Marvel’s “What If…?” for Apple Vision Pro looks incredible, but plays terribly

The watchman stood tall in my family room, bald and bare, nestling among my children’s toys, sleeping cats, and television. I have been asked to help save many worlds! And so Marvel and ILM Interactive began Suddenly…? In Apple Vision Pro. Like the Disney+ series and comics of the same name, this interactive experience contextualizes Marvel’s characters in a variety of interesting ways — suddenly The Allies never won World War 2 and the Captain America experiment was a failure.

Suddenly…? It’s always been a fun concept, but could it really turn into a worthwhile augmented reality show? Yes and no—at least based on the hour I spent with it on the Apple Vision Pro.

Before I get into the main criticisms, I’ll say this up front Suddenly…? is obviously an experiment, so rough edges are to be expected. I give Marvel and ILM Interactive credit for making it completely free for Vision Pro users and swinging enough on a platform that doesn’t have many users. The whole experience also looks beautifully detailed, thanks to the combination of Marvel and ILM’s immersive environments and character animation, as well as the sheer power of Vision Pro’s M2 processor. This is the closest you’ll ever get to living inside a comic book.

Marvel has already dabbled in virtual reality Iron man For PSVR and Quest as well Marvel Powers United VRBut Suddenly…? is an attempt to achieve something even more impressive: What if you could interact with superheroes in your home? But most of the time I ask myself “Suddenly Was this experience actually fun to play?”

What if Marvel does...?  In Apple Vision ProWhat if Marvel does...?  In Apple Vision Pro

You play as a mystical apprentice with powers similar to Doctor Strange. First, you can hold a fist to show a shield or look at objects to use telekinesis. But eventually you gain the ability to shoot mystical blasts and trap enemies. It all sounds incredibly cool in theory, but in practice it felt worse than the first-gen VR games I played a decade ago.

Mainly because of that Suddenly…? it relies on your hands for everything. The Vision Pro does not have a dedicated VR controller Oculus Quest or the HTC Vive, which offers instant button inputs and can be tracked via IR sensors. Instead, you have to wait a fraction of a second for the Apple headset to recognize your hands and figure out what you’re trying to do. As a result, Suddenly…? you feel like you’re sitting on a Marvel theme park ride, going from one scenario to another without much active participation. It’s a poor way to make yourself feel like a multifaceted adventurer.

At least, Suddenly…? It shows what Marvel could do if they paid more attention to the Vision Pro and what Oculus has in store next. Like a campy 3D movie, the game wastes no time in blowing you away with its basic gimmick. It starts with a remixed Marvel intro montage in 2D that floats in front of you in augmented reality. As Michael Giacchino’s iconic score crescendos, you’re suddenly surrounded by clips from the series drifting out of your field of vision. It’s a short point, but it’s something that won’t be as effective with traditional VR headsets where you’re immersed in an alternate reality from the start.

What if Marvel does...?  In Apple Vision ProWhat if Marvel does...?  In Apple Vision Pro

The experience really kicks off with the aforementioned Watcher – one of Marvel’s many cosmic beings watching over their universes – leading you on an adventure. You Know The Drill: Find all the Infinity Stones and stop those trying to destroy all known creation. Children’s items. Along the way, you’ll encounter alternate universe versions of familiar characters: Thor’s sister Hela, who only wants to save her beloved giant monster Fenris; A version of Steve Rogers who looks eerily like the Red Skull; and the more sympathetic Thanos.

Suddenly…? It moves between fully immersive virtual environments and augmented reality scenarios where The Watcher and several companions roam around your room. You can do the same at times, but during the VR segments, the game expects you to stay still. You’ll also have to click through Vision Pro pop-ups about being aware of your surroundings before every VR scene – a necessary nuisance for people new to VR, but also an immersion-killer because it’s not integrated into the game.

What if Marvel does...?  In Apple Vision ProWhat if Marvel does...?  In Apple Vision Pro

Despite my issues with the game, I ended up having a decent hour of fun Suddenly…? This was a quick fix for Marvel at a time when I was fed up with the onslaught of Disney+ MCU shows. I just can’t help but wish it was more fun to play. I hope this release helps Marvel and ILM Interactive get better at creating AR and VR experiences. And for Apple, it’s a clear sign that some kind of Vision Pro controller will be useful down the line.

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