Out of the entire Wii U launch line up, ZombiU showed the greatest potential. Announced at E3 2012, there was so much hype surrounding the game – particularly from a core gamer perspective. Fans were excited – as Nintendo finally secured a mature 3rd Party Killer app, and so they said. Unfortunately, ZombiU is a game that could have been great with a little more time and polish. This apocalyptic world needed more time incubate.
ZombiU is set in apocalyptic London, whereby infected Zombies now plague every street. What was the cause for the end of the world? How did the entire human race turn into flesh eating monsters? Apparently, Astronomer John Dee’s prediction of the black plague causing the end of the world in 2012 was indeed true. As the last few people left alive in the world, it is your mission to survive. Guided by a man, referred to as the “Prepper”, you will be sent to complete a series of missions in order to survive this new world.
The story is a huge miss opportunity; the writers at Ubisoft could have developed an interesting back-story behind the apocalyptic world. You are given a few snippets of information from the “Prepper” and any newspaper articles lying around – to discover what occurred in London. I just wished Ubisoft fleshed the backstory out more. Instead, you are just given missions to fetch a certain item and a forgettable plot about a group called the Raven of Dees. Certainly, you can argue that the main focus is on survival, but when you are not given a story of substance, the overall experience gets a little dull.
Like I said previously, ZombiU sets players to complete a series of missions, which typically involves fetching a certain item. This involves visiting a variety of locales from a grocery store to Buckingham palace itself. Aesthetically, ZOmbiU is a dark game which adds to the creepy atmosphere. Unfortunately, most of the environments are quite boring and ugly – an annoying sense of deja vu trailed me – I kept saying to myself “haven’t I been here before.” There are a few places that stand out like Buckingham palace and the nursery, but graphically and artistically ZombiU doesn’t push any boundaries.
Sadly, ZombiU isn’t only just plagued with zombies, but also with glitches. During my first playthrough I encountered more than several glitches and bugs. I got stuck in a locked room because somehow my survivor walked through the wall. There are funny glitches, like how my female survivor kept changing clothes from a policewoman to a business lady. There was that one time where I had no head, just floating eyes on top of a headless body. It is easy to forgive a game if it has one or two bugs, but unfortunately, ZombiU has just too many for me to tolerate.
The main highlight of ZombiU, is how they implement the various features of the Wii U gamepad. Most noticeably the second screen is used for inventory management. Gone are the days where inventory management will appear on the TV screen, it will now all be done on the gamepad screen. ZombiU forces players to look at the second screen when looting and managing items. There is that element of insecurity and vulnerability when looking down, a zombie can attack all of sudden. It does add to the immersion there is never a time where you are truly safe and it is best to check that your surroundings are clear.
Gamepad also serves as a hub for your radar and also as an environmental scanner to locate items. Lock picking, entering security codes, barricading doors and aiming with a long distant scope can all be done on the gamepad. None of these gamepad features feel forced nor do they feel gimmicky. I feel ZombiU, greatly benefits from the gamepad and is a poorer game without it.
One of the main draws of ZombiU is the difficulty. Certainly the game is challenging ,but not for the right reasons. In ZombiU you die easily. The infected do a serious amount of damage and even at near full health – one grab often means instant death. The easy nature in which you die makes ZombiU an exceptionally challenging game. However, certain elements of the game make the game more frustrating and unnecessarily challenging.
Firstly, it is extremely frustrating, that your main weapon the cricket, is extremely weak against the infected. It can take over 7 -12 hits with the cricket bat before the infected goes down. The damage output of the cricket is inconsistent and just plain frustrating. It is unnecessary for that many hits to take down zombies – giving more health to enemies or making them frustratingly difficult to take down isn’t the only way to make a game challenging. It is unfortunate that Ubisoft couldn’t balance the game out further.
Not everything in this game is bad. ZombiU is the truest survival horror game I have played in recent memory. Only games like Dead Space this generation have really been able to keep the genre alive. Elements that you typically would find in a survival horror game such as limited ammo and health, tight dark corridors and slow pacing are all present in ZombiU. Since you are so vulnerable, it is necessary to plan out your method of attack when facing enemies particularly a large horde. The great thing about ZombiU you can handle situations in many different ways; you are not limited to one method. Instead handling a particular horde with just guns blazing, why not use flares to draw them at one position then finish them with a Molotov or a grenade. Want to pick off zombies without alerting the nearby critters, then just take out the The beauty about ZombiU your survival is dependent on how you handle situations, if you happen to die you can only blame yourself.
The most addicting part of ZombiU, is that the game challenges you to improve. When survivors die they are dead for good, no second chances or respawns. You will need to recollect your supplies and rebuild a high score again. The punishing nature of death in ZombiU, forces you to improve your game or face unwanted circumstances – make the entire experience rewarding. ZombiU doesn’t reward you much in terms of tangible object in the game; they are more intrinsic to the heart of the gamer. For the more daring gamers, you can attempt survival. Essentially, you will play as one survivor – once you die, it is game over. I finished the Survival Mode myself – took 5 attempts, it isn’t all that hard. Knowledge of the game innards is the best tip I can give you.
Following in the same footsteps as Dark Souls, players can leave messages for other players to read. In practice, warnings and hints should be written. Sadly, I didn’t see other posts in my playthrough, the ones I did see were messages from the developer. You can even kill other player’s survivors and loot their supplies, just to make it easier if you are struggling.
ZombiU’s multiplayer is an unlikely winner. The concept is unique – the individual on the gamepad has the ability to spawn Zombies around the map – while the other poor soul needs to survivor. There are two modes: capture the flag and survival mode. Spawning Zombies gives you an incredible feeling of power and fighting off hordes make you feel like a bad-ass. It is a fresh take on multiplayer I just wish Ubisoft implemented online play.
Overall ZombiU is a good game, but isn’t for everyone. If you want to try something new and unique, then ZombiU is the game for you. However, the glaring bugs, boring story and frustrating combat make the game difficult to recommend as a “must buy,”