Perfectly presented post-apocalyptic zombie experience
So the world has been ravaged by a zombie apocalypse, and the survivors huddle in abandoned warehouses set up as ‘quarantine zones’, scavenging the city in small groups to find vital supplies like water and food, while running and hiding from the undead hordes. Sound like a plot from a zombie-film? Well, you’d be wrong. It is in fact the premise for 2.8 hours Later, the latest zombie survival game.
The idea is simple but genious. You buy your tickets online, and are emailed the starting location about a month before the game itself. You turn up, and are put into groups of between 6 and 8 others (I came with one other friend so was put in a group with 6 other strangers who all turned out to be lovely). You are given instructions to use your map to find your way to different check points, and at each one hack a computer terminal to find the next location. At one of these checkpoints is an empty “sterile” water container, and at another is a water tank to fill it with. After this you must make your way back to HQ. Sounds easy right? Not when you have zombies hidden round every corner trying to infect you with their virus. Obviously these zombies are actors dressed for the part, and the idea is that if you get touched by one, your hand is stamped with UV pen to show you have been infected. Back at HQ you go through a UV scanner to check if you have the virus, and your hand is stamped with either “SURVIVOR” or “INFECTED” (read on to find out which one I was).
Having heard about this from a friend, I managed to get a ticket for the extra Cardiff date they added due to such high demand, and having had a brilliant evening, I can understand why tickets sold so fast. Everything about the event is executed well. The actors playing the zombies are convincing and at some points genuinely scary. I was told later that they all go to “zombie school” to learn how to walk, and make noises like the living dead and clearly these lessons paid off because they are awesome at it. The locations worked well too – our group found ourselves wandering around an abandoned office building with flickering lights and upturned blood covered tables, walking around Cardiff athletics stadium and sprinting past a field of shuffling creatures, being chased through the underbelly of the Cardiff City Football Stadium and probably scariest of all, through a desolate primary school. Each zombie location is marked out with a small flashing light, which signaled us to be on the look out for zombies. Our team devised a strategy and worked together well – one of us scouting ahead to check the path, and then reporting back to the others and making a plan to tackle each obstacle. We then used what we had been told earlier (the zombies will react to loud noises – stay quiet and run only when you have to) to distract them before running past them to hack each terminal in turn.
You are told in the beginning not to trust anyone you might meet, and this statement is really put to its test. On your way you encounter Riot Police, weird “homeless” people, police officers and strange school teachers. For anyone who has yet to experience this, I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but be careful who you talk to. We found ourselves engaging with a few of them and all edging back as they spoke – scared they might attack at any moment. When we arrived at location it was raining heavily and while this was not exactly the nicest conditions to spend nearly 3 hours walking around in the dark, it sort of added to the atmosphere. It made the whole game seem more tense and more believable, and fair play to the zombie actors who had to stand in the rain for longer than we did and get soaking wet.
The tension and suspense is handled excellently, with some locations having no zombies at all, some only a few and some vast numbers – some walkers and some running zombies. The terminals you hack have a faux computer program running on them and this as well as other touches like empty medical supply crates and quarantine tape added really nice touches to the experience. The dedication of all the volunteers is commendable, with all of them playing their roles to perfection; from the stern and unsmiling wardens at HQ to the zombies to all the other characters you meet along the way. Our group made it back to HQ with only 2 out of 8 having been infected (after their infection players are told to play on as normal so as not to ruin their game), so after this we used them as cannon fodder, to distract the attention of the undead while we dashed past.
Back at HQ you are offered a photo opportunity in your makeup (if you chooses to be zombie-fied), and to buy merchandise; tshirts, hoodies, photos, wristbands etc, which are are fairly reasonably priced before you enter the “zombie disco”. This took place in a large warehouse building with a dj, a bar and zombie arcade games projected on one wall. The only dissapointment of the night was here. It was less of a zombie disco, and more of people sat down drinking their pints and chatting. Of course there is nothing wrong with this, and after nearly 3 hours of evading infection I was glad to sit down and chat – but I feel like sadly there was little atmosphere in the disco, with no one dancing. This however is the only real fault I can find with the whole experience. Other than that it was excellent from start to finish – well structured, well acted and well delivered. I can understand why their games have become so popular over the last few years, and I will defnitely return – maybe i’ll volunteer as a zombie next time so I can be the one scaring the paying public!
2.8 Hours Later: Infection still has tickets available for other locations, including Glasgow, London and Edinburgh. They are available at 2.8hourslater.com – get them quick!