Review: IMAX VR at the Trafford Centre, Manchester

Simon Donohue

Virtual Reality has the potential to change entertainment beyond recognition, enabling more immersive digital experiences than ever before.

That’s something to be aware of if you’re in the cinema business. Who needs a big screen when strapping on a set of 360 degree video goggles to your face puts you in the centre of the action at home?

For now, the price of a home set up is high. For example, Sony’s VR headset for the PlayStation 4 costs in the region of £350.

Those who want to try before they buy should head to the Intu Trafford Centre, which boasts one of only five IMAX VR experience centres in the world, a toe in the water of what could be the next big thing in entertainment.

Situated just outside the entrance to the Odeon cinema, the IMAX VR centre houses around a dozen VR cubicles, with machines primed with a range of games and experiences.

Open to people aged 13 up, those experiences are further enhanced by gaming chairs, earphones and feedback back packs designed to deliver shocks and bumps.

I went along with my son to try a few games courtesy of the kind IMAX VR people and we started out by taking a flight into space. It’s an entry-level VR experience as you hurtle skywards and beyond the gravity of the earth. Before long, you’re floating in space.

For the hardier ‘VRstronaut’ there are a range of stand-up games to play, including one where you get to emulate Marvel characters, and a game where you fight stormtroopers and defend the Millenium Falcon with a lightsaber. Loads of fun.

Best of all though is a slightly bumpier and jumpier two-player where you and a teammate take on killer robots. It’s freakishly real and took me a fair time to come down to earth from. Good fun though and a great way to get to grips with virtual reality without the risk of spending hundreds of pounds.

But be warned: you’ll need to sign a disclaimer and under 18s need to be with an adult who signs on their behalf. And it can be an intense experience. My son felt a little sick after his session as the Marvel Flash character and I felt a little discombobulated too. A unique experience for gamer fans and everyone else too – a glimpse of the future on your doorstep.

Sessions cost around £5 per game.

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