Location-Based VR experiences were a huge casualty of the pandemic. Popular virtual reality destinations like
Two Bit Circus
closed their doors for most of 2020, while The Void — home of Disney’s Star Wars and Avengers VR experiences — closed their doors permanently. Although in-person mixed reality experiences definitely took a major hit last year, we’re finally starting to see some of these locations start to come back, albeit with higher safety precautions. In celebration of
Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead
, Netflix has partnered with Pure Imagination Studios to develop Viva Las Vengeance, a tactical taco truck ride through zombie-infested Las Vegas where up to six players work together to hold back the hordes with lots and lots of bullets. As a huge fan of these theme-park quality VR experiences, Viva Las Vengeance is a welcome return that raises the bar for in-person VR in more ways than one. If you feel safe enough to make it out to this limited-time event, you won’t want to miss this one-of-a-kind VR experience.
Unlike other location-based VR games, Viva Las Vengeance is taking the show on the road, touring various major cities around the US and Europe for six-week engagements. The first stop is in Los Angeles on the roof of the Westfield Century City outdoor shopping mall. I got to check out the game a day before it opened to the public.
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Reservations for the event are available every half hour from noon to 7:00 PM. If you haven’t been to Westfield Century City before, I highly recommend you give yourself some extra time because the parking structure is a real maze. If you manage to park directly under Macy’s, there’s an elevator there that will take you all the way up to the roof. When the doors open, you’ll be standing right at the entrance to Viva Las Vengeance, face-to-face with a life-sized zombie tiger from the film. As you enter, the event’s friendly staff will check you in and usher you towards a room themed like an armory where you’ll register on a tablet. Here you can choose your nickname (I was “The Grease”), your weapon of choice between shotgun or assault rifle, and the avatar you’ll use in-game.
From there, you’re escorted by venue staff, who are in-character as soldiers, to a small room where you’ll watch a briefing video and get suited up with motion tracking devices. Since Viva Las Vengeance is a mostly stationary experience, the only thing you have to wear is a pair of tracking pucks on your hands. The lightweight devices loop around each thumb then straps to your wrists so that you can see your hands and arms in-game. Compared to other VR rigs, like The Void’s backpacks, these trackers are fairly non-invasive.
The training video explains the premise of the game. You are part of a convoy that’s going to drive into Vegas to rescue some stranded civilians from the zombie hoard. The staff tries to get your hyped up with some spirited “HOO-RAHS” and playful threats to your lives, which didn’t quite have the effect they intended. At one point, our trainer pointed at the only woman in our group and announced that he didn’t think she was going to make it back. I don’t think he meant anything by it, but it was pretty awkward. As we entered the next room and loaded onto the tactical taco truck, another cast member made the exact same joke to me. Thankfully, we weren’t there for the performances.
The tactical taco truck is a wide platform enclosed on three sides with four VR helmets hanging in each corner. While you aren’t meant to move your feet much during the ride, I still felt like I had ample space on board and never felt claustrophobic, even with three other people on board. Once you get the headset on the space feels even bigger, so I wouldn’t worry too much if you’re not a fan of tight spaces.
One thing I wish someone had mentioned beforehand was that you cannot wear glasses with these headsets. I’ve never had this problem before at any location-based VR experience, but there was no way to get the helmet on with my glasses, so I ended up playing the game without them. If you have contacts, I’d definitely bring them.
Once everyone gets their helmets on and grabs their gun from the rack near the floor, the show starts almost right away. Viva Las Vengeance is similar to a motion simulator you might find at Universal Studios or
. It’s similar to Star Tours and The Simpsons in that it uses moving platforms to simulate the motion that you're seeing on screen. Of course, VR makes this experience even more immersive. As you drive through post-apocalyptic Las Vegas shooting zombies as they run towards the truck, you’ll feel every bump in the road, every change in acceleration, and even changes in elevation as the truck drives up and down hills. The platform even reacts to seemingly unscripted events in the game. When someone shoots an exploding barrel, for example, the truck vibrates as it absorbs the impact. You never feel like you’re getting thrown around inside the truck and I never even got close to losing my balance, but the subtle motion effect has a huge impact on the immersion of the experience. Even the guns recoil a bit when you fire them.
There’s a tight little story that unfolds during the 15-minute ride, which includes characters from the movie. I think it’s a cool enough show that it isn’t worth spoiling, so I’ll just say there’s more to it than just shooting zombies that run towards you. If you’ve seen King Kong or Fast & Furious at Universal’s Backlot tour, this is a similar experience, but of course, more interactive.
After the ride, you’re ushered out towards a gift shop where you’ll see everyone’s score up on a leaderboard, which immediately made me want to go play again. You’ll have a chance to take a green screen photo with your party in front of a zombie background, then you can buy shirts, hoodies, and other merch from the kiosk. After that, you’ll head towards the cantina for some zombie-themed food and drinks. I was especially fond of the Blood Paloma, a pitch-black tequila cocktail that comes with a lime wedge coated in black salt. It was delicious, but it had the terrifying effect of turning my number twos a radioactive green for two full days. TMI, sorry, but better than you being caught off guard in the loo.
Viva Las Vengeance was one of the better location-based VR experiences I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. It’s a comfortable experience since you don’t need to strap yourself with a bunch of hardware beforehand, and the 15-minute standing experience shouldn’t be too fatiguing for most. I loved the use of VR to enhance the immersion of this ride. You could do something similar with screen and 3D glasses the way California Adventure does it with Midway Mania and Webslingers, but Viva Las Vengeance puts your right into the scene in a way only VR can. Though everyone had to wear masks, I was still a bit iffy about putting on a headset worn by hundreds of others. I assume they clean it after every group, but that might not be enough assurance for everyone. Ultimately, I thought it was a great experience and a cool alternative to dinner and a movie. It being a limited-time experience made me want to see it even more, and I’m glad I took the time to do it.
Viva Las Vengeance is running now until September 12 in Los Angeles. Tickets are $24 per person and time slots are available from noon to 7:00 PM daily. For information about buying tickets or to find out when Viva Las Vengeance is coming to your city, check out the
official Army of the Dead VR website
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About The Author
(1142 Articles Published)
Eric Switzer is the Livestream News Editor for TheGamer as well as the lead for VR and Tech. He has written about comics and film for Bloody Disgusting and VFXwire. He is a graduate of University of Missouri - Columbia and Vancouver Film School. Eric loves board games, fan conventions, new technology, and his sweet sweet kitties Bruce and Babs. Favorite games include Destiny 2, Kingdom Hearts, Super Metroid, and Prey...but mostly Prey. His favorite Pokémon is Umbreon.
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