Last week I was invited to the Human Centrifuge at Farnborough by EA. EA will be releasing Dead Space 3 in a few weeks and while they couldn't send us into space, they could give us a taste of what it was like to train to go into space. Thankfully no sick bag was required!
Dead Space 3 cuts to the heart of deep space terror with award-winning suspense, horror, action and sound. Slated for release in the dead of winter, players will embark on a thrilling ride through space that takes them to a hostile new planet, Tau Volantis. There, they must battle violent, subzero conditions and deadly, highly-evolved enemies including new Necromorphs, gigantic boss creatures and - for the first time in the series - a faction of Unitologist soldiers on a misguided mission.
So having just read that about the game, you are probably wondering just what I will be doing?
Well as I said at the start, EA couldn't really send us into space (I am still just a little disappointed by that - maybe for Dead Space 4?) and I really wouldn't want to be attacked by a Necromorph, so the next best thing was to show us what astronauts and pilots have to go through as part of their training.
Obviously their training takes years, and we only had a few hours, so strap yourself in and I will explain what we did.....
We arrived, in the snow, at QinetiQ in Farnborough (it used to be an RAF base back in the day). Housed in an average looking building is the UK's only human centrifuge. This particular one dates back to the 1950's and recreates the G-forces experienced by fighter jet pilots during flight. During that time the facility has played a crucial role in developing a greater understanding of the effects of high G-forces on the human body, and countermeasures to protect against them. All of the anti-G systems currently used by RAF fast-jet aircrew have been developed and tested at the Centrifuge.
For this event we would only go up to a maximum of 4.4G (to give you an idea, the Mission: Space ride at Epcot in Orlando goes up to 2.5G). So that means that I could feel more than four times the force of gravity at the Earth's surface (effectively multiplying my weight weight by 4.4).
So inside the pod is an ejector seat (thankfully not working) and a control stick (again non functional).
There is a series of computers, monitors, cameras and lights that monitor your heart beat and various other things.
Take a look below to see roughly what I saw when seated:
And here I am sitting in the hot seat not long before my ride began.
So I got wired up and connected to the equipment, and thankfully strapped in really tight, and it was time to get going.
The most nerve wracking part of the whole experience is that first couple of moments after you have been strapped in and you are waiting for it all to start.
And it's not long before we are going - and it's straight up to 3G for me! The whole ride lasts 15 seconds, and then it's over. The worst part of the ride is the stop - basically the pod rotates back in and you experience a tumbling sensation. Take a look at the video below to listen to Alex explain the sensation better.
At all times I was being monitored by Dr Henry Lupa who is the Principle Medical Officer at QinetiQ and Chief Aeromedical Aerospace Medical Advisor and is also on the Virgin Galactic Medical Panel, so I was certainly in good hands. Henry was seated in the center of the centrifuge, so he was spinning with me, but where all I had to do was watch some lights, he was both monitoring my vitals and watching my eyes as well.
The reason I had to look at the lights was that my peripheral vision would start do go dark during the ride (which is the first signs of losing consciousness) and at that point I needed to push down with my feet in order to help counteract the effects of all the blood being pushed to my feet. I have to honest that I didn't find it too bad, until my last ride when my vision almost instantly became effected and I had to push down hard. That was certainly an "interesting" experience.
I have to admit that riding in the centrifuge was amazing and a lot of fun. So much so I had another go - well actually I had three more spins ending with a 4G spin. At that point I probably would have done more but it seemed like a good time to stop!
So here is the video explaining exactly what we did (in a much better way that I could describe), along with the camera footage of me from inside the centrifuge during my four spins:
So that experience has got to be one of the strangest, and most exhilarating one I have ever done and I highly recommend if you ever get the chance to experience a ride in a centrifuge yourself that you jump at the chance. Every single person enjoyed themselves, even those who really didn't want to do it (you know who you are!). And after that those Necromorphs don't seem quite as scary!
The Dead Space 3 playable demo is available now on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 and you can watch a walk-through of the demo here.
With an all-new ice planet, drop-in/drop-out co-op, and exhilarating action, Dead Space 3 will re-set the bar for epic thrills in February 2013.
Does Dead Space 3 interest you? Have you played the demo? Let us know by leaving a comment below.