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Long and Short of the Zombies, Run! Fall Virtual Race

You guys may remember my review from last spring about the Zombies, Run! virtual race.  Well, I've done it again.  They held another one back in October, and I loved the last one so much I signed up for it as soon as it was announced.

Like the spring virtual race, this last one came with some great swag and a bunch of extra content.

So here's everything all together.  That little brown card in the upper left corner are my mission instructions.  And the envelope in the bottom right are my post-race completion prizes.  And how do you like that stamp on the envelope itself?  I wonder what my mail carrier thinks.

Employee ID card.  You'll read about that in a minute.

Racers received an employee ID card (it goes along with the story.  You're infiltrating a high security building as a fake employee), which can be scanned with a QR reader to take you to a special website, which was also designed as part of the story.  I'm not clear on whether or not I was meant to actually log into the website as a fake employee, but I was never able to anyway because I was never able to figure out my fake employee login.  There was also a phone number to call for information about the company you're now “working for”, as well as some emails that provided some background information about the company.  Once again, ZR has created a really comprehensive, immersive experience for the virtual racers.

One of the best things about all the extra content we received was the sinister undercurrent running through everything.  For instance, when you call the phone number to get information about your “new job”, everything sounds pretty good—“We’re so pleased you chose to join our team here” and “You'll have access to a variety of first class amenities as a member of our team”—but then there would be a line that would undercut the happy-clappy teamwork tone—“Your satisfaction level will be monitored closely” and “We’re watching you”.  You're smiling, you're happy, this all sounds so great, and then, “Wait.  What did you just say?”  It's almost chilling how subtle it is, made all the creepier by the fact that the messages are all spoken by a massively intelligent AI unit, not a human being.  That part alone was enough to get the heart racing.

Then there were the training missions.  We got two of them, just as we did with the spring virtual race.  In these missions, you're basically getting ready for your “job”.  The first one required you to break into the company’s manufacturing facility and create your special, state-of-the-art, biometrically coded tee shirt.  Yeah, this company is serious business.  I really liked this one because you had a whole team of people with you.  Usually, ZR missions are just you and maybe one other runner with people telling you what to do in the headset back at your home base.  Not this time.  You're running the mission, breaking into buildings, and running from zoms alongside a few of your Abel Township buddies: Janine, Maxine, and (my favorite and hero) Sam!  Plus, there was a really funny bit at the end where you had to fight off a group of hen-do zoms…heavy machinery was not their friend.

The second training mission was even better, though, possibly because of my circumstances while running it.  So we were doing a 3k fun run outside at work around that time, so I figured why not get my second training mission in then.  In that one, you're basically earning your place at this wacky company by accomplishing tasks (coffee making, basic deliveries, etc.).  Well, during the coffee making trial, while your character is faffing around with the fancy espresso maker, a zombie pops out of nowhere and starts snarling at you.  Here's why that was so great, though.  It sounded so creepy and well done, I actually turned around while running the 3k course to see what lunatic was coming at me.  And when I didn't see anyone, my brain went “Where are they?”  For a minute I was convinced one of our IT guys had come up beside me and was playing a joke on me.  I had to tell my own self it was the game, but even so, the sound was designed to come through the headphones so well that even after I told myself it was just the game, I still had to look to either side of me to remind myself that there wasn't someone growling next to me.  So that was especially exciting.

Then came the race itself, which I waited almost until the last possible day to do.  It was my own fault.  I decided to go to Disney World for the bestie’s 30th birthday and release a new book all inside of a two week period.  The race storyline was a really good ending to this slightly sinister, creepy story we'd already been getting.  It had a really good horror/sci-fi movie vibe about it with people hearing things and a nutzo AI oh-so-politely scolding me for deviating from my assigned job duties and then arguing with itself.  One of my favorite parts was when my two teammates had to start using outrageously bad accents to try and outsmart the AI.  I was laughing out loud on the treadmill while running.  And then there was, at the end, this ultimately creepy thing where something is chasing you, something not quite human?  Something like you, made from your genetic information.  And you never actually find out what it is, just that you cannot let it catch you!  *Whisper voice* And I think it survived the explosion you set off in the building.  What have you done?! *End whisper voice*  Oh!  So frighteningly well done!

So was there anything I would change about it?  Just two things.  Firstly, the employee login page on the extra material website they created.  I never knew if I was supposed to log in or, if I was, how I was meant to do so.  That still kind of sticks with me because I hate missing things, especially in video games.  I'm the person who will talk to every character in a video game, read every special item description, check every nook and cranny just to make sure I didn't miss anything.  So that was a bother.  Secondly, the shirts.  I ordered a small size shirt for the spring race, and it fit but was a wee bit snug, so I decided to order a medium size shirt for the fall race.  This is the medium on me:

Needless to say, I didn't wear it to do the race.  It might become a sleep shirt or something, I don't know.  Even with these two issues, though, I'll still do the next one, no question.  The game itself, Zombies, Run! is so fun with such a compelling storyline, plus it's free to play, I fully recommend it to anyone.

Oh, and how did I do on the actual race?  My goal is always to get under 40 minutes since I never do as well on virtual races because I'm by myself.  I do far better when other people are with me.  Nonetheless, I did pretty well!  38:50, in case you can't read the blurry picture below I took while running.  And I got a medal and a certificate inside of my post-race packet.  Go me!

If you're also a ZR player, let me know.  I'd love to connect with you.  Thanks for reading!

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