RALEIGH — Visitors to a former North Raleigh furniture store can join what’s being dubbed an “indoor war,” featuring military-style weapons and combat missions.
The guns look and feel real, but no bullets fly at Hard Knocks, a “combat entertainment” center that recently opened at Capital Boulevard and Spring Forest Road. The Orlando, Fla.-based business is offering a new twist on laser tag aimed at both kids and corporate events.
Laser tag has been a staple of arcade centers for years, but Hard Knocks goes a step further. Instead of shooting lasers at an opposing team and racking up points in a foggy, dark room, players here are handed one of over 70 objectives. In one, players protect an appointed VIP as the other team aims for an assassination. Another has two opposing teams with a mole infiltrating each side.
Before each 10-minute “mission,” players pick their choice of weapon – from handguns to assault rifles. They only shoot lasers, but they’re as heavy as the real thing and have the same shooting characteristics.
“We try to keep it as realistic as possible,” combat manager Madeline Marshall said.
Marshall, who goes by the name “Mercy” in the game, is among the “regulators” who facilitate each mission. Dressed in Tomb Raider-style black spandex uniforms, the regulators – all of them women – explain the mission and keep things safe during the session.
The concept might seem like it would appeal most to young people seeking to act out their favorite video game scenarios, but that’s only a fraction of Hard Knocks visitors.
Because the games don’t tally individual points, they’ve proven surprisingly popular for corporate outings, group sales manager Lauren Supersano said.
“It’s a true team-building experience,” she said.
The former furniture store has been transformed into three “arenas” to host the games. One is an office that allows players to shoot one another from behind cubicles – Supersano says it’s quite popular with the corporate groups. Another resembles a warehouse, while the third, still under construction, will be split into smaller rooms as a house.
Larger groups can rent out the entire center, opening the doors between the different arenas to play “coliseum style.” The company’s other location even developed a “Hunger Games”-style event to coincide with the movie.
Between games, players can take a break in the cafe area with food, drinks and sports channels. The Raleigh location is the first Hard Knocks outside of Florida, though a Charlotte facility is now in the works.
Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter