For members of the current gaming generation, the closest to ‘Call of Duty’ that most of us will ever get involves going paintballing.
So after endless nights of honing our combat skills as console warriors, that’s exactly what me and a group of friends signed up to do at the suitably-named Delta Force.
None of us were really up for rolling around in the mud on a cold, wet afternoon, but after a conference call led to arguments over who was the best at first-person shoot-em-ups, suddenly everyone was fired up and ready to literally give it their best shot.
Delta Force has 33 venues nationwide, and its Upminster facility in east London is regarded as one of the best, offering seven game zones which boast a jet aeroplane, four double-decker buses, armoured vehicles, forts and ‘jungle’ environments.
Established in Surrey 20 years ago, the company hosts 500,000 players annually and employs over 1,000 staff to make sure your day out is fun but safe.
Celebrities who have enjoyed the Delta Force and are pictured in its hall of fame include Lewis Hamilton, John Terry, Usain Bolt and Gordon Ramsey.
The day started early as we had to be on site by 7am in order to get kitted up briefed for the day ahead.
Upon arrival, we were issued with jump suits and helmets as part of our protective gear. Underneath my jump suit, I’d taken matters into my own hands and came wearing extra padding to reduce the pain of being shot.
Safety is taken seriously and the briefing to took almost half an hour, and then it was time to enter the field.
The marshals’s are very big on safety, once you exit the ‘safe zone’ to pick up your gun, your protective helmet can’t come off until you return your gun and re-enter the safe zone.
Not even when you have been shot and are out of the game – if you are found to have removed or lifted your helmet you will find it quickly slammed down over your face by a marshal and you are then on a final warning before you have to be removed.
All safety equipment is included in the adult entry price of £9.99, and the only thing you pay extra for are your paintballs.
These always seem to run out, no matter how many you buy, and the more you purchase the more you have to carry with you on the battlefield with the risk of losing them.
To avoid disappointment, at the beginning of every battle, I bought 100 for £7.99.
After picking up our guns, we had the option of getting our eye in on the shooting range, but as experienced Call of Duty players, we decided to save our bullets for when it really mattered.
The first zone was called ‘Jet Hijack’, and as the attacking team we had to storm an aircraft and free hostages from the ‘terrorists’ holding them captive.
Staying low and getting close to the plane was key, but because it was in the centre of a open field, its defenders had a clean shot at us.
“Shooting someone especially when it’s a friend is a great feeling and gives you plenty to boast about afterwards”
That’s where our gaming experience kicked in, and half of us acted as bait to draw their fire while the rest of the team played the role of assassins taking out the enemy one by one until the hostages were in safe hands.
Ambushing the plane to save the hostages meant I got shot and was out until the next time, and being shot by a paintball is one of the most painful things I have experienced.
Although I was wearing a protective mask, I was some how shot on my lip through the mask and had to raise my hand (surrender) to alert everyone that I had been hit and was out.
Once you surrender, people aren’ t meant to shoot you but some of the opposition see it as the perfect opportunity to test their long-range shooting and hit you for fun.
Being hit in the face is pretty painful, but most people tell me that being shot on your hand is the worst place to be hit because of the lack of fat.
In comparison, shooting someone especially when it’s a friend is a great feeling and gives you plenty to boast about afterwards.
Each game has its own objectives for the defending and attacking teams, and each team faces obstacles in trying to achieve their objectives, but ‘Jet Hijack’ was my personal favourite.
Six battles and countless hits, misses and minor bruises later, the day had ended and out of the 10 teams taking part we finished a respectable fourth.
Playing against experienced players and older groups of lads showed us that we need to play Call of Duty a lot more often to be able to mix it with the hardcore paintballers.
We were up against groups of friends who take paintballing very serious to the point where they bring their own guns, grenades and armour.
Recreating real-life combat situations is clearly very different, and a lot more demanding, than sitting on your sofa in front of the TV screen.
But I would recommend paintballing to everyone – the thrill of shooting your first round is like no other.
To find out where you can experience paintballing at Delta Force, visit their website.