‘The Martian VR Experience’: Cinema, Video Game or Both?

At CES 2016, attendees could be astronaut Mark Watney in “The Martian VR Experience,” accomplishing many of the tasks he did in the movie. Using the Oculus Rift headset and Oculus Touch handheld controllers, the “VR Experience,” executive produced by the film’s director Ridley Scott and “Experience” director Robert Stromberg, is fully interactive and makes use of the Rift’s positional tracking system. 20th Century Fox, Fox Innovation Lab, RSA Films and The VR Company collaborated on the project.

Fox plans to release the experience on tethered headsets, meaning it will be available on Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and HTC Vive, reports Variety. Fox has not announced release dates or distribution plans, but it’s worth noting that the Oculus Touch controllers won’t be available until Q3 2016.

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Among the tasks that the user can accomplish includes picking up solar panels with a crane as a Mars sandstorm rages; recovering plutonium without blowing it up; and, much more mundanely, throwing potatoes into buckets. In the end, the user ejects from the Mars Ascent Vehicle, an experience Variety calls “truly emotional.”

The result is “a profound sense of presence,” the buzzword for VR’s unique entertainment value. It makes you “feel with convincing verisimilitude as if you’ve actually stepped into the world of ‘The Martian,'”

But, adds Variety, the experience seems to want to be both a cinematic story with interactivity and a game, noting that creators of VR titles will all face the same dilemma. Gamers looking for a challenging experience may be frustrated by “The Martian VR Experience,” says Variety, but fans “still get their money’s worth, and will truly enjoy being Mark Watney, if only for 20 minutes.”