternate reality.
That's when so many fans who haven't experienced a virtual reality coaster turn green and start looking around for the nearest barf bag. But having ridden Six Flags' The New Revolution this morning, allow me to tell you this:
Forget everything you fear about virtual reality roller coasters. Wearing a VR headset on a roller coaster isn't a nauseating experience.
It's a liberating one.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the world's first steel vertical looping coaster, Six Flags Magic Mountain has transformed Revolution into The New Revolution, installing new trains with more comfortable restraints, repainting the track, and... oh yeah, offering Samsung Gear VR powered by Oculus headsets to all riders age 13 and older, at no extra charge.
Wearing the headset completely changes the experience of riding The New Revolution. No longer do you see and feel yourself riding this iconic coaster across a wooded hillside near Magic Mountain's front gate. Now, you're strapped into a single-seat fighter jet, battling aliens in an Independence Day-like dogfight to save the planet.
Nausea? Nope. The VR footage you watch synchs with the action of flying across the coaster's track. You simply feel as if you are experiencing the most life-like video game ever. I've yet to ride on a shaker seat or flight simulator that truly recreates the physical sensation of dropping more than 100 feet, looping through an inversion, and feeling the wind rush by at 55 miles per hour as you fly through one turn after another. You feel all that here, on a real coaster.
And yet... you don't see how far you are above the ground. You don't see the loop or the tunnel coming. You just see the action on the screen in front you, comfortably secured to your face by four padded Velcro straps. And with these new trains, you feel the physical ride much more smoothly than you ever would on any of those "jiggle box" (as my wife calls them) simulator attractions.
If there's a knock to be made on the ride by thrill fans it's that this doesn't really feel like you're riding a roller coaster. While you still feel those same physical sensations, changing the visual experience transforms The New Revolution into a different type of attraction. It's not a roller coaster. It's not a simulator. It's the best of both things — the real experience of riding a coaster with the storytelling capabilities of a simulator ride.
Here's the video:
If you've been wondering when the theme park industry would develop a fresh, new type of ride — it's here. Many of us have fallen into the habit of always looking to Disney and Universal for industry advances. But after enjoying Six Flags' Theme Park Insider Award-winning Justice League Battle for Metropolis last year, which melded interactive gameplay with a 3D motion-base ride, and experiencing The New Revolution this year, here's a crazy idea — the biggest innovator in theme parks today might just be Six Flags.
Update: The New Revolution opens to Six Flags passholders tomorrow and to the rest of the public on April 21.