An interactive zombie-killing experience at Knott's Halloween Haunt will arm visitors with simulated military-style rifles and send them on a mission to save the world from an undead apocalypse.
The new Special Ops: Infected zombie apocalypse attraction will take over six acres of the Buena Park theme park's Camp Snoopy kiddie land during this year's Knott's Scary Farm event.
Included in the cost of Haunt admission, Special Ops: Infected is expected to be wildly popular and draw massive crowds. The first mission of many Haunt visitors will be to head directly to a command post set up in Camp Snoopy to secure a reservation time for the interactive attraction.
Fewer than half of those in attendance on any given night are expected to be able to take part in the 15-minute experience. A stand-by queue will fill empty spots in each 12-member squadron.
The teams will depart from two outposts on distinctly different commando operations. Each squadron will be guided by a pair of commanders that will lead the volunteer mercenaries into an infected zone swarming with up to 135 live-action zombies. The mission: Rack up as many kills as possible.
Once inside the kill zone, enlistees will be tasked with completing a series of objectives with operation code names like Bulldoze, Derail and Tunnel Rat. Up to six squadrons will be in Camp Snoopy at any one time, hunting for zombies hiding inside buildings, under bridges and behind fences.
A small band of militia members that are more anti-government than pro-zombie will confront each squadron at some point during the mission. A mad scientist who knows what caused the zombie apocalypse and how to stop the outbreak also factors into the scenario.
Based on a M4 carbine, the custom-made infrared laser weapon carried by each recruit will be similar to the mock guns used by military and police training academies. Rifle-mounted LCD screens will record every player's kills, accuracy and points. Armed with unlimited ammo, each player will score kills by shooting zombies in the head and get "bitten" every time a zombie comes within a 10-foot radius.
At the conclusion of every mission, winners will be declared "war heroes" and losers branded "infected." Top scores will be displayed on monitors throughout the theme park.
Inspired by movies like "World War Z," television shows such as "The Walking Dead" and video games like "Resident Evil," the Special Ops: Infected attraction is a high-risk/high-reward gamble for Knott's.
Family theme parks generally don’t distribute toy guns for zombie hunts in their kiddie lands. It’s impossible to imagine Disneyland letting visitors run wild through Fantasyland hunting zombie dwarfs with fake AK-47s.
But Haunt is clearly a PG-13 Halloween event and Knott's is engaged in a bloody battle for Southern California horror supremacy with Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights. At the same time, Knott's has a long history of guns and gunplay in the park — from the masked bandits that rob the Ghost Town & Calico Railroad train on a daily basis to the knife and gun shop that has operated in Ghost Town for more than half a century.
Knott's is not the first theme park to offer a laser tag-like zombie-killing attraction. Universal Studios Japan introduced BioHazard: The Real in 2012, which was based on the Resident Evil survival horror video game series and film franchise (known as Biohazard in Japan). Independent haunted houses and fun zones in Texas, New York, Illinois and Wisconsin have also offered similar kill-em-all zombie apocalypse experiences.
Special Ops: Infected is the brainchild of Jon Cooke, who runs the Knott's Scary Farm props department and started working at the park 10 years ago as a Haunt monster. Cooke, a horror aficionado who sings in a death-metal band under the stage name Johnny Plague, convinced Knott's to take a chance on the first-person shooter attraction after creating his own Zombie Killhouse in Bellflower in 2012.