New Revolution Review

March 31, 2016, 8:09 PM

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 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.

Replies (8)

Edited: March 31, 2016, 10:32 PM

Thanks, AJ. Great stuff.

If anyone is concerned about motion sickness on a ride, I think they would find New Revolution FAR more comfortable than the 3D version of the Harry Potter ride. They're both great attractions, but the VR coaster offers much less of a strain on your balance than the Kuka arm.

April 1, 2016, 3:57 AM

Nice review! I unfortunately did not get to ride VR at SFA because the experience has not been turned on yet but I hope to do it at New England this year!

April 1, 2016, 6:33 AM

SFA park managers were on a DC area morning radio show this morning, and announced an official opening of the VR experience on Superman: Ride of Steel would be June 12, 2016. They noted there would likely be some soft openings and a passholder preview of the new attraction the week or two prior (after Memorial Day). The staff noted that they're still working with DC on the final animation sequences that will appear in the headsets.

I think I saw the new trains in the boneyard behind Rajin' Cajun, but obviously it will probably take a couple of weeks for those to get installed on the track and tested before the new experience would be ready for guests. SFA has not said anything about it, but I would presume that they would probably need to take the coaster down for a couple of weeks (likely sometime between next week and mid-May, when the park goes back to weekend-only operations following the current daily operation during spring break) to remove the current red train and put on the new trains and to properly test them on the track.

I'm still tempering my enthusiasm, but everything I'm hearing makes me want to experience this as soon as possible. It's the most excited I've been for a revamped coaster since Bizarro.

April 1, 2016, 6:45 AM

I didn't get to ride a coaster with VR yet, but this review confirms pretty much about what I think. It is a nice feature,I will definitely try it if possible, but I will always keep riding rollercoasters without it as well, since I just love rollercoasters as they are. Maybe we'll have rides in future that can connect to better VR-Headsets like HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift.

April 3, 2016, 4:01 AM

You know, one additional positive that comes out of this is that there is (probably) no longer an absurdly long line for the front train, as it's VR and everyone sees the same thing.

On a traditional roller coaster, getting the front seat is usually worth the wait, because you get to see the track, rather than the back of the train in front of you, and the tops of those peoples' heads.

I can't fathom when I'll be back in the L.A area, or any other of the new VR Six Flags parks, but I am curious to hear the difference between the Magic Mountain version and the DC-branded Superman ones.

Also, since it is VR, it seems upgrading the graphics and visuals is a matter of uploading a new computer program, yes? Or similar. Could get a yearly refresh, or at least every few years, becoming cleaner and more modern in the graphics department each time.

Great to hear all the positive reviews of this. I can see it coming to a Disney and/or Universal park soon.

Super Mario Kart VR coaster, anyone?

Edited: April 4, 2016, 5:48 PM

@Gabriel Scholl the main problem with current VR Headsets on coasters is that they must be able to work alone. They don't use Oculus Rift/HTC Vive because both of then need a connection (through a cable) with a (gaming-)PC. Because of that, they use Samsung VR, which contains a Samsung phone that replaces this PC. But the graphic processing unit in a phone just does not reach the performance a PC delivers. That's why they can't just make the VR-Visuals better and better, they are limited by the hardware. My ideas would be either hiding PCs inside of the rollercoaster trains, or just having VR-Headsets that connect to a PC wirelessly e.g. through antennas on the track. That of course would be expensive, but it could be a much better experience as well. Also, a Mario Cart VR ride sounds like a lot of fun. Take cover! I've got a starman!

April 4, 2016, 8:24 PM

Thanks for the positive comments. I've posted a similar review of Wizarding World of Harry Potter for those interested as well, and I'll be sure to do the same once Knott's Berry Farm debuts their new attractions (GhostRider refurb/Ghost Town Alive).

Russell, is Superman actually getting all new trains or is the VR equipment just being installed onto the existing trains? I was under the impression it was the latter. Either way, I'd definitely recommend giving it a try when it is most convenient once the ride is available (and for those who are still waiting, everything I've heard says the three Superman rides will all debut at the same time). It is a very good experience, but do not allow yourself to get overhyped into thinking that it will be the greatest theme park attraction of all time. I'd probably rate it about an 8.5/10.

Gabriel, the limitations on graphics quality are primarily due to the equipment used on the attraction. Right now, Six Flags is using a Samsung Galaxy S6 attached to a headset, so the graphics are limited to what the phone is capable of generating in real time. I have no doubt that with an Oculus Rift system the quality would be much greater, but this would require the installation of significantly more hardware than the current setup and would be very difficult to retrofit to an existing attraction. I do think that if Six Flags intends to keep the VR indefinitely it will be necessary to swap out equipment and create a new program each season to prevent the experience from becoming stale, but I've heard that the initial contract is only for a year and Six Flags will then decide whether or not to continue offering the experience. Since Samsung is providing the equipment, I'd be very surprised if they didn't offer a newer model each year to better promote their product.

As for the front seat, VR doesn't calibrate properly there so if you choose to ride without VR you will automatically get the front seat (unless it's already taken on that train, though you can request to wait for it).

While it is possible that VR could come to Universal and/or Disney, I only see it appearing in a very limited manner there. With the Samsung equipment, riders under 13 are prohibited from using the VR, so while most of Six Flags's demographic can still use it the same restriction would exclude many at Disney and Universal. I do think some form of Mario Kart attraction would be the most likely place to see VR or augmented reality equipment at a destination park, but I'd rather see it on an interactive trackless dark ride instead of a coaster to better represent the Mario Kart experience.

April 5, 2016, 5:05 AM

I just found out that the themepark I'll be going to in a few weeks now offers VR Rides to everyone. Last season they started testing it with limited capacity. In order to get to ride with VR you had to get a more expensive park ticket and there was only one (powered) rollercoaster on which it was available. Now they offer it on two rides and you don't have to book it in advance, there will just be an ticket booth at the ride entrance where you can get a VR ticket for 2€ or you can just walk past it and ride it as always. Since it's that easy and simple, I'll probably try it on both rides. Usually they don't have that long queue times so I can ride them oncenwith VR and once (or more often :P) without VR (Even though I know these rides already, after all it's my favorite themepark and I really don't know how often I've been there already. And I am just 18.)
It's mainly this review who made me want to actually try it out, so thanks again for this helpful article!

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