Tim and I recently teamed up with six Another Dungeon readers to participate in the Oz Apocalypse Zombie Experience – a real-life game using modified M4 rifles and special effects to simulate surviving a zombie outbreak in a medical facility. Located in a blacked out warehouse at the Melbourne Showgrounds, it promised the adrenal rush of surviving a zombie apocalypse minus the side effect of zombification if we lost… but did it deliver?
Based on laser-tag technology, our team started the experience by being issued realistic tactical laser weapons. These were real M4 rifles modified to “fire” infrared lasers, whilst simulating realistic weapon weight, kick, and sound. Zombies were real-life actors dressed in rags, with realistic makeup and infrared sensitive targets designed to provide visual and audible notification when you achieved a “kill”.
Once past the initial training, we were issued a “bite detector” and a set of mission objectives. While not explained at the start, the bite detector appeared to work using some sort of near-field communication – if a zombie got too close, a bite was registered. The bite detector didn’t give any form of notification though, so when asked by non-zombie actors “have any of you been bitten?” we always responded in the negative.
Mission objectives were a fun idea, although in practice were just used to provide context. In our case, we had to locate three sergeants, each of whom would give us part of a code that could be used to wipe out the zombies… or something. We were informed these sergeants may give us fake codes, be zombies themselves, or may even have been killed, so our team was to protect the person gathering the intel above all else. An interesting idea, but the path through the facility was very linear and the codes just handed to us at checkpoints, so the reality didn’t quite live up to the hype. That said, the actors giving us the codes did a great job, stayed in character, and were all unique and interesting.
The venue itself looked fantastic. Thin corridors and dark corners coupled with metallic fences and lots of hidey holes made for an atmospheric venue. The level of detail in each area was impressive, and the makeup for zombies and other actors alike couldn’t be faulted. The areas were well designed, forcing teams to cover all directions as they progressed. Zombies emerged, mostly, at a speed with which they could be dealt with in a timely manner, but loud enough to ensure there were jump scares a-plenty.
But what did our team think of their personal experience?
To be honest, I was a little underwhelmed by the whole experience. I checked with the organizers beforehand as to what the team sizes were, and was told minimum 6, maximum 8. When we arrived, the staff were constantly mentioning that ours was a big group, and after going through as a group of 8, it’s clear that 8 was too many. It would have been nice to have been told the correct information from the start.
Another aspect I found frustrating was the fact that some of the zombies kept coming at you while their headbands were flashing red (indicating that they’ve been shot). This was on top of the fact that they didn’t stay down after being shot, which meant that they were able to get some cheap hits on our team (which you wouldn’t know until the end, as there’s no hit indicator for the humans).
The venue is also way too small to make the experience seem worthwhile. The tight corridors and neat hiding places for the zombies was really good the first round through, but you end up doing the same loop twice. It would be a much better experience if the venue was larger and you didn’t have to repeat the same section twice. I will mention, however, that they did turn up the difficulty (so to speak) by increasing the amount of zombies on your second go around.
It seemed to take them way too long to actually explain the game itself. The most informative and well organised section seemed to be the firing range at the end. Oh, and they should have limited it to 4-person teams. Countering that, the realistic weapon feel, zombies themselves, and the overall atmosphere was great.
The event felt small and disorganised, especially considering the cost. The lack of bite notification was disappointing, but I was pretty impressed otherwise.
I agree with the rest of the team. It wasn’t good value for money. I would do it for $50, maybe a bit more – but not $130.
Unfortunately, my gun took three or four trigger pulls before it would actually fire, which ruined the experience for me. The play area was quite small, with re-used sections to add length – definitely too small for 8 people – in my opinion, they should restrict it to 3-5 person teams.
The atmosphere and presentation was fantastic. The scenery, zombies, and “human staff” looked great and played their roles well.
That said, the experience felt very disorganised. We’d booked the first session for the day, yet found queues of people waiting to register upon arriving. Once in, we were constantly bumping into other teams and even had to queue for non-zombie interactions to progress in the game. Training was perfunctory and rushed, and when trying to address the issue of my gun not firing, I was even rushed to the next section to “get us through”.
Technology wise, I was surprised to find the entire experience ran over the internet. During briefing, we were told that the internet at the Melbourne Showgrounds was “shithouse,” so we shouldn’t be disappointed if our scoreboard didn’t appear. Considering the technology involved, you’d think it could easily be run and controlled locally.
All in all, it could have been fun with a working gun, but considering we as a team paid over $1,000 for the 30-40 minute experience, I expected better.
After completing the Zombie Experience, we were ushered to a section where we could take some staged photos (sans-zombie unfortunately), view our team’s scoreboard, and buy some merchandise. Outside the main event, Oz Apocalypse had set up a GLOCK shooting range and makeup station, where you could volunteer to re-enter the game as a zombie – complete with makeup and bloody clothing! In fact, if friends or family had come along to watch, they were encouraged to enter as zombies and provide a more personalised scare as you navigated the facility.
All in all, Oz Apocalypse’s Zombie Experience is a great idea; however, we felt the disorganisation and size were disproportionate to the cost of entry ($130 pp).
The Oz Apocalypse Zombie Experience runs from the 16th of April through to Sunday the 10th of May, so if it sounds like something you’d like to experience yourself (or if you’d just like to be a zombie for a while), head on down to the Melbourne Showgrounds. More information about this and future events can be found at http://www.ozapocalypse.com/