Dan Carlin’s War Remains VR experience transports you into the Western Front of World War I, where you will hear the sounds of war, feel the wind on your face, and see bombs dropping all around you. There’s a good reason why this World War I exhibit is so popular. Carlin and his team have created an experience so immersive, you’ll feel like you really were dropped into the middle of a harrowing World War I battle. It’s an experience everyone should have. If you’re in Austin, Texas, you have a few more weeks to experience War Remains.
The team behind War Remains offered Heavy tickets to experience the immersive world ourselves. It was terrifying and awe-inspiring.
There are moments when you really do get a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach. Whether you are gazing down from above as the wind beats against your face or walking in a trench as bombs shake the floor, War Remains is a whirlwind of synthetic experiences that incorporate more of your senses than standard VR.
The experience is best if you’re not spoiled on what to expect. But if you’ve already been there, you might want to relive your experience. So the first part of this review will be essentially spoiler-free. The second part will have spoilers, but we’ll warn you before we get to that section.
War Remains Review – No Spoilers
Dan Carlin created the War Remains experience with the help of a team from Flight School, MWM Interactive, Skywalker Sound, and Built by Bender. The VR experience is currently in Austin, Texas, but I’ve been told it might move to other locations in the future.
(This part of the review has no spoilers for the VR experience itself, but does describe what happens when you first walk into the admission room.)
Just stepping up to the building that houses War Remains gave me a sense of going back in time.
From outside the venue, you can see QR codes and parental advisories which are made to look as if they’re from an earlier time period. As you approach, you can hear big band music playing which reminded me of the Fallout soundtrack. But the real immersion takes place inside.
As you enter, a Victrola softly plays a grainy recording of Dan Carlin, describing the situation during World War I. You are seated in a time-period-appropriate waiting area with war propaganda posters all around. The chairs are wooden. An old-timey scale stands prominently in the corner. It feels quite like a WWI recruitment center.
An employee confirmed my appointment from behind a large typewriter and I was handed a medical clipboard to confirm my details (and sign a waiver).
A few minutes later, I was being led past a curtain and instructed on how to navigate the War Remains experience with a virtual reality headset on my head and a battery pack strapped to my side.
At War Remains, only one person can go through the VR experience at a time. They monitor you throughout the experience, so you’re perfectly safe. But believe me, sometimes you won’t feel like you are.
The runtime takes about 12 minutes, but overall I’d say to put aside 45 minutes for the experience (especially if you’re there with another person.)
The VR headset was truly immersive: I couldn’t hear or see anything outside of the experience itself. And from the moment the experience started, I was mesmerized.
When you step into the world, there’s a strong wind on your face and rocking at your feet. You actually feel bombs dropping around you and feel the shaking as the floor rumbles to the sound of an artillery barrage. At times you feel disoriented, not sure where to look or where to go next. But that disorientation is part of the experience and it’s there on purpose.
Don’t rush through the experience. It’s best to look everywhere. I missed an entire scene because I didn’t look to my right side at one point; I was so focused on stepping forward. Some parts were so realistic that I thought I’d trip on something that wasn’t even there.
You can also touch anything you want. Some of the things you’ll see on the screen have real-world counterparts, so you’ll think you’re touching them in real life. Don’t be afraid to look at every detail – but don’t kick down any doors. You’ll be warned about that and wonder why you’d want to. Believe me, there will be a point when you’ll understand why you were given that warning.
Allow yourself to be swept away by each and every moment, each and every scene. It’s well worth the lessons you’ll walk out with.