In hindsight it probably wasn’t the best idea to binge watch the entire Black Mirror box set ahead of making a leap into the world of virtual reality for the very first time.
Expectations, heavily rooted in Charlie Brooker’s dystopian future, included a life-like monster or robot potentially scaring the group to death and the chance of some cyber space romance.
On top of that, the questions ‘Would it freak me out?’, ‘Would it be too realistic?’, ‘Would I lose my mind?’ were amongst the list of concerns battling it out as the team trotted up to the Zero Latency free-roaming VR warehouse, tucked away at the far side of intu Victoria Centre on the first floor.
Of course, by the time we were suited, booted and briefed it became crystal clear the only concern of ours should have been the extent of our wild imaginations.
But first things first… on arrival at headquarters it’s time to fill in the team sheets for Sol Raiders. Gaming handles are actively encouraged with the only rule being to keep it clean. Then it’s time for the fun bit. Entering the antechamber gamers unhook their equipment. On go the backpacks, headphones and goggles making everyone feel like a badass Ghostbuster.
Gamers are handed a gun and after a briefing video and chat it’s time to step into the arena.
Having already picked teams ‘PE-style’ the competition is firmly on. This is the world’s first ever player v player free-roaming virtual reality game and although there are objectives the main point is to kill each other… as many times as possible.
And oh my, that is fun.
The first level is a bonus practice one, set in a Star Wars canteen-style bar. An extra-terrestrial-looking space slug props up a stool in the red-lit room while teams (now separated) have some target practise. It’s like no arcade game you’ve ever played and its fully immersive nature brings everyone’s competitiveness to the fore.
After a few rounds it’s time to start shooting each other. There are very few rules, don’t touch walls or you die, don’t get too close to each other or you’ll fall over, shoot to open doors and if you do die step into the blue light to be resurrected.
Each level is three minutes long and extremely fast-paced, individuals can die and recharge into the double figures. Dashing through spacecraft corridors you find yourself stepping over doorways and steadying yourself going down ramps when you know full well the warehouse is as flat as a pancake.
Shooting your pals is as much fun as it sounds, you can even step over their lifeless bodies once you’ve had a successful hit, although everyone looks like a robot so it’s not too gruesome. Our team got particularly raucous, giving each other virtual high fives and celebrating between levels like World Cup heroes.
Communication is the key here. As soon as the goggles are down and the game is on team mates can only hear each other and to be frank, ganging up on stray competitors is the best way to up your kill count.
From signing in to finish, the game lasts 45 minutes but that only includes nine minutes of actual game play, although judging by the sweat we worked up running around, crouching and shooting by the end, it was probably enough.
In saying that, we had such a hoot we will definitely back to try out one of the other games on offer at the attraction. Let’s just hope the zombie one isn’t too realistic.