Comic-Con 2018: Amazon Prime Video brings unique experience with 'Jack Ryan' activation

Touted as “The world’s first hyperreality spy experience,” Amazon’s Prime Video went all out with its multifaceted activation at this year’s Comic-Con International.

Construction on Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Experience, located on First Avenue between Island Avenue and the MLK Promenade, began in San Diego some 10 days prior to the start of the convention. Some of the more involved components were worked on even further in advance in Denver and later trucked in.

The experience involved three main areas — The Training Field, Dark Ops and The Bazaar — which were all set up on an area near the Convention Center that usually houses a parking lot.

From the street, the most impressive and eye-catching aspect is the 10-meter tall, 3-story building with a military-style helicopter propped atop. As part of the Jack Ryan Training Field, participants are suited up with OptiTrack System sensors and Oculus Rift VR headset.

They are then driven by a training officer to the base of the tower where they ascend the staircase up to the awaiting helicopter. Once inside, the VR headset is put into place and it’s time to jump out of the helicopter (while harnessed in, of course). The use of 4-D physical technology and a heavy, steady burst of air makes the users feel like they’re rappelling rapidly toward the ground.

From there participants must make their way across what the VR headset displays as a narrow, wobbly plank stretched across two buildings about 3-stories above the ground (really it’s just a wobbly 8-inch-wide board raised about 4 inches from a totally solid platform). This part seems to be the most alarming to participants as some were sighted as shedding tears trying to get across and at least one person dropping to all fours and crawling across.

After a duck-and-cover mission to find key clues while enemy combatants fired upon participants, the final part of the mission is to step off a balcony and zipline to an awaiting car ready to race off to a safe house.

The Jack Ryan Training Field is an ambitious activation using some of the leading VR gaming technology. There were some misfires with the developing technology while running the course, but the well-trained staff (of which there are some 200 working throughout the convention) stayed in character and didn’t skip a beat getting participants from one point to the next on the course.

The Dark Ops center was another technological feat at the experience. The high-tech, immersive escape room takes participants through the pilot episode, making them solve puzzles, operate a drone, evade lasers and ultimately leading them to escape.

The open-air Bazaar area is designed to look like a Middle Eastern city center. Guests are able to sit in multiple shaded seating areas while enjoy the provided snacks, ice cream and water while watching on a jumbotron the brave souls who took on the Jack Ryan Training Field. Those just hanging out could also participate in secret mini missions for a chance to collect promo items, as well.

Convention-goers and the general public could be see lining up several hours before the doors opened at 9 a.m. The activation will remain open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. No badge required for entry.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, from creators Carlton Cue and Graham Roland, stars John Krasinski (The Office), Wendell Pierce (The Wire) and Abbie Cornish (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and premieres on Prime Video on Aug. 31.

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