Virtual reality company Nomadic has a brand new, Arizona Sunshine-themed experience coming to its upcoming Orlando location and I got to check it out.
It’s been well established that I’m only a recent proponent for VR. During E3 2018, I got to play the first game that I felt was a truly unique VR experience. Before that, I felt that a great VR experience could only be accomplished with a large play space and a ton of expensive equipment. Back in October, however, I was invited to a new real-life VR playspace in Orlando and being a Florida native, I jumped at the chance.
The company that runs this space is called Nomadic and they’re not unfamiliar with virtual reality. They’ve been running pop-up locations of this type all over the country. This Orlando location, however, is their first permanent location and it definitely shows. The experience is located right in the heart of what I like to call “theme-park central.” They’re only 15 minutes away from both Universal Studios and Walt Disney World. Nomadic says that they aren’t looking to be a “full-day experience” like both of the previously mentioned parks, but instead be a place where a family can take a 15 to 20-minute break from all of the chaos and commotion surrounding the area. In my opinion, they definitely deliver, while at the same time providing a completely amazing VR experience.
In order to go through the experience properly, players have to wear a special backpack-like device, which was honestly my biggest worry. Telling a group of people that they’d have to lug around what appears to be, frankly, a giant device is a tall order. That being said, my worries were immediately alleviated after actually putting on the device, as I could barely feel it on my back at all. Honestly, after I put on all the gear, I completely forgot about it, especially once the experience actually started.
I’m naturally a pessimist, so as with almost everything in life, I went in not expecting it to blow me away. Once I stepped in though I, without a doubt, experienced one of the best VR games I’ve ever played.
The first game that Nomadic is launching with is a special, exclusive version of Arizona Sunshine, a game that’s already out on PC and PlayStation 4, called Contagion Z. This version is made exclusively for Nomadic’s play space, and man does it show. Real-life doors matched up with in-game doors, walls match up with in-game walls, and, most importantly, the “environment” of each place I visited felt exactly like it should. It all came together to make you feel like you were actually in the game.
This brings me to, arguably, the best part about my time at Nomadic: the details. When I stuck my head out of a moving train, I felt the wind blowing on my face. When fired my M16 at zombies, I felt the kick of the gun with each shot. And when I was teetering across a wooden plank, I actually felt like I was going to fall to my death. Personally, I’ve never heard, let alone played, a VR game quite like this.
I was blown away by how seamless Contagion Z felt. The only complaint I can really think of is the lack of games for the experience as a whole. While Contagion Z is a great experience, it’s the only game currently available at the Orlando location. To be completely fair, Nomadic did confirm to me that if all goes well they’ll have tons of more experiences coming in and out of the joint. Just a week or so ago, they announced a new Mission Impossible-themed experience that’ll be coming soon.
That all being said, I can’t help but think about what it might be like for a family to decide they want to take a break from the theme parks, and then drive to Nomadic, only to find that either they don’t want to play Arizona Sunshine or that the game isn’t family friendly enough for them. A nitpicky criticism for sure, but it’s worth mentioning.
That being said, for an area that’s saturated with theme parks and even 3D/augmented reality type rides (I’m looking at you Universal), Nomadic and Arizona Sunshine: Contagion Z do enough to set themselves apart from the crowd. I can’t wait to see what else they have in store when the spot opens up later this year.