Saturday, 24 May 2014

2.8 Hours Later: The Brona Experience

2.8 hours later edinburgh zombie survival sign

"Watch out for the trees," he said. The last piece of advice from a corrupt guard before we were thrust into the Safe Zone. Safe Zone my fucking arse. There were zombies everywhere. 

That's right guys. Zombies. 2.8 Hours of zombies. Let me tell you, I went through an amalgamation of many feelings; fear, exhaustion, short lived exhilaration due to the adrenaline pumping through my veins. But mainly the first two. It. Was. AWESOME. We had ourselves a team of five: Myself, Ben, Kate (Ben's mate) and a wonderful couple we were paired with since our two teams were originally a tad (as Ben says) "eensy-weensy-teensy". Thus a journey of friendship and the undead was born.

If I were to recommend a team size, I'd say five is the best number. Not too big, not too small, as we did get a taster of what it was like being in a bigger group when we were teamed up with another group and it wasn't as good. That said, too few people meant that come later when there was lots of zombies, you'd be buggered. Five was a happy middle ground.

Before all that, however, we queued.

2.8 hours later edinburgh zombie survival queuing
Queuing like bossi (plural of boss).

And queued. And queued a little bit more, just for good measure. Unfortunately the staff were suffering from a technical error regarding scanning tickets which resulted in a rather lengthy delay in getting groups of eager survivors through. Since that's something out-with the organisers' control I shan't begrudge them too much for the hour and half's worth of queuing. Okay, perhaps a little bit of begruding. Dude, an hour and a half. Which leads us to Rhona and Ben's first Tip of the Day:

2.8 hours later edinburgh zombie survival arm band
Aren't I dashing?
Should you find yourself wishing to attend an event much like this one (and why wouldn't you?), we recommend arriving at the venue at least an hour before your designated start time. Queuing is inevitable with this kind of event, so to minimise your time waiting around in the cold and to maximise kicking zombie ass, don't be afraid to look like an eager beaver and straight up arrive well before your start time; it's worth it in the long run.

So, on to the things we liked, of which there was many. Let's start with the story, which I'll keep short to save any surprises:

A zombie outbreak has decimated humanity and you, a group of survivors part of a band of rebels known as Asylum (rebelling against what, I'm not so sure), are tasked with infiltrating the "Safe Zone", a police compound, to retrieve vital water supplies and take it to a rendezvous point for extraction. That's the basic gist of it, but the level of detail that is put into making the situation feel real and believable is amazing.  We were briefed before the mission in the Asylum headquarters (a cleared out office space in an industrial park) and the walls of the command centre were plastered with maps, various strategies for missions, names of allies, enemies, recently infected; all incidental details that you're never directed to and only given the slightest of moments to take in but really add to the feel of the game and serve to get you pumped up and ready for kicking some rotten zombie butt. Yum.

The leader (Ben, of course) was given a map and was in charge of navigating the team through the zombie infested city. There was also a person who had to carry the backpack (which I volunteered for) and they were in charge of obtaining and carrying the water. This person turned out to be the priority of the group as, if they got bitten by a zombie, the water would also become contaminated and the mission would be all for nothing. So I picked well as it meant the rest of my team had to draw zombies away from me as I sprinted from checkpoint to checkpoint.

Having been briefed and warned about the trees we were released into the city. Our first objective was to get into a building, find a ration card (as it would become useful later on in the story), hack a computer (a task which we were only shown very quickly how to do) in order to obtain the co-ordinates for our next location, then get out. This was absolutely terrifying. The building was in near darkness, it was totally silent and we were all on edge. We grabbed a ration card and typed the code into the computer. Moving in an X formation in order to keep me safe, we walked through to the next room and could see light coming in from the door out. That's when we heard it. A growl followed by a blood curdling scream. A zombie, lying in the corner in complete darkness, had spotted us. The X formation now thrown out the window, we all bolted for the door. Imagine five people all trying to get through a single doorway all at once; it's not an easy task. Tumbling out into the cold air, all of us laughed that laugh you do after something terrifying has happened but the initial danger is no longer a threat. The zombie wasn't chasing us, but it was clearly just a taste of what we'd signed ourselves up for. 

2.8 hours later edinburgh zombie survival dark
Pitch darkness for the entire mission. Scarier than
coming across John Travolta naked in an alley
covered in pig fat.
With the co-ordinates for where we next needed to be, we set off. Our journey from that point consisted mainly of walking by trees and therefore we were all incredibly wary; every bush was thoroughly scoured as we went past. As previously mentioned, it was the little added bits that made the experience. There was a point where we stumbled across get another group of zombies, three shufflers and one sprinter, and a survivor was trapped in the centre of the monsters shouting for help, another computer which we had to hack beside him. As the priority member, I hung back with Kate and we clapped to distract the zombies whilst Joe, Ben and Lisa (the other half of said couple) ran on to take care of the situation. Unfortunately the guy was already infected and Lisa ordered us to comply with our original game plan: leave the weak behind. You do not mess with Lisa.

2.8 hours later edinburgh zombie survival group photo
Kate's arm band seems to be signalling the mothership...
I really enjoyed the mission where we had to fill up the water bottle. This was one of the points where queuing was evident and did take me out of the story a wee bit, but as soon as it was our team's turn to go, I was right back in there. The queuing was also a grand opportunity to watch the varying tactics of other teams. As the water carrier I had to sneak past a guard and through a hole in a wire fence, fill up the water bottle and sneak back out without being seen by the guards. Meanwhile, my team mates had to creep round the other side to distract the guards should I get spotted. We went for the subtle approach of slyly slinking by like a bunch of slithering snakes, while there was a group of guys all dressed as Rambo (or the same member of Thin Lizzy, we weren't sure) who went in guns blazing (figuratively; no weapons allowed) to make sure their carrier didn't get caught.

This leads us to Ben and Rhona's second Tip of the Day:

Be wary of lad groups (ie. large numbers of burly, white, anthropomorphic chodes being really loud and obnoxious). There was a surprising number of lads on our night and they're not fun. They're loud and arrogant. If you should spot lad groups in the queue for your event, don't be afraid to hang behind and let them run ahead once you start - you don't want to be stuck behind those guys for the whole night.

2.8 hours later edinburgh zombie survival disco
*insert witty caption here*
If there's one thing to be said about this experience, it's definitely an experience that grows on you with time. Whilst you're maybe halfway through you'll probably think "meh, it's okay I suppose", but on the drive home you won't be able to stop gushing about how great it was, because immediately after those thoughts of "meh", a hoard of zombies will appear from nowhere and you'll shit yourself for the sixth time that night. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is fun. Although there might have been perhaps a bit of a lack of zombies (down to the fact that this is the first time it has been run in Edinburgh and thus volunteers were limited), I thought that they were very smart with what they did with them. They spread them out nicely and had different types of zombies - starting with shufflers, ones that could easily be distracted and ran away from, to get you thinking tactically and warm you up for the sprinters that came later. Around the mid-section there sadly weren't as many infected, we thought it would be nice if they had random zombies shuffling around the city doing zombie things, however since there was a limited number of volunteers, it probably would've been a waste.

2.8 hours later edinburgh zombie survival disco pose photo
These guys were pants-shittingly-scary. Lovely people though.
We then reached the final kind of segment of the story and this nearly destroyed me. The pissing storage containers. I won't ruin it, but holy fuck, man. Before we knew it, we had to start running again - fast walking or a light jog wouldn't cut it, I am talking proper sprinting. It genuinely felt like I was running for my life. Honestly, the acting all round was great, but the people playing the zombies were out of this world - closest you'll get to a Romero movie. It's great how the difficulty slowly escalates as you go along as well. By the final gauntlet (shufflers, sprinters, grabbers. Aaaaall the zombies) there was no way we could be tactical, there simply wasn't the time to stand back and think out a strategy. All we could do was run. 

It was at this point where I took off the bag holding the precious water and turned to my team and said, "Who is the best runner here? Who can take the bag, because I'm going to get caught." It was a solemn moment - I was exhausted and knew that my time would be up soon, there was no way I was making it past that next hurdle of zombies and if I was caught then the water would be tainted and we would have failed. They had to go on without me. However the team rallied, told me how great I had done and that we were going to get through this together (cue inspirational music). So I hoisted the bag containing the precious water back over my shoulders, my lungs still burning, my knees weak, and steeled myself for the final push. That's when we came across this guy:

2.8 hours later edinburgh zombie survival scary make up
Who knew a pair of trousers could house this much fear poop?
It was clear why they had saved this guy for last. The fastest runner, the most terrifying shrieker, the craziest eyes. Of course he was surrounded by other zombies too, this was the final stage; Big Boss Zombie. Our previous mentality of tactical thinking kicked in and the X formation came back into play. Ben, Kate, Lisa and Joe all screaming and shouting and clapping in order to distract the zombies from me, all there was left for me to do was sprint. I could see the check point up ahead, we were so close yet so far. But we made it, finally, we made it!

2.8 hours later zombie edinburgh survival finish photo
"I'd like to thank the Academy..."
We had managed to get through it all, the precious water still intact. We were survivors. However, we did suffer one casualty - poor Lisa, though she fought bravely and valiantly, succumbed to the zombie infection. God bless her soul and may she rest in peace. But one death out of five ain't too bad, right? 

2.8 hours later edinburgh zombie survival survivors number
If only we had saved Lisa that number would be at 500. *twitch*
2.8 hours later edinburgh zombie survival water bottle
His name is Pablo.
I think we did fantastically. I'm particularly proud of myself given how much running there was at the end and how horribly unfit I am. I would highly recommend doing some kind of physical training before going to an event like this, because should I do something like this again, I am definitely hitting the gym a good few months in advance to work on my cardio. I think the pictures display here very accurately how delirious I felt after the strenuous physical endurance that my body was subjected to and I think at this point I genuinely believed that the mission was real and the water was like the apocalypse equivalent of the Holy Grail and we were actually part of a rebel initiative called Asylum. But don't worry, I got some nourishing alcohol in me at the Survivors Disco and that straightened me out. Speaking of which though, the drinks weren't expensive, they were ludicrous. £6 for a cocktail, £4 for a pint and £4 for a Spirit and a dash. I've been to a Festival bar and even by those standards that's steep.

To wrap things up. It was awesome. Queuing and other such bad points aside, I had a really great time and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I have added "volunteering as a zombie" to my bucket list, because talking to the people afterwards at the party just made it seem like the absolutely coolest thing in the world. I also think that, should this event make another appearance in Edinburgh, it'll be a lot better because there should be more zombies, a better layout as the organisers would be more familiar with the land and hopefully no technical errors which would reduce queues.

2.8 hours later edinburgh zombie survival publicity photo
Kate's thoughts in this picture: "Haha, the bitch is dead!"
I'm still waiting for something to come out of the flipping trees.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think I can express in human tongues how glad I am that I didn't agree to sign up for this.