How often have you thought to yourself “I would love to be a marine in James Cameron’s Aliens and kick some xenomorph ass? If you answered often, then what the hell is wrong with you? A need for psychiatric evaluation aside, you now have your chance to experience the bug hunt you’ve always dreamed of, as Pure Imagination Studios and Foxnet Destinations have created what is easily the best VR experience out there in Alien: Descent, going on now in Orange County, California, at The Outlets mall...
...Here’s the setup: You are a colonial marine, embarking on a mission to investigate a distress signal at a Weyland-Yutani mining outpost, LV-Something or other (I wasn’t allowed a notebook, so forgive me that I don’t have the exact planet number, nerd). Apparently, the colony reported some kind of infestation. Sound familiar yet? Now its up to you and a few others to storm in, quarantine any survivors and get the hell out of there!
For those that don’t live in the southern California area, let me describe as best I can this incredible experience. Partnered with my buddy Andres and a pocket full of Aliens references, we were split into one of two teams: Alpha team (that’s us) and Bravo team. Two to a team. From there, each team was split up and taken into separate rooms, where we were introduced to actors, I mean marines, doing their best to take their role seriously as I fumbled around with my equipment, which included first of their kind wireless wrist/ankle motion sensors, a VR head set complete with mic, and my very own pulse rifle, equipped with a laser sight and grenade launcher. Hoo-rah!
After getting strapped into our gear, we were then put into “cryogenic pods” and sent on our way. This part of the experience alone was worth the trip, as everything is so near realistic that I was worried my hands were going to be crushed by the imaginary glass door to the pod as it lowered down. From here, we were spun around and instantly transported to the mining colony. As the pod opened, I could actually feel the wind whipping around us as we stepped out onto steel walkways. I don’t know how to explain how all of this works (I’m not a scientist after all), but not only could I see Andres, decked out in badass armor, but I could see Bravo Team at what appeared to be at least a hundred feet away. Here’s where Alien: Descent really sets itself apart from all the other VR technology out there: This is not only a free roaming experience full of wind (and heat) effects, but as I was walking along the walkway, I discovered I could reach out and touch the imaginary railing…and there was an actual railing there! There’s some incredible devil magic going on at Alien: Descent, I’ll tell you that.
Keep in mind, walking along walkways and heading down creaky elevators is just a few minutes of the roughly fifteen minute experience. The real action gets going once you and your team discover that the colonists aren’t exactly having a slumber party. The mood quickly goes from eerie to an all out “we’re fucked” slugfest. Aliens crawl, leap and claw their way all around you while trapped on an elevator. Its at about this point that I started to channel my inner Bill Paxton, screaming “you want some? You want some too?” as I pumped round after round of bullets into xenomorph scum. Andres chose the, er, more explosive route, exchanging bullets for grenades and painting the walls with alien acid blood. I can’t describe to you the terror I felt, looking these things right in the face, never knowing which angle they were going to attack from next. Luckily, you can’t actually get hurt in Alien: Descent. I don’t think I could’ve handled the fear of knowing I could get my skull crunched by those damn retractable munchers.
And for those of you thinking “I hate VR. It makes me sick,” don’t be such a baby! But no, really, the free roaming nature and wireless gear makes it much more accessible for those that typically experience motion sickness from VR, simply because by actually being allowed to move, its not as difficult for your brain to process since your movements are matching what you’re seeing, rather than seeing one thing while you’re sitting on your ass drinking mountain dew in the comfort of you’re living room. Its not all perfect though, as I found my sensors were just slightly off, making for a somewhat panicked moment when I tried to place my pulse rifle back in its holster at the end of the mission, and couldn’t quite get it in place since what I was seeing wasn’t lining up with the real world…which would’ve been fine, if the ship’s computer didn’t start counting down to takeoff with me still not in my cryogenic pod. She was VERY demanding.
Like it or not, VR is the future of gaming. I can say that now after experiencing Alien: Descent. Which just makes me all the more frustrated that a pair of little girls walking out before us were so painfully unimpressed. I mean what more do you fucking want, kid? Back in my day, we had Atari. ATARI. THAT was my first big gaming system, and you’re going to act like this is nothing? Ugh, I’m getting old. Anyway, Foxnet supposedly plans on expanding to more locations for Alien: Descent in the future (according to Variety), but if you live in the LA area and want to check it out now, get your tickets here for $22 bucks a pop. And make sure to get your reservations in advance, as slots fill up FAST. Check out Alien: Descent while you can, before its gone forever and its game over, man.
By Matt Konopka