Review: Six Flags St. Louis Debuts Justice League
I was invited to preview the new Justice League: Battle for Metropolis 4D dark ride yesterday at Six Flags St. Louis before it opens to the public next week. A similar “Battle for Metropolis” ride opened at Six Flags over Texas earlier this month.
Update: read our review of Justice League: Battle for Metropolis at Six Flags Great America here.
Photo © Six Flags
The ride is a product of dark-ride leader Sally Corporation. You and five other riders (and the Justice League) battle villain duo Lex Luthor and The Joker as they plot to destroy the city of Metropolis.
The ride’s show building was once home to the “Scooby-Doo! Ghostblasters: The Mystery of the Scary Swamp” boat ride, another Sally product that opened in 2002 and closed in September of 2014 for the transformation to begin.
The superhero-themed ride “fits” much more in the DC Comics Plaza area of the park than its Scooby Doo predecessor. It’s positioned directly across from Mr. Freeze: Reverse Blast.
Riders enter through the Hall of Justice and exit through the all-new Six Flags Power Up gift shop full of DC Comics-branded apparel and other gifts (warning: if you are a comic book or superhero enthusiast, you will spend money here).
While most of the queue is located indoors, there is what I’m guessing to be an overflow (?) queue area located to the left of the building in “Centennial Park.”
While I bypassed much of the queue, the main boarding area features extensive thematic elements, video screens and a Cyborg animatronic that recruits guests to fight alongside the Justice League to help save Metropolis.
Riders don a pair of 3D glasses before boarding the sleek six-seat, custom-designed vehicles that have “multi-degrees-of-freedom.” Each rider is armed with a “stun blaster” (Justice League superheroes do not kill, of course).
Note: the ride vehicles slow in the load/unload zone but do not stop completely. This will no doubt help keep the line moving.
The motion-based vehicles, created by Oceaneering International, are pretty amazing. They twist, tilt and spin while going through hairpin, 360-degree turns and “virtual loops.”
As your vehicle progresses, the video screens become more and more prevalent as you are drawn into the animated (but still life-like) Metropolis.
Photo © Six Flags
The ride features 18 screens, including five 17-foot by 30-foot interactive 3D screens. The ride’s interaction system is designed to allow an unlimited amount of targets to be displayed during the on-screen shooting sequences.
The “real-time gaming” feature allows the targets to “react” to hits (or misses). And if you don’t have the best aim, don’t worry. Around 600 virtual and tangible targets are scattered throughout, “including a life-like villain animatronic, robotic henchmen, helicopters, a hologram and an interactive fog screen.”
Interactive fog screen? Yes. Some of the targets are projected onto a screen of fog that the vehicle passes through. It brings “4D” to a whole new level.
The action intensifies as you delve into LexCorp Headquarters. Lex Luthor gives you one last chance to relinquish your alliance with the Justice League. But you press onward as superheroes do, and you’re thrust into fast-paced, video-dominant sequences through and under the streets of Metropolis where you’ll have ample opportunities to rack up some points.
Note: you may be so in awe over the visuals and special effects that you forget to shoot.
I won’t spoil the ending, but you can take a guess at who wins the battle.
The ride time is definitely sufficient, but the experience was so fun that I wished it were longer. You’ll need to ride at least two or three times to be able to take in all of the sights and surprises.
After my first ride, I was able to speak with senior designer for Sally Corporation, Rich Hill. I asked him about the process of utilizing the existing structure for Justice League.
“It was a major endeavor, he said. “It had a trough. All the concrete was busted up inside, put into the trough and filled in a brand new super smooth layer of concrete put on for the Oceaneering vehicles. They’ve done an amazing job turning that building into this ride.”
The creative planning stage was an undertaking as well. Rich described “40 consecutive weekly meetings where we went over ride elements and get the approvals for them.”
Everything was vetted through DC Comics and Warner Brothers.
But the hard work paid off: “I love seeing the fans ride this because they’re really able to take a lot away from it. It’s not just the ride…but for them to see all the little things we threw in just for them…that’s the cool thing.”
If you find yourself at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, look for Sally’s custom, six-tire Bat Mobile. Six Flags liked the animated “Battle for Metropolis” version so much that “they took the 3D model from Sally and produced a practical version that drives for Six Flags Fiesta Texas.”
Rich also noted the novelty of the real-time gaming aspect of the ride: “being able to see your trajectories coming out of your guns without having a gun that’s mounted to the vehicle is something that’s brand new. Just that in itself is astounding. There is so much in this ride that’s new and never been done.”
I enjoyed Justice League: Battle for Metropolis because while the ride incorporates the latest and greatest in digital animation and 3D technology, it retains some of the old-school dark ride tricks and surprises.
Photo © Six Flags
The 3D glasses do a great job of sucking you into the Metropolis mania, but nothing beats a life-like Joker animatronic straddling a cannon-equipped A.T.V. that shoots actual fog (or laughing gas), followed by a small explosion of real fire.
It’s hard to digitize heat.
Six Flags and Sally did an excellent job of maintaining a balance of innovation and “tried and true.” That’s what I found so great about this ride — the balance of old and new.
Photo © Six Flags
Unfortunately (fortunately, actually), I think I’ll need to make a return trip to the park to work on my shooting skills.
Let’s just say my scores from yesterday will not crack the all-time high scores list.
After my ride, the opening ceremony was just about to start.
Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and The Flash were all on hand to help Six Flags St. Louis park president Dave Roemer open the ride (and thwart Lex Luthor and The Joker’s plans for destruction).
“We are always looking for innovative, one-of-a-kind experiences to bring our guests,” said Dave. “By teaming up with the popular DC Comics characters and using the newest technology on the Justice League: Battle for Metropolis attraction, we are able to deliver unmatched, interactive thrills. The special effects, gaming and 3D imagery will have guests fully engaged in this dark ride adventure that is second to none.”
After Dave’s remarks, confeeti shot into the air and the ride was ready for the select group of riders to begin the “Battle for Metropolis.”
From what I could see, it appeared the ride was well-received among the attendees.
After the media preview, I ventured into the park to do some coaster riding.
A storm put a damper on mid-afternoon rides but cooled the air a bit.
I have no doubt that Justice League will be even more popular during hot summer days as well as pop-up thunderstorms like the one I encountered.
We’d like to thank Six Flags St. Louis for inviting us to preview Justice League: Battle for Metropolis. It’s a stellar addition to the park’s lineup.
The ride opens to the general public on June 5, 2015. To learn more, visit Six Flags St. Louis’ website.
Have you had a chance to ride Justice League: Battle for Metropolis yet? Share your thoughts about the ride in the comments section below.