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Arts and Entertainment

Video: We Rode Magic Mountain's Virtual Reality Coaster

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We went to Six Flags Magic Mountain to see how virtual reality changed one of their high thrill coasters into a battle to save planet Earth. Six Flags recently announced that select roller coasters at certain parks would be transformed through virtual reality, turning the already adrenaline-inducing rides into immersive, 360 experiences in other worlds. In Southern California, Valencia's Magic Mountain added the tech to their New Revolution ride. On Friday we were invited to check it out.

The New Revolution, all on its own, is listed as being in the 'high' thrill range. It's known for its drops and one spectacular vertical loop, making it a much more intense ride than say, The Scrambler, but significantly less intense than the Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom ride that plummets you straight down 45 stories at 85 mph. The New Revolution originally debuted in 1976—200 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, hence the coaster's name—and was featured in 1977's Rollercoaster, a thriller about a villain who sabotages roller coasters across the U.S.

With VR, however, your view of the park below is gone and replaced with an Independence Day-esque scene of an extraterrestrial invasion.

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When you first make it up to the platform, you'll be fitted with a Samsung Gear VR headset. Since you're going to be tossed around in the air, you'll have to employ a chinstrap and a tether around your neck. Once you've been fitted, you wait until you're strapped into one of the ride's cars, and then you can put on your VR headset. You'll look straight forward to calibrate it, and then you should see yourself sitting in a fighter jet in an underground hangar. You can look all around in any direction, though as for right now, you're just in a hangar. The graphics are not particularly spectacular, but they are on par with any of the first-person shooter games you might have played in the 90s or early-2000s.

As the coaster itself begins to move, you'll be able to tap the right side of the headset to fire with your fighter jet's guns at several targets. This is fun while it lasts, but aliens crash into and destroy the plane's turrets almost as soon as you emerge from the hangar.

Once outside the hangar, you're immediately plunged into a battle between humanity and whoever these otherworldly invaders are. You zoom between skyscrapers as enemy ships zip past you, and a massive mother ship looms darkly overhead.

The experience differs greatly from simulator rides that mostly stay in the same place, but incorporate visuals to mimic movements, such as the Simpsons ride at Universal. Here, you really are being tipped upside-down and hurtled towards the ground, and you can feel all of that even if you can't see it. At times, I found myself smashed against the lap bar, which drew me out of the VR world and reminded me of reality. At other times, I could distract myself from my actual situation by peering up at the mother ship or watching as we crashed through the glass of a towering office building. The whole thing takes about two minutes, and no one I talked to reported feeling nauseated by the experience. Good news if you were also dismayed about the reports of the Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios.

Here's what it looks like when you're on the coaster, compared to what you're seeing in the VR headset. Yeah, sure, it looks weird to ride around with a box on your head, but virtual reality is starting to pop up everywhere these days, so I have a feeling we're just going to have to get used to it.

Six Flags Magic Mountain VR Coaster from LAist on Vimeo.

The experience is currently open to season pass holders, and will open up to the general public on April 21.