I Spent an Hour in Marvel’s Apple Vision Pro ‘What If…?’ Experience. I’m Still Not Sure Why

On its surface, Marvel’s new “immersive story” What If…?, available to Apple Vision Pro users starting Thursday, seems like a win-win. Marvel gets to mess around with how to combine storytelling and spatial computing, and Apple gets a big-name experience to appease everyone who ponied up $3,500 for their new piece of tech.

But having recently spent an hour or so in Vision Pro’s What If…? universe, I’m not actually sure if it’s a win for anyone outside of the big companies backing it. While it’s initially intriguing and visually complex, the more time you spend within it, the flimsier the experience becomes.

There are great things about the Apple Vision Pro—the see-through display, for instance, or the way it seems to seamlessly track your eye movements. Marvel clearly makes the most of those pluses in What If…?, which pivots off Disney+’s popular animated series about the multiverse to ask what would happen if you, the awkward person in the big headset, were ill-advisedly chosen to harness the power of all six infinity stones. The story finds you hurtling through different dimensions, fighting alongside Marvel heroes and against Marvel villains, all while you’re comfortably seated on your couch.

Make no mistake, What If…? is a story. All parties involved are taking care to call it that. This seems significant given that it certainly isn’t a game—or if it is, it’s one with a hell of a lot of exposition and not much playability.

The vast majority of what you’re tasked with as a user involves hand motions: Make a fist with your fingers facing you and you’ve got a Doctor Strange-like shield. Turn your hand and extend it outward, and you’re suddenly able to control objects—literally just infinity stones, for what it’s worth—with telekinesis. You can open portals, alter the fabric of reality, seal “dangerous beings” away, and send energy blasts from your fists. These tricks, though, are all just based on a series of similar, not very engaging movements, all of which I forgot numerous times over the course of my time in the story. (Luckily, I had Apple publicists there to mind and remind me, though even then it was sometimes hard to know what I was supposed to be doing.)

This lackluster immersion could prove to be a problem. Developed with ILM Immersive, the Lucasfilm interactive studio formerly known as ILMxLab, the What If…? experience is intended to expand Marvel Studios’ work beyond cinemas and Disney+ shows. To, as Walt Disney Studios chief technology officer Jamie Voris puts it, “understand how to tell bigger stories in these new mediums.”

It’s hard to fathom, though, considering the Vision Pro’s somewhat anemic reception, how big of a deal What If…? could be. The headset needs more experiences, and Marvel’s been looking to move beyond its live-action offerings, but the Vision Pro’s hefty price tag puts the experience out of reach for a lot of fans. Even if it’s free, which it is, What If…? may lack the pizazz necessary to draw people in.

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