Apollo 11 VR Review
By Precious Hinton
Developer: Parallel Studio
Publisher: Oculus Studio
Platforms: Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift, Oculus Go,
Genre: History, Space Travel
I’m sure we have all dreamed of going to the moon at some point. Whether it was falling asleep after seeing a space movie, dreaming after watching the stars, or just in our sleep based on our own personal imagination. Well, today I went to the moon while in my work space and I was not asleep. I know you may be thinking that I was daydreaming, which is kind of what it felt like. However, I was not. I went to the moon using virtual reality technology.
I’m referring to the type of daydream where you see yourself in multiple different scenarios. At one moment you are seeing yourself in a certain area of the situation and the next you are seeing yourself in a different one. That is exactly how my virtual reality experience to the moon was. Today I traveled to the moon using the Oculus Quest headset and the Apollo 11 VR experience.
As most of America should know, “Apollo 11” is the story of the greatest journey ever taken by human kind, the journey to the moon. The Apollo 11 VR experience was an exact reenactment of that journey. This virtual reality experience allowed me to see the events of that day through the eyes of those who were there. In addition to the outstanding views, there was audio from the people in the space station on that day and the famous astronauts who took that trip to the moon.
Of course, leading up to it, there was a backstory to start the journey. The backstory presented names, reasons, and dates related to the Apollo 11 trip to the moon. After watching the backstory in the headset, I found it ironic that this journey took place during the current month, yet of the year 1969. With that being said, I felt lucky to have experienced this same journey 50 years later without getting into a rocket.
The setting of this backstory was very unique in the Oculus headset. I sat in a modern room with a projector in front of me. On the projector was a speech by John F. Kennedy announcing America’s intentions to put a man on the moon. As I looked around, I saw space posters on the wall, a newspaper on the coffee table labeled space travel, and a television set airing the same speech.
When Kennedy’s speech ended, my virtual journey to the moon began. I found myself looking around the space station as the rocket was being prepared for takeoff. Then I got into an elevator with Apollo 11’s commander, Neil Armstrong.
When we got off the elevator and took our seats in the rocket, there was a countdown starting from two minutes. I remember hearing a radio like voice say “two minutes to the Apollo mission, the flight to land the first man on the moon, all indications coming in to the control center at this time indicate we are a go”. When I started to look around there were so many control buttons and about three small windows on the rocket. Armstrong sat to the right of me appearing to be more ready than ever.
Then I heard the radio like voice again, and I realized that he would be communicating with us throughout our journey so that we would still be connected to the world that we were about to leave. At t-minus eighty seconds he said, “were going full internal power at the fifty second mark in the countdown”.
The countdown continued and I started to hear the rocket powering up. Lights on the rocket started to flash, a rapid ten second countdown initiated, and all of a sudden, we were taking off!
From the views of the small windows, I started to see the clouds passing by. The clear skies went from a light blue, to a royal blue, to a black sky. Looking downward, I could still see earth’s glare but everywhere else showed me that we were in the midst of the stars. Then there was a writing pen inside of the rocket that started to float. This floating pen proved that the gravity had officially changed and that we were finally in space.
After four virtual days and hours went by, we started to see the moon from a distance. The view was amazing. I was no longer seeing everything through the rocket. It was like I was floating in mid-air watching everything happen.
After watching the rocket release to make its landing, my view switched back to the inside of the rocket. Using a slow countdown, we finally landed on the moon. Being able to look out of the side window on the rocket while making this landing made it feel super realistic. Checking the controls and stabilizing the rocket made it even more realistic.
Once again, my view switched to outside of the rocket. Then I watched Neil Armstrong exit the rocket to take his steps on the moon. Armstrong reported back to the station, explaining the textures of the moon’s surface and how his steps left footprints. He talked about how beautiful the atmosphere was and what it was like to literally be on the moon.
Finally, Neil Armstrong placed the American Flag on the moon’s surface, and I woke up from my dream. Although it was not an actual dream, the fantasy like scenery and super authentic audio made me feel as if I was dreaming with my eyes open. After taking this journey, I must say that the Apollo 11 VR experience was nothing short of unique and outstanding.
Story: 4/5 – The story was great and very historical. However, throughout the story, there were many long pauses that said “loading” in order to get to this next scene. This could possibly bore the user and cause them confusion in following the story.
Visuals: 5/5 – Very spot on visuals. The visuals made me feel like I was actually experiencing space travel. No matter where I turned my head to look, there was a visual of the Apollo 11 experience.
Playability: 3/5 – There was little effort where the user could engage in pressing controls or touching something in order to “play” with the system. It was more of just watching everything happen.
User Interface: 3/5 – The system connects with the user by asking questions like “are you ready partner”. However, it does not allow me to use the controllers to interact, and most of the conversations were directed to the virtual Neil Armstrong.
Replay Value: 4/5 – Users are not able to replay a section of the journey unless they were to start the journey over. However, it took its time to show everything perfectly so that I did not want to go back and replay. Instead I was ready to see what happened next.
Overall Score: 4/5 – Overall, I give the Apollo 11 VR experience a job well done. The backstory used great scenery and footage to engage the user’s mind and the actual journey allowed me to see what the Apollo 11 astronauts saw as they left earth and made their mark on the moon.