"This will blow people away," predicts Brett Petit, senior VP, marketing and sales for Six Flags. "This" refers to the virtual reality technology that the theme park chain will be rolling out this spring at nine of its properties. Already highly regarded for its arsenal of kick-ass thrill machines, Six Flags will up the ante by repurposing nine of its roller coasters as ride systems for what could prove to be delirious, out-of-this-world VR experiences. It will take immersive storytelling to new heights – literally.
Take Superman the Ride at Six Flags New England in Massachusetts. Considered by many ride fiends (myself included) to be the country's best steel coaster, the over-200-foot, 77 m.p.h. screamer pays homage to the Man of Steel with its color scheme, logos, and other cursory references. The superhero theme will take a quantum leap this year, however, when passengers strap on VR headgear and embark on a hyper-realistic journey in the city of Metropolis.
"This will be the first opportunity that people will have to virtually fly with Superman," says Sam Rhodes, corporate director of design for Six Flags. And by fly, we're not talking about the comparatively tame rendition of flight that motion simulator rides such as Star Tours at the Disney parks and the Harry Potter rides at the Universal parks deliver. We're talking about flying alongside Supes while experiencing an actual, stomach-churning 221-foot drop, maneuvering through tight turns loaded with bone-crushing G-forces, and floating heavenward from multiple bouts of zero-G airtime.