Editor’s Note: The following is a review of The Walking Dead Escape interactive experience at San Diego Comic-Con 2013 from our event correspondent Joshua Butler.
When the hallowed halls of Comic-Con fill up, the dead will walk again. What am I talking about you ask, why The Walking Dead Escape of course. For two years running Petco Park has played home to an obstacle course that tests full body fitness and more importantly, the ability to outwit a zombie. Whether you’re a zombie aficionado who has always wanted to test their zombie skills in real life or you enjoy the endurance of an obstacle course the Walking Dead Escape has something for everyone.
Following tradition, three groups of people participated in this year’s Zombie Apocalypse. The first group, the “spectators” who watch and cheer on either the survivors running for their lives or the zombies shambling for their next meal. Next you have the “survivors” who can live out their fantasy of trying to survive a beautiful recreation of a zombie nightmare. And finally you have, in my opinion, the bravest option which is to be a Zombie “walker” or a VIP “undead hero”. I say bravest as it takes both a commitment to offer your undead life to the zombie masses and a hefty investment. The zombie walker package, priced at $80, earns you a professional makeup session, makeup kit for after the event, training in the ways of a zombie and 2.5 hours to terrorize survivors. The $149 undead VIP package included all that and extra training in eating brains, looking the part and the option to shamble all day inside the 5 levels of Petco Park devoted to the Apocalypse. A spectator can get by for as little as $15. This year I decided I was going to partake in the event even though it was not in my original budget for the CON. Luckily I found Zombie Walk volunteers who snagged me a discounted price and I became a survivor.
When I arrive at the park I can tell the zombies are winning for there are walkers outside already taking swipes at the spectators who think they are safe in the spectator zone. When I finally make it to the survivors check-in station I must sign a waiver stating the usual disclaimers including having us not fight back, and just accept the inevitable. After my paper work is completed and processed I began my slow trek into what would become a race for my very life.
As I progress through the line and into the park both excitement and fear began to engulf me. To start, 100 or so survivors, including myself, are lead to the gates of the arena. Above me I hear others screaming and yelling as they succumb to the zombies. Slowly the gates finally open and we are ushered into an evac site set up by the military. To my left and right men and women in uniforms are blasting orders in megaphones telling us that we are being relocated to a new town for our safety, or so we think. As the evac unit opens we start walking, but it is already too late. Zombies are in the safety zone and begin chasing those unfortunate enough to be at the very front of the gates. On my immediate left I spot a staircase with signs pointing to the roof and so I do what any sane person would do, I book it. As I begin climbing floors I see the bloodstained signs of those who came before me warning others of what is to come. As I reach the first floor I see her, a prom queen of the undead waiting to devour her next prom king. I freeze in terror and had it not been for the support of my other survivors I may have not found the courage to blaze past her and the other walkers before me.
Floor after floor, walker after walker, I continue my way up the baseball stadium from Hell. I see zombies from every walk of undead life. I arrive at the 3rd floor and one particular nasty zombie in a bathrobe decides that I am about to be on the menu but I have other plans. Using my amazing ninja like reflexes I manage to trip not once, not twice but three times in a row to avoid him and almost destroy my knees in the process. When we near the top we are greeted with cups of water and a brief escalator ride to what we believe will be a rooftop extract. What we don’t expect and soon learn is that this is where the thrills kick into high gear.
What I now encounter is not salvation, but the trip back down, at a more intense level than I encountered going up. On one level, I find myself making my way through a hospital wing not unlike the one featured on The Walking Dead, which this event takes its name from. I also manage to find myself running into a gladiatorial arena that features some unlucky survivors going one on one with a walker or two, battling for their very life. Finally, I reach the ground floor knowing that what little strength I have left will be required to prove I am a real survivor.
On the ground floor I find myself climbing over and through A-Frames and metal fences, vaulting over Jersey barriers and FEMA supply crates, one of which housed a very hungry walker. I reach what I call my favorite part of the course called “Herd Highway”. I say it’s my favorite because this special stretch of Hell has me running over and sliding across cars in a style reserved only for action stars. As I round the corner at the end of the street I see it “dead” ahead, the exit zone.
With safety in sight I bolt, I climb under metal crawl spaces and vault over metal fences. I weave in and out of shipping containers and concrete blocks. I even high five what looks like a dead prom king looking for his mate on my way to the safety of FEMA, the quarantine zone and the exit. So here I stand, a survivor of the walking dead. So if next year you find your find yourself at Con and you’d like a break from standing in line hour on end for a panel, or standing in line to buy that special Con exclusive item or making your way around the convention floor at a snail’s pace I highly recommend you check out next year’s Walking Dead Escape. And if you do….look for me, I’ll be that survivor scrambling for his life.