I have been looking at SW8 a fair bit recently and so I think I may as well post my thoughts and opinions
on the development.
To me, Secret Weapon 8 isn't just a roller coaster for Alton Towers, it's a way for them to prove me wrong of what I personally have seen as lack lustre planning and business decisions over the last few years, and for this reason is in my eyes one of the most important Secret Weapons to date. This (at least to me) means that the design needs to be inpactful and hyped from the moment the plans are released, much like what happened with Secret Weapon 7, The Smiler. Now lets look at SW8. So far we know very little, but what we do know is that it will be one of GCI's smallest installations and that it has a fairly turn-filled layout. In terms of theming, around the ride we know of one standing theming element and a tunnel, however we don't know what may be inside the station building. Most importantly we know the reaction to the development was almost non-existent originally, and now many have turned their noses up at it. I think it's important to highlight this fact before even getting into my opinion on the development as it's very concerning to me to think that the development is even being regarded as disappointing by enthusiasts and fans of Alton Towers. Now lets look at what it's replacing - one of the most iconic rides, not only at Alton Towers but arguably in the UK. I guarantee there are even members on this forum who still have glimmers of the first time they rode The Flume, not to mention the public reaction to its removal (it hasn't been good!).
All of this aside, I must admit the only aspect of this that excites me is the fact that I'll be able to experience a GCI coaster - however even this becomes irrelevant in my case as I would have ridden White Lightning not 6 months earlier, and some would argue this looks a better coaster. I am intrigued by the alleged theme, although if we are to believe the theme around a Wicker Man/cult how on earth can this be used in what seems to be a family orientated coaster. It's even more concerning in this case as it is based off of real world 'magic' and so this automatically makes the idea of having a family attraction based around something quite dark much more disturbing than TH13TEEN for example. Then we move onto theming, which (I believe) previously had 3 theming elements during the attractions course as well as a tunnel. My personal most anticipated element was the incorporation of The Flume's station as it would be a wonderful burst of nostalgia and we have seen how well this can work with Heide Park's "Flug Der Dämonen". However now, before construction had even stated, two of these what were major theming elements have been cut. You can say what you like about The Smiler, however The Marmaliser is so prominent in its layout I personally think that by cutting theming they made the attraction look far less cluttered. The mystery theming element on this on the other hand looks fairly small and not very impacting in its placement. I can't say much about the layout as I can't predict how the attraction will ride, but I personally think White Lightning at Fun Spot Orlando look far superior whilst being a smaller attraction. The queue may be void of cattle pens, however it still lacks any notable theming as far as I can tell and we have already seen there have been slightly disappointing alterations the queue line. On top of that, after seeing what Galactica's "pre-show" was I have my doubts about this attractions pre-show as well. Due to all of this I have to admit this is not a worthy successor of either The Smiler or TH13TEEN at this stage, and it does worry me when it has not only got Blackpool's MMXVIII down the road to compete with, but also coasters such as Liseberg's Valkyria and EnergyLandia's unnamed hyper coaster to compete with (all three I would take over SW8 at this stage).
Now, the various negatives aside I do have to emphasise there is still room for surprise. Personally, I was one of the few who was quite let down by The Smiler's plans (mainly because of Gerstlauer) however as construction went on I warmed to the ride and it has now grown to one of my favourite attractions ever. The layout may also entertain some interesting forces and some sort of theatrical element that will improve the experience. For this reason I am going to try to keep an open mind and I believe so should everyone else - but keep an open mind to both sides of the argument, to be disappointing or impressed. Find a happy medium and I am sure when it comes to it, you'll at least appreciate the attraction. In my opinion, there's no point being overly positive as the attraction is far
from perfect, however on the flip side there's no point being completely negative as there must be at least a single aspect of the development you enjoy.
I apologise for the essay, but I do think a fair few points within this post are extremely relevant and should be taken into account by both sides of the debate.