About a month ago, Six Flags announced that they would be adding a virtual reality component to nine roller coasters spread throughout the chain, including the New Revolution at Six Flags Magic Mountain. This announcement was met with much complaining and skepticism amongst the enthusiast community, with most predicting it would be an epic disaster. While I was curious about the idea, I was also fairly skeptical about it and worried that it may induce motion sickness in train after train of riders if the system wasn’t absolutely perfect. However, a couple weeks ago, the first VR coasters opened to rave reviews and New Revolution began offering rides to season passholders on March 26th. Initially, I was planning to wait until after the Spring Break period to experience the attraction, but after deciding to purchase a Universal Studios Hollywood pass I figured “Why not do Harry Potter and New Revolution in the same day?” and reserved a ride time for 3 P.M. on March 30th. I got to the park shortly after 3 P.M., waited in the 30 minute line, and then it was time to ride.
I boarded New Revolution with modest expectations. Although reviews were universally positive, I’ve been disappointed before by buying into the hype. However, New Revolution exceeded all of my expectations. The virtual reality on the attraction syncronized perfectly with the motion of the coaster and added an entirely new dimension to the experience. Instead of riding a roller coaster in the hills of Magic Mountain, you’re riding aboard a fighter jet in an alien invasion remiscent of Independence Day (though there is no IP connection). The jet flies through a city under attack, dodging alien ships, threading through gaps between structures, and even crashing through a building. Although I feared motion sickness, it never came...in fact, I found the experience less nauseating than most conventional motion simulators. I was a skeptic, thinking I’d try it once and probably never bother with it again, but after experiencing the ride this is absolutely something I wouldn’t mind experiencing again.
Now, there are a couple of downsides to the VR component of the coaster. To start with, the graphical quality of the system is not very good. Instead of looking like a cutting edge CGI creation, it instead looks like a late 90s video game. My guess is that this is simply the limitation of the Samsung phones used in the equipment, but it is a bit disappointing. Secondly, there is no audio component to the system, so you can still hear the noises of the coaster and the screams of other riders. This makes it a little less convincing, but isn’t a major issue. Finally, although you are still onboard a roller coaster, wearing the VR makes the experience no longer feel like a roller coaster. At the same time, it doesn’t feel like a motion simulator either. It is very difficult to describe the experience as it really felt different from any other ride out there.
Now, a lot of enthusaists have raised some questions about the system, so here’s some (mostly) comforting information concerning those:
Q: I’m worried about motion sickness. Will this be an issue?
A: If you are able to handle a typical simulator ride, you shouldn’t have any issue with the VR. If you do, just close your eyes.
Q: I’m worried about contracting germs from the system. Are they really cleaned?
A: The cleaning station is right next to the pickup point and is clearly visible to guests. Every piece of the headset that contacts the wearer’s face is made of the same material used to make airplane seats and they are thoroughly cleaned with an antimicrobial solution and wipes before reuse. The sets are transferred directly from the cleaning station to the pickup rack and never leave the view of guests during the process. And, to be 100% honest, I’d say the set I recieved at 3:30 in the afternoon was cleaner than the 3D glasses I got on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at 11 A.M.
Q: I’m worried the headset will fly off. Is it secure?
A: The headset is secured by a safety lanyard and four straps: two on the sides of your head, one on top, and one below the chin. All straps are adjustable velcro straps, and when secured I could barely move the headset on my face, so I doubt it is going anywhere (even if it did, the safety lanyard would keep it from flying away and hitting another guest). Employees visually check all four straps and will assist with adjusting the headset if needed.
Q: I’m worried about discomfort from wearing the headset. Does it feel strange to wear it?
A: You will look incredibly silly with a box strapped to your face, but you will not experience discomfort. You can feel the equipment, but it isn’t very heavy and is pretty comfortable.
Q: I’m worried about massive lines due to poor operations. How much does the VR slow dispatches?
A: This one is actually a fairly legitimate concern. Guests are given the equipment one train at a time, instructed how to secure it, then sent to rows by a grouper. Ideally, you should secure the top and side straps while waiting for your train, then take your seat, buckle your seatbelt, lower the lapbar, and lastly attach the chinstrap. Most guests were waiting until they boarded the train to start securing the equipment and forgot that the roller coaster has restraints too, so dispatches were taking 4-5 minutes. Some delays were caused due to system issues (improper calibration, weak batteries, etc), but some are simply inefficiencies that need to be fixed. The ride is operating with only one train right now (the second will be ready by opening day) and they are still tweaking things, but I hope the system has been perfected by the time the ride opens on April 21st or 3+ hour waits could be a definite possibility.
Q: I’m not convinced and want to ride without VR. Can I still ride?
A: Absolutely. I’d say about 10% of the riders were opting out of VR. You will have to wait in the same line, but you can decline the headset when you get to the front. Also, because the front row does not calibrate properly with VR you will likely get a front seat ride.
For those who don’t want to experience VR, New Revolution has plenty of improvements as well. The ride has been freshly painted and has recieved brand new trains. Gone are the over the shoulder restraints, and riders are now secured by a seatbelt and a simple lapbar. The trains are very comfortable, and although the ride does still shuffle a bit (though any ride built in the 1970s will do that), it is a very smooth and enjoyable coaster. As I was only able to ride once, I cannot comment on the plain coaster experience yet, but next time I visit I will be sure to ride without VR.
Overall, I will say this: I enjoyed the VR component of the ride, but I do not think I would choose to use it every ride. I also would probably not use it on my first ride as it is helpful to know the layout and have an idea of what to expect. If you’re looking for a new experience, definitely give VR a shot, but if you’re looking to ride a roller coaster you’re probably better off opting out. However, I do highly encourage everyone to try the experience before writing it off, and while I don’t think it will be the future of coasters I do think it may be a popular bonus experience for some time (provided the equipment changes programs and/or coasters). If nothing else, I’m just happy that Revolution has been restored to it’s former self, as that is one of the best bridge coasters out there (bridge coaster as in bridging the gap between a family coaster and a serious thrill ride). I used to ride Revolution only occasionally, usually when I’d done everything else in the park and it was a walk-on, but now, VR or not, I’d consider it a must ride at SFMM.
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