Samsung VR puts you in the middle of a '24' firefight

A slickly produced three minutes of "24: Legacy" action shows just how intense virtual reality can be.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
3 min read

"24: Legacy" stars a new protagonist.


I've always wanted to be Jack Bauer.

Samsung , the producers of "24," and some virtual reality got me partway there.

On Monday evening, Samsung unveiled its latest VR experience, a three-minute program called "The Raid" that serves as a prequel to the upcoming Fox show "24: Legacy."

Rather than Kiefer Sutherland's Bauer, the video stars new "24" lead Corey Hawkins and features co-star Charlie Hofheimer. The short piece is set before the show begins, during a military operation in a desert terrorist compound.

It's the latest bit of content in the quickly burgeoning medium of VR entertainment. Unlike other VR clips, this video cuts between intense action scenes and boasts high production values. When paired with the premiere, which screened at Samsung's 837 event space in New York on Monday, it offers a cohesive story.

That stands in contrast to some of the content shown off at CES 2017 last week. Many of those VR experiences were short teases, little more than glorified commercials. You can sense the disillusionment settling over VR after years of hype, with attention peaking in 2016 alongside the launch of Facebook's Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive .

But don't tell that to Samsung. It's gone all-in with its $99 Gear VR headset. To date, there are 5 million of those headsets in use around the world, with more than 10 million hours of video viewed in them so far.

Enlarge Image

Watching "The Raid" at the Samsung 837 event space.

Roger Cheng/CNET

"The Raid" offers a glimmer of hope that VR content can be more than just a promotional stunt.

This clip is exclusive to Samsung VR, available only to folks who use a Gear VR headset and Samsung phone. (The Galaxy S7 and Samsung monitors and TVs appear throughout the first episode.)

Because the clip runs on the Gear VR, its resolution isn't as sharp as it might be on higher-end systems, which require pricey PCs. The scenes are also dark and at times muddled. Still, it was clear enough to let you make out most of the action.

And there were plenty of fireworks. Jarrett Dube, head of marketing for Samsung VR, said that it was the most aggressive piece of live-action VR content shot to date.

The experience puts you in the center of a military raid, with gunshots and explosions going off all around you. Everywhere you turn, whether your head's up or down, you see US soldiers firing machine guns or terrorists spraying bullets.

"It's been a wonderful experience branching out to this new Wild West medium," Hawkins said during a panel ahead of the screening. "As an actor, that's what you want to do -- do the things that scare you the most."

Though the video is available to all Gear users, the true experience could be found only at the 837 location. Samsung partnered with Los Angeles-based Two Bit Circus, which provided a special stand with vibrating floors to simulate the rumble of helicopters, gunshots and explosions. I almost felt like I was in a terrorist stronghold and not the trendy Meatpacking District in Manhattan.

Samsung has used physical tricks -- think moving seats or a full-on gyroscope -- to help enhance the VR experience with real motion. Other simulations have featured rides on roller coasters or skateboards.

There's been little else this cinematic.

"This medium compels me and vexes me," said Howard Gordon, executive producer of "24." "There's a whole new vocabulary being created."

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