Free VR experiences are a dime a dozen. That's one of the best things about owning a high-end VR headset. We pay through the nose for the hardware and accessories, but we're showered upon with free promotional experiences and demos. Unfortunately, most of them tend to be underwhelming and forgettable. Not so with Blade Runner 2049. This is one free experience that is well worth sampling.
Earlier this year, Oculus announced that they had partnered with Alcon Interactive Group to bring a trio of Blade Runner experiences to their VR platforms. Blade Runner 2049: Replicant Pursuit, developed by Turtle Rock Studios, was first out the gate. A second Gear VR game is expected sometime this Fall. The third property, Blade Runner 2049: Memory Lab, released last week on the Oculus store after a temporary delay.
While most promotional VR experiences fail to deliver what VR fans are interested in, Memory Lab gives players a chance to explore the Blade Runner universe from a boots on the ground, first-person perspective. If you've ever played Quanero or Batman Arkham VR, then you'll have an idea of what's in store with this unique production. The developer of this experience, Magnopus, has made a valiant effort to bridge the gap between movie and game. When the experience first begins, you're greeted by a Joi-Tech model holorgram that looks surprisingly realistic. At first blush, I thought it was some type of full-motion video pasted onto a 3D character model. Similar to the Joshua Bell experience or the Buzz Aldrin Cycling to Mars production. However, this isn't the case with Memory Lab. The 3D characters aren't using full motion video, it's just that the animations and facial expressions are so impressive.
Upon closer inspection, you'll notice the flaws, still, it's an interesting glimpse at the future of storytelling.
With the recent release of The Invisible Hours by Tequila Works, it's becoming increasingly obvious that the line in the sand between movie and game will continue to dissipate with each impressive, experimental attempt. We're literally witnessing the birth of an entirely new form of storytelling, before our very eyes. "May you live in Interesting Times" is a famous phrase that we hear so often. After seeing what Tequila Works has achieved with The Invisible Hours, and now Magnopus with Memory Lab, I'm convinced that we are on the precipice of an entirely new medium of storytelling. Birthing Pains are definitely present, and we're a very long ways away from where we're ultimately going, but it's incredibly exciting to know that the next breakthrough experience could be right around the corner. In the meanwhile, try Blade Runner 2049: Memory Lab on your Oculus Rift and get a brief glimpse at your cinematic future.