The Undercover Unit: Live-Action Zombie Hunting Game Has Potential
"Move, move, move, move!"
Those were our instructions last weekend. We were ushered into an elevator, trying to get our scientist colleague to a safe place where he could upload a special code to the Internet and circumvent the impending zombie invasion.
The Undercover Unit, headed by mastermind Tony Slade, presents an experience akin to a live action video game. We got a sneak peek at the action Saturday night at The Undercover Unit's temporary digs downtown. So, did we save the world? Hey, we told you we've got your back.
After putting on protective gear -- camouflage vest, goggles, face shield, and helmet -- we got into an elevator with our guide, who explained that we were getting into a dangerous situation and our goal was to help any survivors.
The elevator doors opened into a dark hallway, lit by only a small, blinding blue light. We followed our guide and came upon a survivor who was crying on the floor. A random zombie was walking around clanging some sort of metal weapon, making a lot of noise. The survivor explained that the creature cannot see us if we remain still. As we all press flat against the wall, the zombie gets up close and personal with each of us, but since we don't move, he leaves us alone.
We get the survivor out and into a safe zone, and then there's the first live action "cut scene." The kid explains that some Internet video has been wiping people's minds and turning them into zombies. (Our guess? It's this one.) But that there is one scientist who thinks he can reverse the damage by uploading a code. He tells us where we can find some guns and begs that we bring one back for him. At this point, our guide asks us, the players, if we want to bring the survivor a gun or just keep moving. We decide to help him out, which leads us to our next cut scene.
From here on, not including the cut scenes and one mission, the game pretty much involves walking around and avoiding death by zombie. Which would be fine, save for a few snags.
The lighting is terrible. Obviously it would be hard to make it dark enough to enhance the atmosphere yet light enough to see, but those blinding, one-focal-point blue lights need to go.
The airsoft guns do not work as a weapon. Not only do they not discharge consistently and are awkward to hold and shoot, the zombies don't feel the pellets, so when you shoot a zombie, say, ten times in the face, she just keeps charging at you.
We won't discuss the space, since we were told that the experience would be moved to a bigger space in the future.
As far as zombies go, there is no explaining how they were dressed. These were regular people who watched an online video and had their mind erased -- why are they wearing masks and hazmat suits?
Even with the suspension of disbelief, the story doesn't work. Would it be a scientist that can save the world in this scenario? Wouldn't it be a programmer? Or even cooler, a hacker? And the idea that a viral Internet video could wipe out our minds is a bit much -- and slightly reminiscent of The Ring.
Also, there is too much gear. The face shield and the goggles make it difficult to see; some areas were hot, and our goggles kept fogging up. Plus, since players don't get shot, hit, or attacked for real, there is no need for so much protection. A vest and a helmet would have sufficed. If the goggles are necessary for legal reasons, then the type of goggles needs to be changed. Especially when you have players who wear prescription glasses; one of us had trouble with the way the goggles fit over his specs.
That being said, there were also several aspects of the experience which The Undercover Unit nailed.
The cut scenes were done so well that they seemed like the cut scenes in a video game. The actors in these cut scenes, specifically the owner of a bar and the bartender, hammed it up, and were way over the top, just as they should be.
It's also neat how your choices do have an impact on the game. Our choice to bring a gun back to the survivor, instead of just worrying about our own skins, was rewarded with a huge clue that led us to winning the game.
The idea to create a live action video game is genius on its own, and we're over the moon with the fact that creator Slade decided to set up shop in Miami. As explained to us, these were all trial runs, beta testing if you will, and the game will be tweaked until perfect. As is, it's an entertaining experience -- not yet worth the full ticket price ($82.95), but we have the feeling that with Slade's attention to detail and his passionate and capable staff, locals and tourists alike will be lining up to play in the near future.
The game officially launches May 31. Visit theundercoverunit.com.
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