With that in mind we thought we’d have to give it a proper go and see what all the fuss is about, so arranged places on one of their weekend afternoon events.
Organisers ZombieXperience promised us “three hours of shotgun wielding, zombie killing madness” at the former Stanley Tools building off Rutland Road. They didn’t disappoint.
We asked if we could take an action camera to capture our experience. With permission granted we put together the first video of the Sheffield Zombie Experience filmed entirely from the perspective of a ‘survivor’:
The first twist came immediately as the event began surprisingly before it had started. Sounds odd, but even getting out of your car forms part of a full-on experience with no corners cut.
Signs direct you to the car park, strongly advising you not to get out of your vehicle. Moments later huge American-style SWAT cars screech beside you and a mini-army of armour-suited officers surround, shouting and pointing guns.
Ordered out of the car, you are inspected for ‘the virus’ and sent towards more officers at the building to await further instructions.
After signing the inevitable disclaimer, participants (now called ‘survivors’) are given an airsoft gun and safety goggles. The SWAT team gives instructions on how to use your weapon and a limited amount of ammo to start your missions.
Split into small teams, you are quickly given a list of objectives before hoards of the undead decide to spoil the induction party. Run. Seriously. RUN!
Now your team is on its own. You’ve been there less than fifteen minutes, but the scene is definitely set and you are starting to feel jumpy.
The huge abandoned factory site is the ideal location for an event like this, with both large, derelict expanses and smaller confined former offices throughout several floors.
Teams must review their objectives; find vials containing blood research, locate the doctor and get them all together at a water tank that must be found. There’s a real narrative and puzzle element to the games. If you’ve ever wondered what real-life-Resident Evil would be like, this is it.
A number of events are organised each day. We attended the 4pm-7pm outbreak. Despite being one of the sunniest days of the year so far and light seeping through the cracked windows, parts of the site were scarily dark and made all the more scarier by the distant groans of zombies and screams of other survivor groups.
We can only imagine how terrifying the later or overnight events are in near total blackness. Organisers told us that teams can have just one torch between around 7 people. Video gamers will have recalls of the original Silent Hill game, wandering around odd locations with just a little flashlight to guide your way as monsters jump out at you.
Of course most people visiting these scare experiences nowadays are probably more accustomed to the hugely popular series The Walking Dead than old video games, but there was a good mix of ages taking part on our visit so all references are valid!
The zombies, played here by extremely well made up and costumed actors seemingly willing to be shot for their artform, are not necessarily of the slow Night of the Living Dead type. Some are definitely channelling the shocking moment in 28 Days Later where the undead sprint at victims full pelt.
Trust me, when this happens (and it often does) you will panic. When this happens and you realise you’ve run out of ammo then you’ll REALLY panic! Run. Seriously. RUN!
The limited ammo aspect adds an interesting dimension to the experience. You can find extra ammunition during missions, but mostly by searching zombies after you’ve shot them down. Remember, though, these are regenerating zombies so search quickly in case they reawaken.
Blood vials, essential to completing your objectives, can sometimes be found this way too. They are originally scattered in random places, but if the zombies get them first you have no choice but to shoot and search them to advance your progress.
And once you have your vials, keep hold of them. If you are ‘bitten’ and ruled out of the game until your appointed team medic can revive you, then zombies may try and take the vital research from you.
What of that Doctor too? Well, he is wanted by all three teams and also looking for his research, so when you find him don’t expect him to be immediately compliant to following you round for the whole game.
In fact, you’ll find yourself turning round after fighting off a wave of the undead and wondering where the heck he could have disappeared to. Dynamo has nothing on this magician doctor!
Everyone will play differently and the objectives may change from time-to-time, but we certainly found the best way of dealing with it all was to properly work as a team.
If you can find a group of up-for-it people to go and team up with you as an outing, then all the better. It would make an excellent activity pre-drinks for a stag party, birthday event or similar.
Once we had a plan and worked together to complete tasks, it all started falling into place.
Well, until the point where one or two of the team decide to go maverick, or that seemingly super-zombie comes and starts picking you all off one-by-one in cruel stealth fashion.
Then all you can do is run. Seriously. RUN!
I just wanted to finish the article with a note on price. Some may baulk at the cost of £70 for three hours (and some have done when we’ve posted details on the website or on social networks before).
However, it is worth noting that the price includes hire of the weapons and safety equipment, as well as the perfect site, the brilliant organisation and lots of fantastic actors (and I’ll again mention their madness in a willingness to get shot for the cause!).
Most of all, you’re paying for an excellent and unforgettable experience — and who could put a price on that?