ZombiU is Frighteningly Good
Summary: Zombies are hot right now, making a Wii U exclusive zombie game for the launch window a perfect idea for Ubisoft, who backed up the Wii’s original launch with an exclusive IP as well. ZombiU throws you as a survivor into the middle of Britain during a zombie outbreak with the sole purpose of surviving and staying alive as long as you can.
Incorporating elements of survival horror, scarce ammo (it is England after all), conspiracies, madness and hoarding, ZombiU does more than just give Nintendo a zombie game to appeal to the market, it gives Nintendo perhaps the best survival horror and zombie game of not just this new generation, but of the previous generation as well.
Wii U Exclusive Features: As we have seen from The Walking Dead, it is not easy to live among the blood thirsty infected, so now try doing that by yourself. Your life depends on being cautious, what supplies and ammo you have on you, and how quickly you can access your supplies in a tight situation.
Unlike Resident Evil or Left 4 Dead where item “scarcity” means (when compared to this game) ammo, health and weapons are all over the place, you must make do with what you have. Even if you have the med kit needed to heal yourself, the flare needed to create a distraction or another weapon fully loaded, if you aren’t armed with it and have to go to your book bag to get the item out, chances are you will leave yourself vulnerable or join the ranks of the infected.
ZombiU takes full advantage of all of the features the Wii U has to offer. The Gamepad controller works as an inventory system where you can organize what you will directly carry on your person or what you will store in your backpack. As mentioned though, accessing your pack leaves you vulnerable, as game play does not stop when you are in inventory management. This game is about survival, and having cheap inventory pause screens would lessen the experience.
In addition to serving as an inventory system, the Gamepad also works as a scanning device and radar. Through upgrades and meeting new people in the game, you can obtain motion sensitive radars, hacking devices, a scan the environment to see what is before you. Do not think that having these upgrades will protect you though. The radar is motion sensitive, meaning that its not just picking up zombies, but it is getting those ominous crows and rats as well, and if the walking dead decides to take a breather and lay down or not move, they won’t be picked up either.
How much you use the environment scan is entirely up to you. It serves a useful purpose of completing a smart map and for finding items that can keep you alive longer, but there is no obligation to use this device. While it was not neccesary to do so, if you are a true fan of survival horror games, you will find yourself using it more than those who mistook the game for a first person shooter action game who want to run through and shoot and bash their way through everything.
Other uses for the Gamepad included lock picking, building barriers or taking them down, and of course communications between you and other characters in the game.
Using this Wii U features in the game opened up the possibilities of what else the Gamepad could be used for in the future and ZombiU showed that innovation does not have to be gimmicks. This game would not have worked so perfectly in terms of being a survival horror, its environment and creating that heart racing feeling of every action could impact whether you stay alive or die – if not for Ubisoft’s utilization of the Gamepad the way they did.
Other elements of the game play of course comes in combat. The walking dead won’t just let you escape or gather supplies after all. In the spirit of Great Britain, your primary weapon is a cricket paddle. Your objective: Smash their heads in. This weapon will be the first you obtain and like in the zombie shows and movies, ammo is scarce, forcing you to often times have to get up close and personal and simply bash their brains in to conserve ammo. There will be times that a zombie is in a room alone and you choose to use the cricket paddle to get the easy kill, but there will also be other times where you see a group of zombies and simply are forced to fight 3,4,5,6+ of them with no guns, but just a paddle. When a zombie has been severely injured or is in a vulnerable position on the ground, you are given the option of providing some bloody finishing blows.
You aren’t left with only a cricket paddle though. Along the way you will find other weapons to utilize, all of which can also be upgraded at special work benches. The only problem with them, good luck at finding any ammo for them consistently. When you do find weapons and ammo, it is always nice to set up “fun” ways to kill the walkers. One of my personal favorites in combat intense situations was to throw a flare to distract a group of 3 or 4 of them to it, and then throw a Molotov cocktail on the entire group. Efficiency for the win.
Combat aside though, the neatest feature of the game comes from the survival component of it all. You play as a resident of England who stumbles his way into the plot of the game as you struggle to survive. Unlike Resident Evil where you can be impaled and come up just fine, and Left 4 dead where you can be “revived” over and over again and there are no consequences or sloppy game play, in ZombiU, if you get bitten, you are down. Zombie bite = you are now a zombie.
In the interest of keeping the game going though, of course there are more than just one survivor in the entire city. Upon the death (zombification) of your character, you take control of another survivor. Something that is cool about this is that your new survivor will come across your old survivor now in zombie form. You get the opportunity to kill off your previous survivor in zombie form and recollect any supplies they may have been holding. If you have any online friends on your Wii U console, you may also come across your friend’s zombies as well. Ammo may be low, but for overkill’s sake, the first time I saw an online friend’s zombie, I set up a land mine and attracted him over to it. Got to send his soul to peace with a blast.
After limited ammo and game play elements of a survival horror, a survival horror game just isn’t complete without environmental components. This game is dark… in game play and environment. Power is out across England, you are forced to take underground shortcuts, its nighttime, and you are in some tight spaces. To help with the problem though, you are aided with a flash light! To add to the feeling of isolation though, it must recharge with use, preventing you from having an indefinite source of lighting.
Some have complained about the fact that the game was dark, but what do they expect with a zombie apocalypse and a survival horror game!? It is supposed to be dark and the darkness set the tone and mood of the game. There were times that I found myself rushing to the few “well-lit” parts of a room just to have a false sense of security, and there were others when I was forced to turn off my flash light as I could hear movement and my radar showed something up ahead, but my flashlight’s power was low – thrusting me into literally complete darkness. Other times you will kill off what you think is every enemy in the room to have one laying on the floor in the shadows who takes a bite out of you and sends you to a new survivor.
Besides teaching you to be afraid of the dark, some well timed and not overused horror elements are introduced as well. At times you must crawl through compact vents where weapons cannot be utilized and then a zombie bursts out from a side vent and you are put into a heart stopping race to the exit as you must not only navigate through the dark corridors, but do it fast as you are being chased.
Other times will utilize the Gamepad and have some kind of interference black you out and leave you even more vulnerable. There is a risk becoming too reliant on the radar or scan features. When you are jammed out from its access and left to survive on your own accords, the intensity grows as every step you take has a new sense of importance and needed caution.
To top things off, you are in England and the zombies reflect that. Get ready to be terrified by zombie royal guards, regular pedestrians, zombies inside of a daycare center(that place was terrifying), their cliche cops (in zombie form of course), and other frightening variations.
The only weakness the graphical display of ZombiU had was some issues with object placement. If you combat a zombie on a staircase, be prepared for the blow of the cricket paddle to not only knock it up the stairs, but to also knock it into the air. There was also one fateful moment near the end of the game where I was hit by a zombie three times as he was under the ground (wasn’t supposed to be). All of that aside though, Ubisoft worked hard and they did a great job on the appearance of the game not only for impressive graphical purposes, but at creating a terrifying experience.
ZombiU is a unique zombie experience, which in all honesty, is a bit of a shame. It is the only zombie game on the market that actually brings in the proper elements of a zombie apocalypse that has become so popular. Resident Evil (while being a great franchise), even in its survival horror days, was never truly about surviving and did not bring in, besides in likeness, the feel of what zombies were supposed to be about. Left 4 Dead simply threw one thousand “zombies” on the screen for fast arcade style game play, and while fun, was never about survival or horror; it was about killing. ZombiU incorporates what has made The Walking Dead a popular tv show. You grow attached to the character you play as; you have a sense of caution and pure horror as you know that every shot you take or every step you take could or could not lead you to your death. You understand the value of the few supplies you have, of time management, of planning your actions, and even of light. This game is all about survival.
ZombiU offers Wii U early adopters a near perfect piece of the zombie phenomenon that has hit the market. Where other zombie games have failed at truly capturing the feel of a zombie game, ZombiU excels and will stand out among the other titles on the shelves at this moment. While it has a few graphical flaws, and could have even offered some real functional multi-player components, the game as a single player, but internet connected survival horror experience is more than enough to provide hours of intense game play and one of the best experiences on the Wii U.
Gameplay: 10/10 -High intensity drive to stay alive.
Sound and Presentation: 8/10 – Frightening, but was glitchy at times.
ZombiU is Frighteningly Good,