The latest location-based VR experience from The Void, dubbed Avengers: Damage Control, has launched and I got the chance to run through the ILMxLAB-developed official Marvel experience while visiting Anaheim, CA last weekend.
Similar to Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, Avengers: Damage Control is an official story directly connected to the franchise’s cinematic universe. In the experience you meet up with Shuri in Wakanda and are granted access to a new prototype armor system that blends Iron Man’s suit technology with cutting-edge Wakanda science to deliver something that feels adequately next-generation and powerful.
While testing out the new suit the base is attacked and you’re thrust into a huge battle alongside The Avengers to beat back a resurgent Ultron that’s erupted out of the Damage Control facility back at a Stark Industries compound.
Narratively it takes place after Endgame in a world that’s still coming to grips with the aftermath of those events. Being able to step into a world I’ve become familiar with over the course of over 20 different feature films is pretty fantastic.
Just like all other experiences from The VOID, Avengers: Damage Control is part video game and part roleplaying experience. The employees at the Downtown Disney location in Anaheim, CA treated us like new recruits at S.H.I.E.L.D. and asked us to “assemble” and select the suit of armor we most wanted to wear inside the experience.
Getting debriefed by the actual live actors from the films via video transmission felt appropriately superhero-esque and it absolutely measured up as an extension of not only the cinematic universe, but as an extension of the Disneyland experience.
In Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire you’re given a rifle that’s tracked using sensors around the facility and the experience is heavily focused on firing the rifle at enemies like Stormtroopers as you move from one room to the next, with some light puzzle-solving elements here and there. Avengers: Damage Control is actually quite different since there is no gun at all.
In lieu of shooting a gun there are four main movements you can do in combat. To fire energy blasts out of your hands you can either point a single hand forward to fire or hold both hands close together for a more powerful shot. In either case it takes about a second to charge up and fire a shot which gives you time to line up your aiming reticle. However, this means you can’t shoot rapidly and are required to wait for energy beams to shoot automatically while aiming.
Alternatively, you can also hold up your wrists, facing outward (shown above,) to absorb enemy fire. Once charged up you can then hold both hands together to fire lock-on missiles for big damage.
The headsets used for this experience are the same as all other VOID experiences, which means they’re original Oculus Rifts that are retro-fitted into helmets alongside backpack PCs to power things, with Leap Motion sensors embedded into the front of the visor. In late 2019 I can definitely say that Leap Motion is starting to get quite long in the tooth. Generally it works well enough and if I hold my hands out directly in front of my face it does a decent job, but it can’t keep up with quick movements and seems to have a very narrow field of view to see where my hands are located.
For an experience that is entirely based on hand tracking, the technology here leaves a bit to be desired. It lacks the haptic feedback and satisfaction of holding a rifle, cradled in your shoulder, like Star Wars and instead preys on the childhood nostalgia of wanting to shoot energy beams from your palms. It worked for me given my nerdy upbringing, but won’t be as awe-inspiring for others.
It’s also worth mentioning that I and one other person in my group lost tracking at one moment and only saw a black void. Neither of our other two team members could see us and we couldn’t see them but voice communications still worked. After fumbling around in the dark for a minute or two we eventually popped back in. This happened during a scene where we all had to walk through Doctor Strange portals and it felt like what I imagine it would to get lost in the Dark Dimension for a bit.
Not only are you not given a physical weapon prop at all, but it actually feels much longer and more involved in general. I didn’t time it specifically so I can’t be absolutely certain, but I’m pretty sure my group and I spent close to 30 minutes inside the experience itself not counting onboarding prep. For comparison, the other experiences I’ve done at The VOID felt more like around 15-20 minutes. Again, I’m not positive, but it definitely seemed longer. On top of that, combat was only around half of the content this time around as there was much more exposition with several characters jumping in and out of scenes from across the entire MCU.
What really makes Avengers: Damage Control stand-out above other experiences from The VOID I’ve tried and even other LBE experiences in general is just how connected and in-tune with the rest of the MCU it felt. This really did make me feel like I was stepping inside of the cinematic universe rather than just playing a quick vertical slice of mostly unrelated content.
Story-based spoilers ahead for the next two paragraphs
From the opening moments that you speak with Shuri, to the final battle against a giant Ultron, it was hard to keep up with just how much was going on around me. I got to stand face-to-face with Doctor Strange, step through his portals, fight alongside Spider-Man, Ant-Man, The Hulk, Hawkeye, Captain Marvel, Falcon, War Machine, and what feels like a never-ending list of iconic heroes.
Words cannot properly convey just how exciting it was to crane my neck upwards as an enormous hunk of metal is rocketing towards me from the sky just before Spider-Man swings into view, catches the debris, and then Ant-Man shrinks us down to be smaller than popcorn kernels on the floor. We got to fly air ships through the city, pass through portals that briefly visited arctic locales complete with snow droplets on our skin and cold air blasting, and even stand side-by-side with the God of Thunder, Thor, himself. It felt extremely similar to the final battle scene in Avengers: Endgame, complete with heroes appearing out of portals at the last minute and everything.
Story-based spoilers are now over
Avengers: Damage Control VR Review Verdict:
Despite the technological limitations of Leap Motion hand tracking, the content on display in Avengers: Damage Control is far and away the best location-based VR experience I’ve had to date. The VOID and ILMxLAB have managed to pack a short film’s worth of Marvel Cinematic Universe-quality narrative power into an immersive and exciting adventure that really makes you feel like a member of The Avengers. From the witty dialogue quips and enormous cast of familiar characters, it’s an immersive experience of unrivaled quality for Marvel fans.
Final Score: 4/5 Stars | Really Good
You can play Avengers: Damage Control at several The VOID locations now with tickets starting at around $40.