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Premium VR at the mall is a blast, especially when Terminators are involved

Terminator Salvation game is a fun group-gaming event

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Terminator Salvation: Fight for the Future

Cinemark in San Jose’s Westfield Oakridge Center mall has a new attraction. It’s a virtual reality simulation of a Terminator battle, and it’s fantastic fun.

It’s called Terminator Salvation: Fight for the Future. I snagged four press passes from organizer Spaces, just before the grand opening, and took my family to play. My wife and two of my lads (early teens) came with.

We have our faces scanned and are kitted out in VR gear. This mainly comprises a backpack that weighs about the same as a games console; an Oculus Rift headset; as well as four sensors strapped to hands and feet.

After being dressed in an ante-room, we’re led into a small arena, about the size of a boxing ring. But by now, we’re in VR, and we’ve become Terminators, with metallic hands and feet that move about as directed, and a creepy robot head with our faces slapped on top.

Although the headset is Oculus, the tech is bespoke. This is a step above anything I’ve played before, and I’ve spent a lot of time in VR. It’s definitely premium VR.

We’re handed massive machine guns. The game begins.

Terminator Salvation: Fight for the Future

We enter a flatbed elevator and are given the illusion of sinking into a broken city. Soon, evil Terminators appear among the rooftops above us. We work together to shoot at them, as they come at us from different directions. They die. As a video game, it’s elementary stuff, but that doesn’t matter. We’re having a blast, feeling the recoil of the guns, and enjoying the flash-bang-wallop of a fun-fair ride.

I shoot some holes into a water tower, and I’m rewarded with a fizz of cool water falling over us. When I shoot an oil barrel, I feel the heat of its explosion. I find it all thrilling and novel. I imagine how it must feel to someone who has never played in virtual reality before.

The whole affair lasts no more than 15 minutes, but at $20 a head ($30 at peak times), I’m happy to recommend it to anyone looking for a bit of group fun, especially for a birthday or other celebration. At the end of the game, we all get our accuracy stats. My wife has kicked my ass. So have my kids.

The whole experience has the feel of a Disney ride, but without the scares of a roller-coaster. My only criticism is that games like this are restricted by lack of player movement. In the future, I hope premium VR will benefit from much larger spaces, and become like laser tag, except good. As well as San Jose, Spaces has a location in Orange County, with plans to expand around the country.

As malls begin to lose business from the traditional shopping model, it may be that virtual reality attractions become a genuine draw for our local malls. I’m a fan.

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