weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Virtual reality arena opens today at MGM Grand

Updated September 8, 2017 - 2:53 pm

Question for gamers: Are you game for this?

Decide before you’re rushed by that homely gentleman with the rotting flesh and cranky attitude. The one just blown to hamburger bits. But he (it?) will be back. As will dozens more.

“They’re jumping from the rooftops! … To your left! To your left! … Extra points if you shoot ‘em in the head! … Ooh, that was close!” Mix in yelps, gasps, giggles, explosions and direct hits turning your targets into zombie shish kabob. Plus three words key to a slayer’s survival while armed with a zombie-zapping weapon: “RELOAD. RELOAD. RELOAD.”

small pic description goes here

Blasting undead intruders is strangely cathartic. Now that catharsis has a new outpost at the MGM Grand’s Level Up lounge beginning Friday, as the resort unveils its new — and Vegas’ first — “free roam” virtual reality arena, featuring “Zombie Survival” and two other scenarios.

small pic description goes here

“There’s something about being completely abstracted from your physical body when you’re in this crazy fantasy together,” says Tim Ruse, CEO of Australia-based Zero Latency, which supplies this trippy amalgam of brain trickery, perceptual deceptions and “Twilight Zone”-like freakiness. Pay him props for one particular virtual virtue:

“When you play at home in your PlayStation, you’re in small space, you only move a couple of steps in any direction, but we let you take hundreds of steps,” Ruse says of the “free-roam” appeal. “You can experience a much larger digital environment and it increases the level of immersion. It’s powerful to explore a digital space the way you would in real life.”

Credit that liberating mobility around the 2,000-square-foot room — an obstacle-free space, void except for the grid-patterned floor and motion-tracking cameras — to wireless equipment, including a wearable backpack computer, headphones and goggles. “You’re normally tethered and wired to something,” says Matt Pinal, MGM Grand’s vice president of retail operations, who points out that the attraction, which accommodates up to eight players at once, transforms the VR experience from one of isolation to one of socialization.

“Once you get in with a group of people and talk with them throughout the game, it becomes a team game to fight off zombies. You’re kind of forced to socialize,” he says. Throughout the zombie onslaught, as your compatriots appear as colorful avatars around you, gun-toting players coordinate through a radio-com system and collaborate to take out the advancing/zooming/swooping hordes of undead aggressors while racking up points. Though it’s a single surface, the game simulates second-level scaffolding, where you can pick off ghoulish attackers from above.

Not keen on the company of the undead? Choose “Singularity,” a mystery whisking you through a military research station while battling rogue robots and killer drones in zero gravity. Or, for a more passive but visually vivid experience, select “Engineerium.” Designed as a romp in the clouds through stunning scenery that could double as a “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” video, it’s rife with flying blue whales, giant parrots, translucent green spheres and sky and sea vistas you hover over — seemingly perilously as you trod twisty platforms suspended in midair.

small pic description goes here

Sessions lasting 30 minutes (you can mix and match games) are preceded by a brief safety video before you’re suited up, and security protocols include proximity sensors that warn you away from hazards or the wall — or each other. Though side effects of extensive VR play have been documented, including eye strain, nausea and motion sickness, Ruse says it’s a non-issue in this design.

small pic description goes here

“You’re only in the system for under an hour, so eye strain is not a concern, and the rate of nausea is essentially zero,” says Ruse, whose company installed similar systems (at a cost of $800,000 to $1 million each) in Australia, Japan, Spain, Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. “The most full sense of immersion is by having this large open space. It can twist the user around and put you on different paths so you can become lost in the simulation.”

Sometimes in life, it’s all about keepin’ it unreal.

Contact Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0353. Follow @sborn1 on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)