I spent an hour in Apple Vision Pro’s Marvel ‘What If…?’ Experience. I’m still not sure why

On the surface, Marvel’s new “immersive story.” What happens if…?, Ready for Apple Vision Pro users starting Thursday, it seems like a win-win. Marvel have trouble with how to combine storytelling and spatial calculation, and Apple get a name-brand experience to appease all those people who shelled out $3,500 for their new tech product.

But recently spent about an hour in Vision Pro What if…? universe, I’m really not sure if this is a win for anyone other than the big companies backing it. While it’s initially engaging and visually complex, the more time you spend with it, the more fragile the experience becomes.

There are great things about Apple Vision Pro—like its transparent display or the way it can seamlessly track your eye movements. Marvel has clearly taken full advantage of those pluses in What if…?, which pivots on Disney+’s popular animated series about the multiverse to ask what would happen if you, the clumsy person in the big headset, were unwisely chosen to harness the power of all six. Infinity stone. The story sees you traveling through different dimensions, fighting alongside Marvel heroes and against Marvel villains, all while you’re sitting comfortably on your couch.

No foul, What if…? is a story All parties involved are careful to call it that. This seems important because it certainly isn’t a game—or if it is, it’s a game with too much exposition and not much playability.

Much of what you’re given as a user involves hand movements: Make a fist with the fingers pointing towards you and you have a Doctor Strange-like shield. Twist your hand and extend it outward, and you can suddenly control objects—literally just the Infinity Stones, for what it’s worth—with telekinesis distant. You can open portals, change the fabric of reality, seal away “dangerous creatures” and send blasts of energy from your fists. However, these tricks are all based on a series of similar, unexciting movements, all of which I forgot many times during my time in the story. (Luckily, I had Apple advertisers there to remember and remind me, although even then it was sometimes hard to know what to do.)

This lackluster immersion can be a problem. Developed with ILM Immersive, the Lucasfilm interactive studio formerly known as ILMxLab, What if…? This experience aims to expand Marvel Studios’ work beyond theaters and Disney+ shows. As Walt Disney Studios chief technology officer Jamie Voris puts it, “understanding how to tell bigger stories in these new mediums.”

Still, it’s hard to see, considering the Vision Pro’s somewhat unconvincing reception, how big of a deal it is. What if…? maybe. The headset needs more of an experience, and Marvel is looking to go beyond its live action offerings, but the Vision Pro’s hefty price tag puts the experience out of reach for many fans. Even if it’s free, yes, What if…? may lack the charisma needed to attract people.


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