Last week I had the opportunity to check out the new ILMxLAB VR experience for The Void, Avengers: Damage Control. I’ve played a lot of VR, followed the evolution of the genre, and Damage Control is the best VR experience I’ve ever had. It’s a big leap forward from ILMxLAB’s first Void experience, Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, and it’s something every Marvel fan will want to check out.
If you’re unfamiliar with what The Void is, think of room-scale VR like you’d find with a HTC Vive headset, but on a whole new level of sophistication. You wear a harness with the headset, and actually walk from room to room untethered to a computer. It’s the closest we currently have to a Star Trek Holodeck.
Avengers: Damage Control makes one big technical innovation over Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire that seriously impressed me. In the Star Wars VR experience you played a Stormtrooper with a blaster, but in this you don’t use any type of VR controller. The headset is able to detect your hands and amazingly recognize even small movements of your fingers.
This allows you to just make the famous Iron Man gestures with your hands to fire your weapons or raise a shield like the one he used in Endgame. It was a stunning jump in VR where you don’t need any type of controller to interact with the environment.
ILMxLAB Experience Director Ian Bowie explains, “It was also a very conscious design decision, just from an experiential point from the Marvel thing, you hand someone a gun and they’re not a hero at that point. You wanted to actually have it come from the suit, from within, that power. So it was really important to have a gun-less experience from the onset. And then also figuring out, what are the gestures that work best for tracking? Luckily the Iron Man iconic pose everyone knows that, and it works great for that kind of finger detectional technology we were working with. It just worked in such an interesting way that played into the rhythm of firing, charge firing, aim fire, and you get into that rhythm. Which is really fun because it gives you a sense of mastery as you go on.”
If you’ve seen the trailer and the Avengers they revealed in it, you’re probably wondering how it all fits into the MCU.
We asked Marvel Studios’ VP of Franchise Creative & Marketing Dave Bushore that question and he says, “It’s definitely set after the events Endgame. You want to be able to give people the opportunity to step into that world. When we were looking at it we’re like ok, this is my ten year anniversary being at the studio, so when you look at ten years of Marvel Studios films, and stories, and characters, and character moments; it’s about how you take all that stuff, combine it with new technology, but be able to tell a new story, design new things, and bring people into it in a new way. And this is very much a new form of storytelling for us. So when we think about the timeline, when we think about the continuity, it’s always been on October 18th I went and saw, now it’s on October 18th I lived in.”
But is it canon?
Bushore continues, “For us it was about telling a story in this space for the first time ever, approaching it the way we approach everything else at the studio. Putting it inside that process, putting it inside the technical process and the filmmaking process. With the talent, with the actors, with everybody. We’re doing that a bunch of ways, the universe is expanding across Disney+ now, there’s all type of stuff with the theme parks, and bringing people in in different ways. So how those stories live and how long they live on for and where they live, I think that conversation is going to change too in the future, with doing an at-home experience or doing this. The fun part of the conversation is, I got to step into the timeline here in VR. So if we do an at-home experience or I go to the park, the Spider-Man costume you see here is the Spider-Man costume that’s in the parks, so you can connect the dots in different ways and I think that’s the fun of it really.”
The whole experience takes about thirty minutes to play through, and it has another improvement over Secrets of the Empire where each player choses their character’s armor color, and you can see each other’s names. It makes it easy to tell apart friends while inside the VR, and it’s a little more personalization than in the Star Wars VR experience.
If you’ve seen the trailer you’ve already seen some of the Avengers represented in the experience. I won’t spoil it here, but fans will be very happy with the amount of post-Endgame characters who they get to see in VR with Damage Control. You get to explore places like the Sanctum Sanctorum, including some cool Easter Eggs such as the Wand of Watoomb, see and hear references to past MCU events, and interact with the Avengers in a story that places you in the MCU like nothing else.
No home VR headset can pull off what this does, so you have to head to a Void location to check it out. It opens on October 18th and will be a limited run, just like Secrets of the Empire was. I’m sure there are Easter Eggs and hints I missed the first time though, so I can’t wait to check it out again when it opens at The Void.