Want to know what it’s like to drive a flying car through Los Angeles in pursuit of a replicant? That’s what awaits you at the “Blade Runner 2049” experience across the street from San Diego Comic-Con, with some fun twists.
VR, AKA 360 video, is the latest craze to sweep Comic-Con, but “Blade Runner 2049” aims to innovate by integrating a deeper sense of realness into it.
After entering the massive tent on 2nd Avenue and walking down a corridor lined with concept art, you’re brought to a set-up featuring approximately two dozen seats, arranged like a movie theater — except instead of a screen, participants are outfitted with individual VR headsets.
Once the VR experience begins, the viewer finds themselves in the driver’s seat of a 2049 police car, in pursuit of a “skin job” who’s trying to flee in a stolen vehicle. Because it’s the year 2049, these are flying cars — the trip doesn’t get roller coaster intense, but you do get to experience the actual sensation of flight, thanks to the motion-controlled seats which turn and pivot in sync with the action.
The visuals echo that which we’ve seen in many trailers, with the same representation of brands as seen in the original film: Coca-Cola, Atari, and a lot of Johnnie Walker (a name sponsor presenting the experience), and there’s even a bit of interactivity as you use “a scanner” to check other cars in search of your target. It’s a well-conceived, at times exciting adventure.
Many VR experiences like this eventually get more widely seen, as 360 video continues to evolve and new distribution options become available. But this one has a twist.
Your replicant pursuit ends with you landing on the street to continue pursuing your suspect, and that’s where the experience turns up a notch. Removing the headset, you discover that the wall in front of you has vanished — now, you’re looking at the same streetscape the VR experience ended at, except recreated in the real world. Citizens of the year 2049 are mingling around the cop car you just landed, and cops are asking you questions about where you might have seen the “skinner” run.
There’s plenty of interaction with those wearing “period appropriate” costumes, as we experienced during last night’s press event — an experience one Alcon Entertianment executive we spoke with compared to immersive theater experiences like New York’s “Sleep No More” and London’s “Secret Cinema.”
In addition, you have the opportunity to wander the 2049 Los Angeles marketplace, which includes vending machines dispensing T-shirts, a station to verify your human status, and an assortment of props from both the original “Blade Runner” and the upcoming film.
In short, the experience is the very definition of “immersive,” one that proves what’s possible when you combine cutting edge technology with good old-fashioned theatrical imagination, and one that raises our standards for such experiences.
The “Blade Runner 2049” Experience can be found at 450 2nd Avenue in downtown San Diego. San Diego Comic-Con 2017 runs Wed.-Sun., July 19-23, at the San Diego Convention Center.