Mike was particularly keen – I think he was nearly at the ‘are we there yet’ stage as we drove down for our allotted meeting. So it was with great excitement that I and Mike approached the freshly revealed new attraction. Its protective hoardings had only been removed the night before.
So after the warm welcome from Ben and his team of VR helpers we were given a guided tour of the booths and choice of the entertainments within. Honestly we felt like we had entered the Crystal Maze. But before we could begin we had to fill in some light paperwork and watch the health and safely video before moving onto the initial experience.
First up was Space Flight… (The full title is a little bit of a spoiler so I’ll stop right there). In this you are the passenger of an aircraft that achieves low Earth orbit. Now I’d best explain that you’re wearing; the glasses are HTC Vive business edition, meaning that you can’t buy these in the shops/online etc., and depending on the games then other equipment will be utilised (subpac rumble backpacks for example). For Space Flight you’re sitting in VR designed rumble chair - we'll find the name for this! Despite knowing that you’ve going nowhere the feeling of actual take off comes across as being very real and the views are exceptional. And as I implied earlier when I mentioned the title; I can’t tell you what happens…
Life of Us was next on the agenda and this is unusual. Not in a bad way but this needs some careful explaining. Essentially in this experience you evolve from a ‘blob’ (yeah it will have a scientific name but let’s just go with ‘blob’) that goes through various incarnations as it evolves. Unlike Space Flight this is multiplayer so I could ‘see’ Mike next to me as we progressed through different geological periods. Our forms changed with each new time period and we learned as we went along what we could do with our new found bodies. The end was unusual - Let’s just say that it feature’s music by Pharrell Williams.
And so onto Eagle Strike; now I have no hesitation is saying that this was my favourite. This game allowed for various combinations of player vs player action but found 2 vs 2 to be the best.
In it one team are eagles whilst the other are falcons and we’re using some very snazzy Xbox controllers to interact with the game; with the exception for the direction of flight which was controlled by the turning of your head. Essentially you were tasked into bring food back to your eyrie. Once your bunny snack was acquired you were vulnerable, the opposing team now trying to snatch the animal carcass from you. Think of it as a feathery game of capture the flag. I must mention the landscape in this title. You are flying over and through a desolate and decaying Paris. The boulevards and alleyways present you with cover and the occasional speed boosts. It was a considerable joy using these as cover trying hard not to clip any of the scenery.
From being covered in feathers our next game gets you encased in metal as we played Archangel. This is a story driven mech simulator/shooter where you operate a 6-story walking robot. Story and path through the environments were predetermined but by using the Vive haptic feedback controllers you operated the robots arms; which of course mean you are controlling its collection of ordinance. In game selections allow you to change the loadout and there’s a choice of narrative experiences depending on the difficulty you wish to experience.
For the next game it was the moment that Captain Kenny of the United Federation of Planets to makes his mark because we played Star Trek: Bridge Crew “Rescue at Perseph”!
(OK the actual title doesn’t include!)
This is ideally designed for 4 players so just having the two of us made it a little taxing. That doesn’t mean you have more work to do; other players are replaced by bots but I feel that having people you know in all the positions would make following updates easier. I took the role of the Captain of our Federation vessel and Mike was designated as Tactical, the other possible roles being Helm and Engineering.
Being set in the reboot film universe, or Kelvin timeline the look of the bridge matches that seen in the JJ Abrams/Bad Robot films so has a modern take on the original series look.
Since only the Captain can see all the mission objectives, this is a game of communication. So the Captain has to instruct the crew taking care that their actions don’t overlap since some commands will have a direct impact on the ability of others to achieve their orders. So a certain amount of judgement and oversight is needed. We managed to rescue 5 people during our session and this is certainly an interesting game that deserves a lot of exploration and play. Talking to the staff they’ve managed to rescue 25 people so unlike the Kobayashi Maru this isn’t a no-win scenario (Star trek II reference there folks).
From Star Trek we moved onto Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine. Now I’d played this last year at Star Wars Celebration Europe on the LMxLAB stand so I was eager to give a better showing this second time around. In this mini adventure you’re tasked with meeting a certain smuggler and you will get ‘a bad feeling about this’ as trouble obviously breaks out. Again I’ve no wish to spoil things so I can’t really tell you what will certainly be the main selling point. However when I played this before this was the first time I appreciated what VR could now achieve; the sense of being part of the action was overwhelming.
And finally we played Raw Data. We were recommended to play this last. The reason being that by then we would have become familiar with the VR technology plus this title is a lot more physically demanding than the others.
In essence is a first person sci-fi themed shooter. Three character classes exist with the game which also affected the load out to be carried. I found the easiest was the character with the handgun(s), the katana wielder and the shotgun user requiring more skill to play but in balance provide more flexible firepower. This title used the haptic controller to move you around the play environment. This was achieved using what appeared to be a grenade ark showing where you’d instantly move to. This worked very well allowed you to appear behind your target before teleporting out.
I could tell that this was Mike’s favourite and he seriously liked the shotgun…
We spent the afternoon enjoying the experiences that IMAX VR could provide so many thanks to Liam and his VR hosts of the IMAX VR Manchester Trafford Park for their time, trouble and patience. We look forward to a return visit and also seeing future titles and when they appear.
IMAX VR will be opening it's doors or is that virtual space? for you to explore and immersive yourself in on Friday 24th at the Trafford Centre in Manchester. On-line bookings will be taken through it's website but we'll give you updated as more information lands come launch day.
A little snippit from Mike;
IMAX VR is truly unlike any other VR experience that I've come across. Start to finish, this is how you showcase and explore the world of VR
It's all he talks about!