Marvel’s What If…? Vision Pro app is an awkward mix of video game and movie

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Besides watching movies, there’s not all that much to do with Apple’s Vision Pro once you get over the novelty. That’s why I was eager to try Disney and Marvel’s new What If…? An Immersive Story experience / TV show / video game… thing that’s available on May 30th. The companies promised a mixed reality show that would “push the boundaries of technology.” But what I experienced, while very pretty to look at, ended up feeling like an overlong, no-stakes video game tutorial — with no game to follow it.

You’ll go through the Vision Pro-exclusive app either by standing in one spot in a virtual environment, watching things play out and participating when prompted to, or in passthrough, where you can move around while cell-shaded 3D AR characters talk to you. You play the “Hero of the Multiverse,” a nameless character who is recruited by The Watcher, narrator on the Disney Plus series, to save the multiverse by acquiring the Infinity Stones. 

But Wong, the Master of the Mystic Arts and friend to Doctor Strange in the MCU, opposes your involvement because, well, who the heck are you? But he reluctantly trains you, and then you go on a journey through realities to acquire each Infinity Stone for vague fate-of-the-multiverse reasons. Along the way, you acquire various abilities, and Wong teaches you special gestures that activate them. You can wave your hands around to banish your opponents to the pocket dimension inside the Soul Stone or clench your hand to shoot fist lasers using the Power Stone. 

This stuff is actually fun to do, but it’s also very constrained by the fact that you can only do it at scripted moments, which sucks. That would be fine if the story was compelling, but it’s not given any room to be. It’s just a series of brief vignettes that serve as setup for the next interactive section, then you’re dropped in to get whichever stone you’re after, at which point you learn a new skill that you may or may not use again later. Each vignette basically follows the same pattern and ends up feeling like it’s building to something that never pays off.

The biggest disappointment is that so many of the elements feel like they would work in a different package. It looks great, for one, and it’s fun to see The Watcher towering over me in my dining room and to get a sense of how big Thanos is actually supposed to be. I liked shooting fist lasers, too. But the end result — an experience that doesn’t go all the way to full-on video game or movie — sits in a noncommittal, unsatisfying middle zone. 

Dave Bushore, who directed What If…?, told The Verge in an email that the experience is “holistically different than a game.” The interactive bits, he said, are meant to support the story. And Shereif M. Fattouh, an executive producer at ILM Immersive, said the team plans to keep supporting the app and will “be monitoring to see if there are any updates” needed based on user feedback. The app will only be temporarily free, though they didn’t say for how long or how much it will eventually cost.

There’s potential in the approach for What If…? An Immersive Story, if the team decides to do more with it. It seems clear from Bushore’s response to my questions that the format won’t veer further into game territory, and it’s hard to know from Fattouh’s answer whether the team will make any significant changes down the line to the way the story is presented. (Multiple branching paths through it would be neat, for example). But for now, it will be worth a look after it goes live tomorrow if you have a Vision Pro but don’t expect anything revolutionary.



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