GAME NAME: ZombiU
PLATFORM(S): Wii U
RELEASE DATE(S): 30 November 2012
With Zombi U Ubisoft looks to show just what the Wii U is capable of, not just in terms of its use of new hardware, but also what core gamers can expect from the big N’s new take on their brand. Previously known as Killer Freaks from Outer Space, ZombiU asks you to survive a UK-based apocalypse starting off with the fiercest of artillery at your disposal – a cricket bat!
All jokes aside, Zombi U is nothing less than nail-biting and pants skid marking terrifying. It starts off with you in the streets of London. You are surrounded by the undead when a nameless person comes to your rescue via a loud speaker. At this point you’ve got no idea which button does what and, keeping in mind that this is new hardware, you might very well be using the Wii U gamepad for the first time. It’s a moment of pure panic as you sit on the edge of your seat frantically dodging zombies, climbing ladders and jumping over obstacles to make it to the safe room. If the developers tried to get their point home they surely achieved that as I was very close to simply turning the darn console off.
It’s here that Peppers, that nameless person, introduces you systematically to the features in the game and gives you lectures on how to use your shiny new gamepad. Lift up your gamepad and press the L button to scan your surroundings using the tablet screen. Inventory management? It all happens by pulling down on the ‘backpack’ tab on your screen. Once opened you can mix and match with your inventory items within seconds by dragging and dropping the items accordingly. Thing is you can never quite keep your eye off the television as you’re always vulnerable to an unexpected attack.
Other than your cricket bat – which I used 80% of the time – you get a handgun with a whopping 6 bullets. Ammunition is scarce, but as you progress you’ll find more firepower with weapons such as SMG’s, shotguns and a crossbow. The crossbow in particular makes fantastic use of the gamepad as you use it to zoom in and out and aim an arrow (with the use of the gyroscope) into a wandering zombie head (ZL aims, ZR fires). Result: it oozes with satisfaction when you land one. The gamepad screen can also be used for lockpicking or inputting key codes to open doors but more often than not you’re focussing on red dots that displays dead bodies marked on the radar.
Occasionally, these red dots end up being rats or crows resulting in relief more often than not as each time you engage a horde of zombies it takes a bit of planning. This is not your general run-and-gun Left for Dead style game where you splatter a Zombie brain at each turn. Throw a flare, followed by a Molotov cocktail and then one of two headshots for those diehard bastards that just won’t die. Or you could plant a mine and corner them. There’s always something you need to take into consideration, like zombies with mounted gas tanks – BOOM! A bit of looting and you’re done.
Death is a scary proposition as it doesn’t lead to a game-over screen. You return as a new character with basic items and you’ll have to search down and kill your old form, now an über- zombie to retrieve your backpack of goods. A single bite makes you zombie fodder, unless you have a life-saving syringe on hand. Should you die you lose everything you previously had. Harsh, yes, but it lends those moments of near death extreme intensity events. Should you kick the bucket they’ve introduced a clever backtrack system to find your way back to where you originally died via the infamous tube and tunnel system of London. Once finding and opening a manhole you can jump between areas that would otherwise take you 20 minutes in mere seconds.
ZombiU’s biggest problem comes in the form of repetition. You can’t help but feel that a bit of variety, especially towards the second half of the game, would have spiced things up a bit. The multiplayer offering is also something you’ll never bother playing again. One mode has you or a buddy capturing flags while the other places zombies strategically on the gamepad. The second mode is in essence a ‘survival’ mode whereby one player sends an onslaught of zombies and the other player kills as many of them as possible without dying. A decent online multiplayer (and possibly co-op) mode, outside of the leader boards, is what’s missing here.
Overall ZombiU will have you jumping out of your skin on various occasions and it must be said that this is the best use of silence since Resident Evil graced our consoles 15 years ago. Every noise will have you taking notice – on the TV or in your lounge. ZombiU is a fresh take on the zombie formula and one that we hope will see a sequel. If you bought a Wii U at launch there is no question that this should be a must-own title, unless of course your brain is as rotten as those zombies.