Justice League: Battle for Metropolis
Six Flags Magic Mountain has always built its reputation on roller coasters. More, taller, faster…that was what they strove for. Sure, they had other types of rides too, but until recently, they were decidedly old-school. Starting last year with the Virtual Reality upgrade of Revolution into the New Revolution Galactic Attack, and culminating in the brand new 3-D indoor thrill ride, Justice League: Battle for Metropolis, Magic Mountain has firmly planted itself in the digital realm of theme park thrills.
The rides that have made splashes at other parks lately have all seemed to be motion-control rides. Although not roller coasters, they aim to replicate those kind of thrills. They are also too high-tech to be called a motion simulator. They include a vehicle on a fixed track that can move in nearly any direction, elaborate sets and props, and cutting-edge digital graphics projected onto screens in front of the vehicle. This combination is intended to be immersive and provide thrills in a safe, easily-controlled environment, that can incorporate plots and characters that a roller coaster never could.
Located in a new Metropolis area of the park, adjacent to the existing Gotham City/DC Comics area, Battle for Metropolis is housed in a brand new building–the Hall of Justice. It’s a beautiful building and really triggered some nostalgia for the old Superfriends cartoon (for anyone old enough to remember it). In the first chamber, a video with Superman and Batman explains the situation–Joker and Lex Luthor have teamed up to cause chaos in Metropolis and capture the members of the Justice League one at a time. Side note–it was great that Kevin Conroy came back to do the voice for Batman! The next room has an animatronic version of Cyborg explaining our mission. We are going to board military vehicles, that he will control remotely, and ride around town taking out the low-level goons, robots, and bombs, so the remaining League members can free their comrades. It is here that we find out that we’re not just going for a ride. Each rider will participate by using blasters and shooting targets throughout the length of the mission. In addition to helping Batman and Superman, we will also be competing with our fellow riders to score the most points! This is a very fun upgrade to a traditional dark ride.
Each blaster is color coded, so you can see what you hit onscreen and adjust accordingly. I found this very helpful as the tracking may not line up exactly with where I thought I was aiming. However, with no ammunition to run out of, you can pull the trigger as fast as you’re able and use the visual feedback to adjust your aim as needed. For the most part, the targets are part of the 3D digital displays, but there are numerous physical props throughout the ride that I’m fairly certain are eligible targets. They sure seemed to react when I blasted them, at least. At the end of the ride, all scores are displayed, and the highest score in the vehicle gets a special onscreen mention.
With as much focus as the video game blasting requires, it’s nigh-impossible to follow the story of the ride. Characters speak dialogue throughout, much of which is ignored or hard to hear. I’m not quite clear on how our actions helped save Metropolis or the Justice League. I’m also not sure that it matters, as long as people have fun, which they sure seemed to. Repeat rides were in high demand, and comparing your score to previous efforts was a lot of fun. My final round scored me in the top 5% all-time. Considering the ride had only been open to employees and media at that point, I have no doubt that my efforts would be less impressive after the public tried out their trigger fingers.
The big question for Six Flags is: can Battle for Metropolis compete with other modern thrill rides like Transformers at Universal Studios and Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters at Disneyland? Yes. It’s just as high-tech as those and has the interactive component that something like Transformers doesn’t have. It also has a simulated high-speed chase at the end, providing a good adrenaline jolt. However, the vehicles do not have any extreme movement, since they have to be stable for riders to shoot the targets. So there is less of a visceral sense of motion that you find on something like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (also at Universal). I’m happy to ride Battle for Metropolis again, and repeatedly. For an adrenaline junkie like me, though, it can’t compete with the physical sensation of a real roller coaster. I’m glad Six Flags is modernizing their ride offerings. I just hope they stay true to their roots and keep adding world-class coasters in the future.