Virtually Dead by Bearded Kitten & HTC Vive in Hackney Wick

We we were told to wait under a bridge. A bridge in Hackney Wick. We were anticipating the latest immersive zombie experience to hit London – Virtually Dead. Produced by Bearded Kitten this was a zombie experience with an added dimension… We were also to be testing out HTC Vive’s brand new virtual reality headset!

A military jeep pulled up under the bridge and two soldiers stepped out and lined us up against the wall. Asking if we had done any specific training prior to this, we decided not to mention our recent trip down memory lane playing ‘House of the Dead’ late one night in Shepherds Bush. Someone said, ‘Time Crisis’ and was immediately shot down by the Sarge. These games would be no help to us when faced with the real thing. The reality, however, was these recent arcade trips were actually going to come in very handy…

Once transported to base, we went through basic training and encountered a series of soldiers who gradually revealed bits of the story. We came face to face with the ‘Phoenix’ virus in a very unnerving fashion, and then were eventually led into the main part of the event – testing the HTC Vive.

This was our first true taste of headset virtual reality and it was mind bending. Full 360 degree immersion with the ability to move, look around, crouch and duck and most importantly, blow zombies’ heads off with Desert Eagles, sawn-offs and Uzis. This was really cool gaming and very easy to pick up. We completed the game in record time, although we almost got noshed in the mines.

The small boy inside us was having a whale of a time and could have stayed in that room for another two hours. However, as the test ended we were suddenly aware of a panic in the real world and were rushed into a more thrilling section of the story, to face more undead and eventually discover the reason why we were needed…

Basically this was a glorified video game testing experience. On its own as an immersive zombie experience it probably wouldn’t warrant the price of the ticket, such was the slightly rough and ready nature of the storytelling, the slightly longwinded various intros and the basic arc of our story in the Cultek base. However for immersive theatre fans and zombie aficionados such as the Ginger Wig, put together any of the basic ingredients of scares, blood and guts, gunshots and, of course, audience participation and we will be very happy. Had it not have been for the Ginger Wig barricading several doors we would probably have finished the experience with fewer recruits than we started.

The real credit however, must go to HTC Vive for this impressive new technology. Being born in the 90s and experiencing much of the recent technological developments, it was clear that this was the first step towards a whole new world of technological possibilities. We knew it was coming but we didn’t know how cool and how much fun it would be. At £650 a pop though, you might want to wait for the price reductions.

Highlight of the show – testing the HTC Vive and coming face to face with a test subject in the lab. Our companion said, ‘it was the only time I thought of doing the emergency ‘hands on head get me out of here’ sign. Sadly in the darkness it wouldn’t have made much difference.

WIGS (Bearded Kitten) – 3/5

WIGS (HTC Vive) – 5/5

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