By Charly SHELTON
There are few rides that are ever made that honestly shock you. There are rides that pleasantly surprise, rides that live up to expectations, and far too often, rides that disappoint. But every once in a while, a ride will shock you. Something that is either so realistic or so enthralling that you completely forget you are in a show building, watching characters go through pre-programmed motions for the 400th time today. ‘Transformers the Ride 3D’ is one of those rides.
I have made it no secret what I think of the Transformers series of films, nor how I feel about their director. When the first announcement came out about this ride, I was hesitant at best. Thinking that Universal Studios Hollywood would replace a classic attraction like Backdraft with something as mindless as Transformers seemed likened to an ill conceived attempt at making money without making a decent ride like so many other inferior parks. Suffice it to say – I was uninterested.
Jump forward a few months. More and more details start to arise about the new attraction. It will be much bigger than Backdraft, making good use of the space. It will be more than just a ride – a full section of the lower lot will be dedicated to the experience with shops and refreshments.
And then the big news drops: The ride will use the same ride system as the Spider-Man ride at Universal Studios Florida. This changes everything because even if the ride concept is lame, the ride system is widely hailed as the best ever made. This system combines projection screens in a dark ride setting seen from the ride vehicle, which is also a flight simulator. To top it off, this ride has huge HD 3D screens to project the giant Transformers into life size.
Opening day. I had been looking forward to this ride simply because the ride system is reputedly so amazing. When we arrived at Universal, the scene was set as a battlefield outside the newest operating facility of N.E.S.T. (Non-biological Extraterrestrial Species Treaty). General Morshower briefed the new group of freedom fighters (ride goers) on the situation: the Allspark was to be transported to its new secure holding facility at Universal Studios but then a Decepticon unexpectedly attacked.
Riders then boarded Evac, an autobot that transforms into a 12-person vehicle. Leaving the facility, we interacted with other Transformers that are fighting amongst themselves, doing unimaginable damage to the facility and the city and each other, all grappling to take possession of the Allspark.
This is an amazing ride. Truly, I was amazed. It has been at least 17 years since I jumped and flinched at 3D effects but the way this ride is done – the realistic looking 3D sets on the projector screens blending seamlessly with the real world dark ride sets – makes you believe that shrapnel is flying at you. The jump-out effects aren’t the robots as often as they are the environments that the robots destroy and send flying to your face.
This is the culmination of Universal’s last few rides all put together and made perfect. The ride movements of The Simpsons Ride, the dark ride elements of Revenge of the Mummy and the huge amazing screens and 3D of King Kong 360 3D. All of these elements combine to make the best ride this reporter has ever ridden.
To make things even better, as you exit the ride a refreshment booth sells Energon – an exquisite beverage that is like orange soda with cream, but somehow different. A secret recipe developed by the lead chef at Universal combines orange and cream to make the best drink you will ever taste. And it’s served in a beer glass to take home. You get a great drink and a cool cup. The only downside is that you will spend the next few days wishing you had more, even contemplating going back to the park to ride the attraction again and get some more Energon. Like all the time. I can’t work, can’t sleep. All I want to do is ride it again and drink more Energon. And orange soda with whipped cream isn’t the same. Believe me, I’ve tried. It’s just messy and it tastes funny.
The best solution is to just go to Universal because this experience alone is worth the price of admission. I give this ride 5 out of 5 stars only because I can’t go any higher.