If you were looking to experience a taste of what virtual reality is all about, SPACES and Cinemark have teamed up to do just that in a cinematic environment. Terminator Salvation VR combines the elements of the Terminator franchise with virtual reality in a group setting. What was once an area in this particular theater for archaic video games has been remade with a new type of interactive entertainment.
After purchasing your ticket, you'll be handed a card with a QR Code that will be used as your game ID. This is used in various ways including attaching information and your photo to the VR set you'll be using. No matter the era it seems minor paperwork will always be required, including your nickname which will be used later on by staff. This is followed by a face photo that you're able to adjust the light angle to provide different looks. Once you're satisfied, the photo will be generated onto the head of a Terminator model and you'll be ready to go in.
When your group is called in, a brief mission video will be shown along with a few rules such as no running, jumping, or climbing on anything. It's then time to suit up for action which includes a vest that seemed slightly cumbersome, but not unlike the weight of an X-Ray vest. Four sensors, one for each limb will also be put on your person with assistance from the commanding officers. To the credit of the employees, they certainly were getting into it and popping off with lingo that you'd expect such as pointing out the tips my partner was giving me was "secret intel". If you brought a purse or other small items, there is a locked space provided below your seat that allows you to have a safe area for your valuables.
Once the main body gear is setup, it's time to enter a corridor where you'll be putting on the headset. If you happen to be wearing glasses as I had, it's advised to put your glasses inside the headset, then slip it on. The staff help you adjust so that you're comfortable with the fit. After you're all setup, audio and visual checks are performed. Seeing yourself and others around you as death machines is a sight to behold! Once you're done gawking at your new makeover, you're asked to move onto another platform. Watch your step on the way in there though if you've never experienced VR! After some further calibration, we were handed our sizable rifles and were ready for action.
In the main space of the experience, you'll be walking short distances to get onto platforms that will take you to your mission. While there is no actual elevator to lift you up to the sky, the immersion factor certainly tricks your brain into believing it. On this mission, our particular task was to get a satellite array working properly by providing power and troubleshooting any issues. While the simplicity of the task seems trivial, it's harder to accomplish when you're surrounded by Terminators determined to turn you into Swiss cheese!
At first, shooting the Terminators seems basic since you're only tackling a few at a time, until you realize you are in a 360-degree space and are taking fire from several other directions. Dodging and zipping a few bullets works for a short time, however the best bet is to get behind cover and start picking off Terminators as a team. Having your comrade cover your six while you're blasting enemies straight ahead gives a wonderful sense of teamwork. Which is added to when the enemy has been beaten back enough to install the nuclear power pack. Two people are needed to pick up the box, which isn't particularly heavy, likely due to being Terminators ourselves for this particular operation! While I had a blast taking out the main enemies, I also found myself shooting at various other objects, usually the toilets or wooden crates. While aiming isn't as precise as I'd prefer while seeking targets, I was able to get a bead on the heads of my enemies. Once your work is done and the task complete, there's a few more surprises as you reach the finish, but I won't spoil them here!
After you return to base, a leaderboard is presented. While this is a group activity, it also tracks your individual performance and highlights the maverick of the bunch at the end. Once you return to reality, it's a shock on the senses that something so immersive is over. You'll be escorted out and shown a group photo with scores. Players also have the option to have a video vignette emailed to them which includes the voice audio while playing, something I had not known before going in and resulted in hilarity!
All in all this is an amazing experience that's fully immersive that you'll want to share with friends. While it may seem short, it's an activity that can be done in less than an hour making it a great date night event. It's also setup to be ADA compliant so those in wheelchairs can get on the action! Although it's a video gaming activity, it's a completely different way to experience one that's fun no matter your age. Currently there are only three places in the world to give this a spin including Irvine, Tokyo, and the new San Jose location at Cinemark. If these test market areas prove to be popular, more locations may come to a theater near you in the future.
The San Jose Cinemark at the Oakridge Mall will open the Terminator Salvation VR doors this Friday. During off-peak hours, the cost is $19.95 with increases during heavier traffic times such as Friday and Saturday evenings. Tickets for the general public may be booked online by going to their website. Those looking to do events with their company or other groups are asked to reach out to SPACES to discuss options.