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Zero Latency

Attractions, Theme parks Mascot
Zero Latency VR arena
Photograph: Supplied/Zero Latency

Time Out says

Escape to a digital realm with the most technologically advanced VR experience in Sydney

Let’s face it: what with a worldwide health emergency, sealed borders and little sign of any light at the end of the tunnel, a diversion from reality might be just what we're all in need of right now. Fortunately, a trip to Sydney’s most technologically advanced virtual reality arena will let you escape to an altogether more exciting universe, if only for an hour or so.

Not that the first digital realm we explore is doing much better than the real world right now – there may not be any viruses to worry about, but a plague of ravenous zombies is still cause for concern. Although we have to admit, slaying a horde of undead foes with a suite of high-powered weapons is way more cathartic than donning a mask and pumping out your umpteenth squirt of hand san.

Zero Latency launched in Melbourne back in 2015 with its first generation of untethered virtual reality rigs. Unlike VR arcades, which require players to stay hooked to a computer via a cable in a space not much bigger than a changing room cubicle, Zero Latency crams everything you’ll need into a mobile backpack, allowing players to roam freely through sprawling virtual domains within an area the size of a warehouse.

The first-generation packs – while still cutting edge tech and the first of their type in the world – were relatively bulky and could leave you feeling weighed down. In the six years since they opened, the company's VR boffins have been hard at work perfecting its innovative systems and refining its games, so that Zero Latency's first Sydney outpost, which opened in December of 2020, now sports the new and improved second-gen backpacks. These are far lighter and more compact, allowing for a freer range of motion and a generally more comfortable experience, along with higher resolution graphics and more responsive gameplay.

A maximum of eight players can band together to fight the aforementioned zombie army, but there are also team games to try. Transported to some distant future, you'll become a robo-assassin, pitting your fighting skills against your mates to see who has the best sneak attack. If you’re a smaller party, Zero Latency’s team members can help bulk up your crew, so every visitor gets their chance to take on plenty of worthy opponents. Each session lasts an hour, in which you’ll get to play your choice of two games. Clever in-game safety measures ensure you’ll never accidentally charge into another player or stumble into a wall, and a Zero Latency games master is on hand to offer hints, tips and general encouragement via your headset as your game progresses.

The level of immersion is jaw-droppingly total; vast worlds are suddenly conjured before you, stretching out to horizons that reach far beyond the confines of Zero Latency's 200-square-meter premises in Mascot. It's an unexpectedly physical activity – who knew you could burn so many cals playing a computer game? Not that you'll mind breaking a sweat as you're sucked into the cut and thrust of the arena's white-knuckle shoot-em-ups. As we battle reanimated corpses and scurry around futuristic buildings, it becomes clear that Zero Latency is charting a new frontier of modern entertainment. International travel may be on indefinite hold, but this technology's power to transport the mind (if not the body) may be the next best thing to stepping on a plane. While it may be the first and only VR arena of its type in Sydney currently, we'd wager it's just a matter of time until virtual experiences like this become the dominant form of recreation.

However, not everyone will be ready for this brave new digital dimension. Because the gameplay is so uncanny, it can be seriously intense at times – we're not ashamed to admit that we screamed. A lot. Adrenaline junkies will love how real these worlds feel and how effectively they hijack the senses – there are moments when even gravity becomes a relative concept – but if you’re easily spooked or have an aversion to simulated violence, this might not be the activity for you. While there are just two games on offer in Sydney currently, both aimed at an adult audience, there are some gentler games for a more family-friendly crowd in the works.

Weekly daytime tickets are the best value at $49 per adult. Weekday evening sessions are priced at $59 and weekend sessions come in at $69.

By: Maxim Boon



Address: 219 O'Riordan Street
Price: $49-$69
Opening hours: Tue-Thu 11am-8pm; Fri 11am-9pm; Sat 9am-10:30pm; Sun 9am-9pm
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