Last week I was down in Melbourne and played the future of virtual reality. Zero Latency is an extraordinary experience: A fully immersive zombie shooter where you walk through the experience. Let me explain.
The game takes place in a warehouse in North Melbourne. You put on a virtual reality headset (Oculus Rift DK2 as it happens) connected to a computer you wear in a backpack. Headphones complete what would in normal circumstances be a ridiculous look; but it doesn’t matter because you can’t see yourself, or your companions, or the warehouse. As you don the headset you enter a different world, a world where your 13-year-old son has just morphed into a mid-20’s bruiser. A dystopian world where flames burn in a deserted street. A world filled with zombies. Luckily you have a weapon, a specially designed gun that can turn from sub-machine gun to shotgun and take the zombies out.
Clever scripting means that for the next hour you are taken from one end of the warehouse and back again repeatedly, but it feels like you are moving through a variety of different environments. At one level this is all familiar to anyone who has played a first person shooter. The big difference is the very real feeling that you are actually there. And it is astonishing how real it all feels. There are several points when you move floors on a lift. Now in the real world you’re still standing on the plain old warehouse floor, but I swear you feel the lift move. At another point you cross a thin bridge between buildings and there is an absolute sense of vertigo. It appears that once your eyes and ears are tricked, your brain will fill in the gaps.
Then there are the zombies. Again once you are immersed in the game, the zombies coming for you and your team-mates feel all to scarily real. And when your gun needs re-loading there’s a visceral sense of fear. The feeling of holding a gun, having five real people around you, having weight on your shoulders, takes you to a completely different place that a normal computer game.
It’s not perfect. The graphics levels could be better and there are some poor interface choices made by the designers – why on Earth put the countdown timer in the middle of the field of vision? But there’s no question in my mind that this is the future of entertainment. Whether it’s zombie shooters, the ultimate in escape rooms, or a school excursion to a jungle, this is the way things will work in the future.
All in all this is the most fun to be had in a virtual world, and a fantastic way to spend some time in the real world. Zero Latency is only in Melbourne at the moment, it costs $88 for about an hour of play.