** This review is of a preview show with the actual event due to open in March. We were invited to come along and check it out but, as it was a preview, be aware that changes may be made to the event by the time it opens **
Upon arriving at the location, a friendly member of staff greeted us and noted that we were a bit early. This tends to be a habit of ours – travelling by public transport, we tend to end up at places stupidly early through fear of delays! He personally walked us over to the canteen so we could grab a drink whilst we waited for our time slot. As we made our way over, he asked us whether we’d been to the previous zombie event here. At this point I realised where I’d heard of the venue before – it was one of the locations that hosted ‘The Walking Dead – Apocalypse’. Being honest, I was filled with dread all of a sudden – we’d attended the Derby event and really didn’t enjoy it (review here). Even though I wouldn’t have mentioned it, he already led into how that event wasn’t too successful, being a bit too short. This was something that we mentioned in our review. He went on to tell us that for ‘Nakarian Contagion’ the organisers had taken the time to ensure that the event lasts a full hour. I secretly breathed a sigh of relief!
Soon enough, we were in the queue line where we were very thoroughly scanned for potential zombie infection. Luckily, our results came back clean although one of us was later called in for a blood test and vaccination – just as an extra precaution! Already something stood out to us here, they somehow made queuing part of the event! It was amusing watching some of the actors carry out scenes on their own as we waited to proceed into the main event.
After two introductory videos, we were issued with our guns. Handy tip – pay attention to these videos and, more generally, everything from the moment you join the queue – you may need this info during the course of the game! Guns in hand, we teamed up with two others and headed into the infected zone.
The main thing that hit us when entering the location was the scale and theming of the venue. It’s basically an entire mini-town, albeit one that’s seen better days! Amongst all the buildings are burnt out cars and other debris; it was very easy to believe that we were sweeping through a zombie-infested, war-torn town.
As well as fending off the zombies, there were also human enemies who proved to be way more deadly – I lost count of the number of times I got shot! And the brilliant thing about these guys was that, unlike the zombies, they were crafty. In a real-life situation, they would have killed me before I even realised that they were there!
And it wasn’t all just mindless shooting for an hour either. There was a mission to undertake as we were scurrying from place to place; we were trying to locate all the components of a potential cure for the zombie virus. There are a few videos spotted about and, again, it’s worth paying close attention to what’s being said on them! Same to be said for the friendly human characters that we came across – what we thought was great was that they really pushed for interaction with these characters. It wasn’t a case of going up to them and asking for ‘X’, you had to really engage with them to get what you needed.
The best thing about this event was the attention to detail. Not just in a theming sense but with the queue-line infection screening etc., the immersion started from the moment we entered the building. A lot of thought and care had gone into the full experience – there was even a little extra bit right at the very end after we’d handed the guns back in!
This translated well in the game; it was incredibly immersive to be hiding behind a real car in the middle of the set rather than something that was made to look like a car. This also led to a great moment where it transpired that there was actually a zombie hiding in one of the cars. This provided a shock when it suddenly, unannounced, reached through the window!
There was also a brilliant moment where we crossed paths with another team. A shootout ensued until we realised they were other players and called a ceasefire! We hope this was a deliberate scene as it was a really fun juncture!
The one thing that we really noticed was that the ending felt like a massive missed opportunity. There was some built-in tension to the final moments of the game as we had to wait in one of the streets to be rescued. We were attacked as we were holding but it felt like there should have been more zombies in this scene to really add to the pressure of waiting for help to arrive.
Somewhat connected to this was that whilst each building gave us something to do, there was never anything that required all four people. There were a few occasions where one of us would simply be covering the door even though nothing ever appeared. If every building had at least one threat attacking, it would’ve increased the stress of trying to complete the current task.
Finally, as well as being equipped with guns, we were also made to wear a headband that would register when we were attacked. This element of the attraction needs development as there were zero consequences to this feature. Receiving hits had no impact on the game and there was no scoreboard at the end either. It meant that the presence of these bands didn’t offer anything beyond demonstrating that someone was attacking you. We would have liked to have seen them incorporated into the game in a more meaningful way.
Nakarian Contagion (2016)
This was night and day from ‘The Walking Dead – Apocalypse’. If the idea of being thrown into the middle of a war-ravaged town overrun with zombies appeals, you’ll have a great time! And, if you’re on the more nervy end of the scale, we reckon you might get on okay with it, the guns definitely empower you and add an element of fun to the scares! Best way to sum up the experience is to say that it was 'Call of Duty: Zombies' but for real!
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