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Hands-On With Alien: Descent – Alien VR Experience

As previously announced, the Alien-based virtual reality experience Alien: Descent opened its doors this week in The Outlets at Orange in Orange County, California. Developed by Pure Imagination Studios in partnership with FoxNext Destinations, the experience allows up to 4 players to battle Xenomorphs while investigating a distress signal on a Weyland-Yutani mining outpost.

It is a wireless experience but unfortunately, the technology behind it isn’t as revolutionary as we had hoped. It’s essentially based on Gear VR which is fairly limited in the graphics department when compared to the likes of PSVR, Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. It’s equivalent to PS3-era graphics and it’s not far from the Aliens: Extermination arcade game that came out a decade ago.

That said, the experience is still really good and the virtual world is reflected extremely well in the real world. When you’re walking down a walkway in virtual reality, you can actually reach out and grab a railing that is there in the area. There are floor movements with wind and heat effects to fully immerse you. It really is one of the best virtual reality experiences there is in that regard. AvPGalaxy reader, El Diablo, was fortunate enough to visit The Outlets and give the experience a spin. Here’s his report:

 Hands-On With Alien: Descent - Alien VR Experience

Hands-On With Alien: Descent by El Diablo

I had the opportunity this afternoon to check out ALIEN: DESCENT, the new VR experience located at The Outlets outdoor shopping center in the City of Orange, CA. It’s hard to miss this place since a full scale Xenomorph drone is standing guard at the entrance (a photo-op hit with passers by).

The facility itself is built to look like a Weyland-Yutani installation with boxes of ammunition stacked against the walls and a safety video demonstrating the proper use of the new EM41 Pulse Rifle playing in the background. The setup is that you are part of a squadron of marines sent on a rescue mission to a mining colony on planet LV-178. All communications have been lost since the colony encountered some kind of “infestation,” and now you and a partner get to suit up and launch down to the planet.

 Hands-On With Alien: Descent - Alien VR Experience

The whole set up is very elaborate with Weyland-Yutani technicians helping you gear up before entry. Once you’ve donned the VR headsets and sensors you’re fully immersed in a free roaming CG landscape, stepping out of your “cryotube” with your rifle in hand onto the mining facility platform. Or what’s left of it. The colony is seemingly abandoned and looks to have seen better days.

Directly above you is a giant moon or planetoid floating against the night sky, a nice little bit that sells the effect. You and your partner are then lowered via elevator to different sub levels, each more dangerous than the next. You encounter eggs and facehuggers, who then leap onto your platform before you shred them with pulse rifle fire.

 Hands-On With Alien: Descent - Alien VR Experience

As you go deeper into what is now clearly a Xenomorph hive, you encounter what remains of the survivors before the Warrior Aliens attack, forcing a retreat as you blast the oncoming hordes crawling alongside you up the elevator shaft. It’s a virtual shooting gallery.. and it’s so much fun. I had an absolute blast at this event, which has a limited engagement here in California.

Speaking with the people who run ALIEN: DESCENT afterwards it was implied that this VR experience may eventually expand to other locations. I suppose it all depends on how successful this will be, but seeing the ALIEN property used in such an imaginative and interactive way is an absolute joy to behold. It’s been nearly 40 years since Ridley Scott’s original movie hit theaters and we’re still finding new ways to honor and celebrate it. If you’re a fan of the ALIEN franchise, you don’t want to miss this.

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Comments: 9
  1. Corporal Hicks
    QuoteFollowing an incredibly successful limited engagement at the Outlets at Orange, ALIEN: DESCENT has just completed its first run in the Los Angeles area.

    We're very sorry to those of you who missed it, or were planning a return visit.
    However, fueled by the amazing response we received, our team is pushing forward with the development of multiple new immersive VR experiences and expanded venues in the near future. Thank you for your continued interest and excitement... We're looking forward to entertaining you again very soon!

    Hopefully internationally!
  2. Corporal Hicks
    Another recounting of the event -

    QuoteThis weekend I had a chance to scope out the Alien Descent VR experience that opened last month at the Outlets at Orange, in Southern California. For those of you who haven't heard about it, the Alien social channels started advertising this a bit before 4/26. It's $22 per person, and as of now, requires advance booking. Holy wow, in the words of my wife - this was on par with our first time experiences of Star Tours.

    As a breakdown for the event (with minor spoilers); upon entering the venue, which has been done up to look like the inside of the Sulaco or some other Colonial Marines installation, we were lead down the hall to the briefing screen - there, we were instructed to watch a several minute video which was quite well done. In the video, a Colonial Marine Officer instructs the crew on the mission ahead, which is essentially to get to the bug infested planet, kill what we can, and get to the extraction point. At this point we were also familiarized with some of the gear, the Oculus headset (based on Samsung Gear VR?) and the pulse rifle. The headset naturally featured a focus, whereas the gun offered two modes of fire; the pulse round as well as a secondary mode of fire (the grenade shell).

    Upon finishing the instructional video, we entered the hypersleep ready room - two standing positions nested in the wall, with the Oculus gear at our sides and in front of us. Therein, the attendant 'Officers' helped us gear up with sensors for our legs and arms, as well as outfit the headset, as we familiarzed ourselves with the docking position of the rifles.

    As soon as the headsets were on, we could see we were in a VR version of the same location, sans attendants, but with some accoutrements to the hypersleep pods which weren't there in real life. We were instructed to stay secure in the pods for the duration of the travel to the planet; as we held on to the handles, the VR pod glass came down and we could see the glass frost over.

    I would like to point out that as this experience was purportedly running off of the Samsung Gear VR rigs, as such, I wasn't expecting the highest fidelity graphics. I was not let down though, and the real stunner here was the full free roam locomotion and environmental effects that soon followed.

    As our hypersleep ended, the pods opened, and my wife and I were given free range to explore as we saw fit, within the limited area available to us. I would say that from the pods to the elevators in our distance was about 30 feet or so? The VR catwalks were not tight, and we were definitely feeling a sense that we were in some offworld terraformer. Down in the distance below we could see the other team of two also doing their own exploring. Soon as we got near the elevator target, facehuggers started leaping out from the nearby pods and then, well, shit got real. Upon entering the elevator, the experience continued through several other environments which basically saw us fending off waves of Xenos and Facehuggers as we made our way to the next areas.

    I'm not gonna do a play-by-play of all the action which lasted about 20 minutes, but let me just say that this was one hell of an experience. There is a lot more that they could do with this, and although there may not be a ton of replay value it is absolutely worth the price of admission. I would like to point out that my wife is not a gamer, and is not big on VR tech. That said, in her own words, she was completely sold. She loves the Alien franchise and was completely immersed. My god, her screams alone could be used for the marketing of this thing. Here's hoping this makes its money back and then some so that more of these VR pop-ups can be implemented around the world.

    Can't wait to go back.
  3. newbeing
    If it's GearVr I wonder if they'd ever be able to port it over to just the phones for personal play. It would have to cut back on features of course, but would be nice to have a portable VR experience.
  4. VegettoXTSY
    My son and I went this morning and had a blast. Only found 2 things slightly disappointing.

    1. The pulse rifles shoot in small bursts. We think it would have been more fun if it was fully automatic.

    2. We both thought it would end with you squaring off against the queen in the hive which is what we saved our grenades for. 

    That being said it was still a blast!  Graphics could have been better but it was still a great experience.
  5. Darkness
    A few reviews of the experience:

    Our hands-on:

    The positives are that is a great experience overall, maybe one of the best there is when it comes to haptic feedback. Downsides is that it is using Gear VR which is pretty poor graphics-wise. Despite that, it is still a fun experience.
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