I am standing in a small, dimly lit town square. Red smoke appears – and the zombies start pouring in. Although I consider myself a serious gamer, experiencing virtual reality for the first time in this way is mind-blowing.
This is Virtual Arena, one of the key attractions at Hub Zero, a brand-new entertainment complex in Dubai's City Walk.
The 360-degree play style is a far cry from video-game arcade classic The House of The Dead. Holding a replica gun, I make light work of the first wave of zombies – but I am soon surrounded. Panic sets in. I finish the first level stressed out, with little energy to spare.
At the end of the second stage, with seconds to go, I turn around and a massive, mutated zombie lunges towards me. It is more than what I can handle. I rip off the virtual-reality headset.
Next up is Asura's Wrath, a 4-D cinematic experience based on the video-game franchise of the same name.
Visitors are invited to share their “mantra” with Asura, to help him defeat the demonic Gohma race. The climax is an epic energy battle any anime otaku would appreciate.
Chairs rattle, air blows and, at the very end, water spurts into my face.
The next attraction, Hack Attack, is a 3-D spider-shooting game. It is slightly underwhelming after the Virtual Arena – mostly due to its sluggish controls. However, the platform allows multiple players to compete against each other, which could be fun with the right game.
Driving simulator Hyper Drive, meanwhile, mimics the motions of a real car. This boasts great sound design and competitive play. However, Hub Zero is new and this is a weekday, so I am all alone. I also spend most of the race smashing into walls or flipping over.
I am no more successful at the next game – trying to beat a virtual goalkeeper by kicking a real football. I foolishly ask the operator to set the difficulty to hard – and whether I try to place the ball in the corner or blast it down the middle, the goalkeeper foils me.
The next attraction is a 3-D first-person shooter on wheels, based on the Resident Evil zombie video-game franchise. I sit in the carriage, pick up a gun and move between rooms, firing at digital zombies.
At the end of the ride, I hear a clicking behind me. I look back, and scream – someone dressed as a zombie is sitting behind me, pulling the trigger of their gun. The fact that I have beaten the top score of 65,000 is more of a testament to the lack of guests so far than my own zombie-slaying skills.
Vertical Adventure is adrenaline-junkie territory. It offers challenges such as the Stairway to Heaven – an enormous flight of pillars that must be scaled and jumped off. I am told people tend to freeze at the top.
Unfortunately, I am unable to rally enough people to play the various laser-tag games on offer, but Hub Zero boasts a range of other facilities. In one of its six karaoke rooms, for example, a woman is singing a Nickleback song. The rooms cost Dh40 per hour to hire on weekdays and Dh50 on weekends.
There is also a large networkgaming area, with computers costing Dh10 per hour on weekdays and Dh15 on weekends. Private suites are also available for double these prices.
Pool tables are also available for Dh20 per hour on weekdays or Dh30 on weekends.
Another highlight is the incredibly well-stocked retro- video-game arcade, boasting a well-curated collection of classics including Street Fighter II, Donkey Kong, Ms Pac-Man, Tetris and Space Invaders.
After a quick look around the collection of retro consoles and games available at the shop Cache Point, I head up to The Server – a futuristic diner offering a broad range of healthy and not-so-healthy snacks.
I thoroughly enjoy my gourmet hot dog (Dh40), loaded with caramelised onion, sauerkraut and cheddar cheese. The side of mozzarella sticks (Dh20) also went down a treat – light with a crispy exterior. Hub Zero leaves a lasting impression on me.
I am looking forward to revisiting with friends, once the remaining attractions have opened. Until then, it still offers plenty of fun to while away a long summer day.
• For a full list of attractions and more details, visit www.hubzerodubai.com. Prices range from Dh95 for children’s pass (limited access) to Dh260 for a Hacker’s Pass that grants you unlimited priority to all attractions