After winning the Amusement Today’s “Golden Ticket Steel Coaster of the Year” award a staggering five times and USA Today’s “Best Coaster on the Planet,” Six Flags New England’s Superman the Ride had no place to go but down. Suddenly, it’s getting brought up the lift hill again.
Guests of the stunning and breathtaking smooth coaster are donning virtual reality headsets that add a completely new narrative to the 16-year-old attraction. No doubt, 2016 will be the start of seeing the virtual reality treatment added to roller coasters for many years to come. There are many companies out there looking to enter this space and Six Flags is the first in the United States rolling it out to their entire chain of parks.
The story of the ride is very similar to The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Lex Luthor, Superman’s main adversary, has taken over Metropolis and is wearing a suit that gives him the power of flight. You, the rider, are on a sky tour of the city. Superman has to save you once the tour’s track has been destroyed all while fighting Lex.
“We here at Six Flags New England don’t settle for good or great,” said SFNE Communications Manager Jen McGrath. “We only want spectacular. Virtual reality is very new technology in regards to integrating it with coasters. Samsung and Six Flags have been able to make this tremendous partnership possible. Once this technology started to become available and we saw how well it would work with Superman the Ride, we knew it was something we wanted to get involved in.”
For anyone familiar with the ride, it’s hard to imagine it can be improved. Does the VR take away from the amazing ride experience full of high altitude drops and quick turns? A little, since you are focused entirely on the thrilling battle between Superman and Lex and not on the ride itself. Riding in the front row of the attraction was an absolute must before the addition of VR since you were unable to see the track as you made the first drop. Now it isn’t really a necessity. However, for those who have been on the ride multiple times, it brings to life a totally new experience.
The ride officially opens Saturday, June 11, 2016 and since the VR headsets are completely new technology, expect longer-than-usual wait times. Six Flags Team Members have to ensure each headset is working properly and instructs riders how to fiddle with the knob on top to adjust the blurriness. Think of it like going to the optometrist before you ride.
“With every new procedure, it does take time,” she explained. “Our mission here is safety: first, last and always. When guests load the attraction, the headsets are new, of course. Not many people own these, although they are becoming more available. We want to make sure they are snug and they are able to see the content as well as possible. Our team is getting used to it more and more every day. We have a lot of staff to make sure it’s as seamless as possible.”
Virtual reality really had its heyday in the ’90s (remember Aerosmith’s “Amazing” music video?), but good Lord does it work for this type of attraction. Since your vision is completely engulfed by the technology, one of the weirdest aspects of this is hearing people around you talk and having no way of seeing them. It’s simply instinctive to hear someone three feet away from you and expect to turn your head to see them.
This may be personal and something only a massive nerd like myself cares about, but after being so tremendously disappointed by “Batman v. Superman,” this is a breath of fresh air. Luthor is supposed to be a imposing and terrifying figure, not wimpy Jesse Eisenberg.
And something about the picture below tells me they won’t be selling nearly as many on-ride photos…
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