Zone Empire is the overall name for a number of linked laser tag franchises spanning much of the world. Ultrazone in the U.S., Darkzone or Zone3 in Australia, Megazone in Europe and the Middle East, also New Zealand, and Asia. In Canada, it's Darkzone, and Laser Shots in South America. In South Africa it's called Zone4.

I'm speaking primarily from my experience with the United States variant, and there mainly the former Ultrazone in Virginia Beach. YMMV, though I suspect that all of them have marked similarities.

Ultrazone is set in a darkened maze, which also utilizes fog machines and black lights to convey a futuristic/post-apocalyptic game setting. There are three teams and, hence, three bases. Each team has a color: red, green, or yellow. The arena also contains a sentinel or two, which is a sensor and set of disco lights which will sound an alarm every few minutes. The alarm sounds for five seconds, during the final three seconds of which the sensor must be shot three times. If this is successfully done, then the sentinel is deactivated, and the player scores 1000 pts. If this is failed, then the sentinel activates, and prudent players will evacuate the area. The sentinel may hit a player up to twelve times, each hit incurring a 500 pt penalty. This is an exception to the normal rule that a pack will deactivate after three hits, saving the player from losing further points until they reactivate. Bases can be attacked once per game per player, and have no automatic defenses. They are worth 2000 pts.

A pack is a poncho-like harness, which one slips over one's head, and fastens beneath the arms. Each pack contains five sensors: each shoulder, chest, back, and gun. Each sensor has blinking LEDs of the player's team color. A chest shot is worth 200 pts, and will deactivate the victim. A back shot is worth 100 pts, and also deactivates the target. Deactivation means the player may neither shoot, nor be shot for the ten second duration of the deactivation. Shoulder shots, and weapon hits are worth fifty points, and only stun the target. Stunning shuts off the victim's weapon for five seconds. Three consecutive stuns within the five second limit deactivate a player. Being shot removes from the player's score half the amount they would earn for shooting somebody else in that location. Truly skilled players going for maximum points like to make a shoulder-shoulder-chest combo.

There are two types of memberships at Ultrazone. One is called Advanced Access and entitles the player to a zone button. A zone button allows a player to log on to a pack before a game begins. This means their name will be printed on the score sheet, and a record of their statistics for games in which they've logged on will be kept on the zone computers. The other type of membership is called Role Player, and role players get all the advantages of Advanced Access, plus they may choose any name for themself, they have a 20% reduction in the duration of stuns/deactivations, shields - cannot be shot or shoot for five seconds, laser missiles - three second duration beam, three "instant reactivations" per game, and during tournament format games, they receive two or three anyplace reloads instead of having to go to a reload station in the arena.

Ultrazone is undoubtedly the best laser tag system that I've played, and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the sport.

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