Update: The VR video for Warner Bros. upcoming IT adaptation is now available on YouTube. Original story from our hands-on at Comic-Con is below.
A creepy bus at Comic-Con greeted visitors with the promise of a “Float Cinematic VR Experience” for the upcoming September release of Stephen King’s clown nightmare IT.
Games Editor David Jagneaux and I boarded the bus last weekend and found ourselves in a holding room that resembled a large drainage pipe, with only a dim light and Pennywise’s maniacal laughter to keep us company. After a few minutes the doors of our holding room opened and we were let into the main attraction. Awaiting us were swivel chairs with Subpac vibrating vests strapped to them and Gear VR headsets.
Instead of wearing the Subpac vests though, which are usually strapped to the body providing haptic feedback for a virtual world, when strapped to the chair the vests provided an added amount of bass to the sound of the experience. We wore headphones to provide audio, put on the Gear VRs and dropped into the “Float” experience.
The experience was built for the Warner Bros. film by SunnyBoy Entertainment and it should be released at home in advance of the film for those with VR headsets. So minor spoilers ahead for those that planning to encounter Pennywise.
Now I’ll confess that I’m generally a wuss in horrifying virtual worlds. I don’t think I could play even a few minutes of Resident Evil 7 in VR, much less the entire game in VR as David did for our review. I’ll even confess that I tend to squint through traditional horror movies if I know a big scare is coming. I’m not really scared of clowns, though. Nevertheless, I found myself squinting through much of the “Float” experience as I was carried down a street chasing a paper boat running into a street drain. My memories of the original IT with Tim Curry enhanced my fear as I knew what to expect from this scene. Being in a swivel chair should have allowed me to turn and face where the developers of the world were pulling me, but my combined fear and desire not to jump in fear left me generally facing the direction I started.
This caused some discomfort because the developers of the experience pulled me diagonally in straight lines toward their intended destinations. If I had turned directly to face the direction I was being pulled I don’t think I’d have felt uncomfortable. David doesn’t suffer from simulator sickness like I do so he noted no discomfort.
Discomfort notwithstanding, the experience made smart use of audio and visuals to keep you looking around and on edge. Per Pennywise’s promises, near the climax of the experience you do, indeed, float.
Overall the experience should terrify the clown haters out there and provide a good teaser for the film overall. I’d recommend using a swivel chair and instructing people going in that if they feel themselves pulled in a specific direction to turn and face that direction head on.