WHITE ROCK — It's dark. You're a soldier on a military base.
You receive word that a large group of enemy forces has attacked various points on the base's perimeter.
A crackled transmission alerts you that the "opposition appears to have some kind of advanced body armour, making them impervious to most of our weapons."
You look down, and you're covered in red ooze. Is it blood, or is it paint? No, you're not playing a video game. You must be at the Zombie Combat Zone in White Rock, a live-action paintball scenario game, set up on roughly two-and-a-half acres in Semiahmoo Park. It's all meant to be as close to a real-life undead uprising as possible, said organizer Ron McCall.
"You can't do this anywhere else. It's like live video games, that's basically what we're trying to do," he said. "Sort of the idea is to combine what we've been doing in film with a live-action first-person shooter environment. It's very much like Call of Duty or games like that. It's just now you can get off your couch and actually go do it."
And organizers have spared no expense, forking out $65,000 to set up this year's battle zone.
Last year, the operation took place at Panther Paintball in Surrey. "We had it in a forest last year and it was tough to get through," McCall said.
This year's location in White Rock is a "flat canvas," allowing organizers to build exactly what they wanted, he said.
For 2013, the theme is "cyber zombies," done up with body armour.
"We always seem to keep coming back to the scientist thing for some reason," McCall said. "But this year it's more of a cyber zombie approach. One of the scientists at the base is trying to find a way to control them using the soldiers, and as we go through the base, we discover that the scientist has left a virus that can counteract the control of the zombies in three stages throughout the game."
Those soldiers doing the shooting undergo a crash-course boot camp, including a briefing on the "mission" in a U.S. military tent and weapons training before they hit the course, armed only with paintball guns and headlamps.
Along the course, participants pass real military vehicles and go through a variety of tents where they receive more electronic transmissions. The 45-minute experience includes half an hour of action on the field.
And this year, it's all about the firing.
"This year is kind of a reversal from what we did last year," McCall said. "We're going more for a combative scenario. There are some scares in the game but it's a lot more of a firefight this year than it was last year."
Last year, organizers heard that participants wanted more braineaters and more shooting.
"So that's what we gave them," McCall said, adding that there are 21 "live" zombies on the course. "And since the opening weekend, we've probably shot 100,000 rounds, at least."
The back end of the course - the finale scene - is where the most ammo ends up, he said.
"You can't step anywhere back there without squishing a paintball."
When asked where the idea for the business came from, McCall said it evolved naturally, seeing as he's worked in the movie industry for years. He's worked behind the scenes in horror movies such as Hellraiser and Halloween and, more recently, he worked on the TV show True Justice, starring Steven Seagal.
While working on True Justice, he and the show's stunt co-ordinator teamed up against the rest of the crew in a paintball showdown.
"We held them off for about half an hour," McCall said. "Then it got boring, so I turned on him."
A year and a half later, the paintball idea came up and he just thought it made sense.
"Being an idiot and being ignorant of the whole situation, I just went ahead and did it," he said with a grin. "That's how it was born."
McCall said it was intended to be a hobby, but after getting an incredible response, they just kept going.
And they don't intend to stop. "Eventually, it was, 'If we can do it with this, why can't we do it with other scenarios?'" McCall said his ultimate goal is to do an Alien scenario, complete with a crash landing in a Navy simulator ride and Facehuggers launched by air cannons.
And while there aren't as many "scares" in this year's course, the zombies are still out in full force.
"They get pretty close," McCall said. "It's pretty full contact."
The combat zone will run until the end of November and is offered for groups of up to 12 people for a flat rate of $666. October is sold out, but bookings are available in November, via www.zombiecombatzone. com for more information.
© Copyright 2013