Hard Knocks Orlando Review With Lots of Pricing Info and Photos
Hard Knocks is a "laser tag" arena that's been around in the Orlando area for quite a few years now. It's not what you're thinking, if what you're thinking is a cheap 80's style experience. It's way more advanced than that.
We've visited Hard Knocks a few times now, both for birthday parties or other events as well as just for fun, too. We last visited Hard Knocks Orlando for Father's Day, 2017. Here are a few thoughts and our review of Hard Knocks Pointe Orlando.
Review updated June 18, 2017 (Father's Day)
This is an unpaid review of the Hard Knocks Orlando indoor combat and entertainment complex. No compensation was provided to me for this review. The opinions in this review are 100% genuine and 100% mine.
Where is Hard Knocks located?
As of this review, Hard Knocks has seven (7) locations open along with two (2) "coming soon" locations in San Antonio, TX and Milwaukee, WI. Here's a map showing all of their current locations.
This review of Hard Knocks is of their "flag ship" location at Pointe Orlando.
What is Hard Knocks Orlando (aka Indoorwar.com)?
Orlando is full of entertainment options. Naturally, most think about the theme parks we have here. But there's a lot to do in Orlando outside of our theme parks as well.
Visitors and residents of Orlando have a lot of entertainment options to choose from, and indoor laser tag is one of those options.
The term "indoor laser tag" is a bit generic, though. When I hear that term I think of laser tag from the 90's that was a little less than spectacular, and not very accurate.
Hard Knocks describes themselves as more than just laser tag. From the Hard Knocks Orlando website:
“We are the nation's first indoor combat simulation arenas open for entertainment, law enforcement training and corporate team building. Featuring 30,000 square feet of urban-themed combat area and Florida's largest, most advanced Gaming Lounge. Our customers execute missions that challenge them to defuse bombs, rescue hostages, protect VIPs and eradicate the enemy.”
Indoor combat simulation is the term they use. I'd say that's not a bad way of putting it. It's definitely not the same laser tag that I remember from back in the day. It's closer to a real-life first person shooter experience.
Be honest: is Hard Knocks expensive?
For individuals, Hard Knocks Orlando pricing structure is based on an annual membership fee (usually around $6), plus purchasing a set number of missions - usually either in increments of 3 or 4.
With the closing of the Ovideo Hard Knocks location, they no longer seem to offer gaming time at the Pointe Orlando location.
Prices likely vary by location, so you should give them a call before you go.
Hard Knocks Laser Tag Mission Pricing & Discounts
Pricing at the Pointe Orlando Hard Knocks location now seems to depend upon the type of mission you purchase.
You have two mission type options:
- Standard Missions
- Upgraded Missions
It's not 100% clear as to all the differences, but they seem to be related to the types of weapons you have access to at the different levels. I found this post about upgraded weapons.
We'll talk more about our experience with the weapons a bit later in this post.
Hard Knocks Often Offers Discounts
If you're not excited about paying full price, Hard Knocks offers discounts on many holidays.
Regular pricing options weren't explained very well to us. We ended up purchasing a Father's Day Special that required me to purchase one membership ($5.99) and one "upgraded missions" bundle of 6 missions for a total of $45.77 with tax.
The Father's Day special was that I was able to play for free, otherwise I assume the price would have been double or $91.54 for my son and I to play 6 missions each. A family of four would cost $183.08 to play 6 missions together. That's pretty pricey in my book.
Hard Knocks also offers discounts for members of the military at most (if not all) locations as well.
Hard Knocks Pricing Table - Pointe Orlando
|Mission QTY||Standard Missions||Upgraded Missions||Visitor Bundle|
Thoughts on Hard Knocks Pointe Orlando
As mentioned, my oldest (14 y/o) son and I decided return to Hard Knocks this year for Father's Day. We visited the Pointe Orlando location at around 1:30pm that day.
Below are our thoughts on the experience we had at Hard Knocks Pointe Orlando.
Hard Knocks - Pointe Orlando Parking Experience
Inevitably, your first impression of Hard Knocks at Pointe Orlando will begin before you've even set foot into the gaming location.
We parked at the Pointe Orlando parking garage, as most visitors of the entertainment complex do. It was fairly busy, so it took us a few minutes to find a parking place.
I know it's not the fault of Hard Knocks, but the parking situation is really quite confusing and inefficient. Comparing it to the experience you have at Disney Springs, it was quite frustrating. Here are a few reasons why the parking sucks at Pointe Orlando:
- Unlike Disney Springs, the parking garage doesn't show how many open spots are available per floor. You have to guess.
- Parking spots are very narrow at Pointe Orlando. We have a Honda Accord and it was a pretty tight fit. Large SUV's barely fit into the spots in the garage.
- You have to pay for parking. This is not the case at Disney Springs, nor do you have to pay for parking at CityWalk after 6pm.
- When you enter the garage, you take a ticket. Be sure to bring it with you because you have to pay at a kiosk before returning to your car. Take note of the kiosk locations, because they are not easy to find.
Again, I know all of the above points aren't under the direct control of Hard Knocks, but they really should push Pointe Orlando have some of these items examined and fixed. It was a bad first impression, for sure.
Hard Knocks - First Impressions at the Front Desk
We came in the front door of the Hard Knocks location and were greeted at a busy front desk. There were people trying to figure out what they needed to purchase, others registering and signing the waivers on computer terminals off to the side.
I'm sure part of the issue was with how busy they were (they were very busy that afternoon), but the front desk person wasn't all that helpful in explaining the differences in price between "standard" and "upgraded".
There was no mention of visitor bundles and the membership was essentially described to be required.
Hard Knocks - First Impressions of our "Regulator"
A Regulator at Hard Knocks is basically Lara Croft incarnate. She (always a she so far) is dressed ready for combat but her looks are often enough to disarm.
Our regulator in the arena that day was "Infinity". I could tell Infinity had been there a while. She definitely knew what she was doing. But I could also tell that Infinity didn't really want to be there. She recited instructions in a robotic tone and wasn't particularly engaging.
Inside the "armory" (where you choose a vest and weapon), Infinity would bark orders at us to, "stand with our backs against the lockers" much like a drill sergeant would in the Army. I'm not sure if this was intended to add to the authenticity of the experience, but many in the group were less than impressed.
Hard Knocks Review - The Arenas
The Hard Knocks location at Pointe Orlando has two physical spaces where combat gaming takes place. One resembles an office space, with desks, filing cabinets, etc. The second looks like a warehouse. Hard Knocks calls these "arenas". Here's a link to their full list of arenas. However, it should be noted that as of this post the page still references arenas that were only offered at their Oviedo location (eg: The House) in the Orlando area. Not all arenas are offered at each location.
When the Pointe Orlando location gets busy, they open up the wall between the two sections, creating a single larger gaming area they call the "Coliseum".
Hard Knocks Review - The Missions
The concept of missions are often similar to what you'd experience in a first-person shooter game and bring an element of depth and variety to Hard Knocks laser tag as well.
Their website touts "more than 70 different missions", each with their own name. Unfortunately, the website only offers a badge for each mission without any explanation of what the mission is.
During our experience at Hard Knocks Pointe Orlando, the missions appear to be somewhat randomly generated. Here are the missions we did that Father's Day afternoon:
- Mission 1 - No teams, everyone against everyone (the "Carnage" mission, perhaps?)
- Mission 2 - A standard team-on-team elimination with two teams (seems like the "Faceoff" mission?)
- Mission 3 - A mission with two teams where one protects a "VIP" and the other attempts to kill the VIP (the "Assassination" mission).
- Mission 4 - A mission with two teams where a small group from each team starts out "behind enemy lines" (the "DMZ" mission).
- Mission 5 - A mission with two teams where the first 7 casualties formed a 3rd team fighting against both original teams (the "Revenge" mission).
- Mission 6 - Another team-on-team elimination mission, just like mission 1 above.
Overall, the missions were fun. The free-for-all missions weren't all the fun with as many people as we had participating (upwards of 50, with around 25 per team). The arena felt crowded with no where to hide during those missions.
With the time between each mission and our prep time and decompress time after the missions, two missions took approximately 30 minutes to complete. We had all six of our missions done in less than two hours.
Hard Knocks Review Summary
Is Hard Knocks Fun?
Hard Knocks indoor combat arena isn't new, but it does still offer a unique entertainment experience. If you enjoy a more authentic first-person shooter experience, you should give Hard Knocks a try. You can't get any closer to being inside a first-person shooter than the experience Hard Knocks provides.
How Realistic is Hard Knocks?
Many of the HK 'missions' were developed by those experienced in tactical strategy around real-life situations we see on the 11 o'clock news all the time. Not convinced? Law enforcement agencies use Hard Knocks' facilities for their own training! If that doesn't testify to the realism of the Hard Knocks experience, I don't know what does.
Does Hard Knocks Provide Value?
Hard Knocks is expensive. Compared to all of the other entertainment options you have, it may be difficult to justify the cost for some. A movie might set you back $35 for 2 people, with a few refreshments for a 2-hour show. Two hours of combat for two people would run you between $60 - 95.
Hard Knocks Overall Rating
I'm bumping my review score down a bit from the original review. Here's why:
- Parking at Pointe Orlando sucks - see above
- Some "regulators" were a bit grouchy
- When it's very busy, there are almost too many people playing at once
- The mission staging area is uncoordinated and a bit chaotic, especially when there are 50+ people waiting
While Hard Knocks may not be a once a week entertainment option, it is worth a try if you're looking for something different to do. If price is an issue, keep an eye out for specials. Hard Knocks usually also has Groupon specials running most of the time as well.