Laser skirmish, once the domain of the stereotypical nerd and pastime of the geek, is something that is an essential piece of the lifestyle puzzle for many Atomicans. While it doesn't have the same level of physicality that paintball might, it has an excitement all of its own - so when a new Strike Laser Skirmish opened up in Sydney, we had to give it a shot.
Located relatively centrally in the Sydney Showground, this particular laser skirmish arena is uniquely themed to offer a theatrical, if sometimes whimsical, experience. The year is 2050, and you play the role of a crack soldier who fights in the Battle for Sydney: a war which is fought over access to drinking water. Drought isn't usually good enough cause for futuristic gun battles, but it's a good enough excuse as any to suit up and have some fun.
As you enter the darkened and UV-lit briefing room, a short video begins that explains all these little details, as well as explaining the functionality and lethality of your RT-306 Assault Rifle. In reality all the rifles shoot are harmless infrared beams, but we'll suspend our disbelief for now and see them as the deadly beams of death that they really are - with two distinct firing modes available. Phasor is billed as a narrow-beam sniping mode, but ultimately proved to be simply too difficult to aim well enough (unless you've got steady surgeon hands, then it'll work out fine for you). The Blaster is our favourite of the two, a shotgun-esque mode that blasts in a roughly 10cm radius to inflict a decent amount of damage, at the cost of an ammo meter that has to recharge before firing can resume.
The rifle also has a built-in LCD screen, displaying your soldier's name (remember, you're not you while inside the confines of the building) as well as the points racked up and the remaining shield strength. It takes roughly three shots - that register on your torso, back, shoulders and gun - to take you down, with a painfully long ten second recharge time for your shield to recharge fully, during which you're unable to shoot. Points are given for each successful shot you make on an opposing player, and the system tracks each player with the winner displayed for all to see once the round ends.
After strapping on the relatively light vest, and gripping your comfortably weighty rifle, you're plunged into the laser arena. We first gave free-for-all a go, and as its name suggests it was about as delicate and precise as a blue whale giving a high-five to a baby seal. A total of ten soldiers entered the arena of a possible 24, though it was never too long before you found someone to shoot - or were shot yourself. However, this isn't your standard boring arena. Read on for more...