IMAX Virtual Reality Experience at The Trafford Centre - review

Trying out the Space Flight at the IMAX VR Experience
Trying out the Space Flight at the IMAX VR Experience

When I was a kid the closest thing I got to virtual reality was watching The Lawnmower Man.


My earliest recollection of gaming was on a ZX Spectrum, which had 48k of memory.

If you think about that in terms of your mobile phone, which has gigabytes of memory, it tells you how utterly dire early computers were.

But as that’s all we knew, they were great at the time.

Fast-forward 30 years and gaming and technology have improved unimaginably.

I remember my dad almost hurling the Spectrum out of the window in a fit of rage after spending three days inputting code from a book to create a game for me and my brothers called Towering Inferno.
Pages and pages of ‘Run’ this and ‘Goto’ that.

IMAX VR Experience at The Trafford Centre

IMAX VR Experience at The Trafford Centre

When he’d finally finished, the game consisted of two letters, an X and a Y, and a big line which was the tower.
You moved the X along the bottom of the screen with your cursor keys to try and catch the Ys that were leaping off the tower.

Garbage.

One of my teenage son’s Christmas presents last year was a VR headset for his mobile phone and while amazing, you soon find you can’t spend too long in the virtual world because you wind up feeling nauseous and headachy.

This will undoubtedly improve as the technology gets better but when you consider VR is still in its infancy really, the implications are huge.

Bring it on - getting ready for the action in Raw Data

Bring it on - getting ready for the action in Raw Data

There are already practical uses beyond gaming that VR has touched.

A combination of VR and AR (augmented reality) are used in training for student doctors and crime scene analysis to name just two.

In 10 years VR will be part of everyday life in some form or other.

As my son Jacob pointed out - it will get so good that people will want to spend more time in virtual reality than reality.

Jacob on Raw Data

Jacob on Raw Data

A sobering thought.

The best VR experience on offer at the moment is currently available to try at The Trafford Centre.

So myself and Jacob went along to try it out … and were blown away!

Located at The Odeon, the IMAX VR Experience consists of a number of pods, which each host a different game or fully immersive, multi-dimentional scenario.

The centre is IMAX's fifth to open, but its first in Europe.

It really is state-of-the-art kit which would cost thousands to buy - so if, like me, you aren’t loaded - this is the best chance you’ll get to try some of it out.

Even Father Christmas got in on the action, trying out one of the Star Wars experiences ahead of the release of The Last Jedi

Even Father Christmas got in on the action, trying out one of the Star Wars experiences ahead of the release of The Last Jedi

Following a brief health and safety video - and there is an age restriction of 13 - we were good to go and opted for the Space Flight experience first.

After being fastened into our ‘rumble chairs’ we pulled on our headsets and headphones and found ourselves in the cockpit of an aircraft preparing for takeoff.

I gave the thumbs up to the pilot next to me, who was a fully suited astronaut, and we set off down the runway.

It really was like being in a plane as we hurtled down the runway - the chair rumbling away to give the sensation of motion.

When we lifted off and burst upwards through the clouds I found myself gripping the arms of the chair - and Jacob was holding on so tight he left a mark.

After bursting through the clouds we found ourselves in space and with a remarkable view of Earth below.

Looking down out of the cockpit window you get a few minutes to gaze at the magnificence of our planet before trouble starts.

An asteroid storm pelts the shuttle and the rocks hitting the windshield really do feel like they are flying towards you.

I won’t tell you what else happens, you’ll have to try it for yourself - needless to say it is an amazing experience.

There are a number of other experiences including Raw Data, Archangel, Star Trek, Justice League, Eagle Flight and two Star Wars-themed scenarios - each one different and equally impressive.

My favourite, after the space flight, was Raw Data, closely followed by Archangel, which put you into classic gaming scenarios where you are shooting at a multitude of enemies.

Raw Data is multiplayer so I could see a ‘virtual Jacob’ next to me and you can hear and talk to each other through the headset and mic encouraging you to work as a team to waste the maniacal robots coming at you from all angles.

Jacob’s favourite was Eagle Flight, which pitted us against one another as birds of prey soaring over a city and trying to capture a rabbit - whilst trying to shoot each other down.

You really get the impression you are flying, steering with a tilt of the head and adjusting your speed with the hand-held controller.

Another pod saw us team up again as the crew on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.
I was captain, Jacob was on weapons and John, from the VR Experience, joined us on navigation.

It’s a good job he did as I had no idea what I was doing!

“This one’s good for team-building,” John told us.

“We get people coming down from their offices. It makes for a good day out and is useful for team-bonding and communication.”

Jacob plans to come again with his friends and said it would make a good birthday party rather than the traditional bowling or cinema.

IMAX Europe and Africa managing director Giovanni Dolci said: "IMAX VR brings the best VR technology and content together in a highly social and interactive setting that will let you and your friends become a part of the experience like never before."

For more information on the IMAX VR Experience at the Trafford Centre click here