Published on June 7th, 2012 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
E3: Hands-on with ZombiU
“ZombiU was the only thing that saved the Nintendo press conference.“
I’ve heard that phrase countless times on the show floor throughout E3 this year. Even though Nintendo announced first party titles like Pikmin 3, New Super Mario Bros. U and a slew of HD games—this is one of the first hardcore Wii U titles announced.
The premise of the game is to survive the zombie apocalypse of 2012 utilizing your survival kit. The events take place in none other than jolly ol’ London in the midst of this chaos.
This survival kit has elements that can be viewed and used directly on the Wii U Gamepad. Most of these features could be seen in action in both the Ubisoft and Nintendo press conferences. After seeing the trailers from both shows, the only thing going through my head and presumably through the heads of other gamers out there was, “What’s the gameplay like?”
After spending some time at the Nintendo booth I was glad to finally hunker down with the console. It was great to finally get my hands on the Wii U Gamepad in more depth than just a tech demo like the year prior. The Wii U Controller Pro was also at the kiosk and going to be at my disposal.
The first area that we saw for ZombiU was a multiplayer map. The player with the Wii U Controller Pro must seek out and capture various points on this rooftop scene. Flags cannot be captured until the zombies are completely eliminated from the flagged platforms. After killin’ off the zombies, just like any other typical capture the flag mode, the timer will start to tick and notify you of your achievement. Capture the flag modes often split participants into teams and must compete against one another. The same was done here but on a much smaller scale.
So, what is the other player doing all of this time? The second player utilizes the Wii U Gamepad to drop zombies into the map. The second player can move about with a top down view of the surface. Your opponent can drop up to 10 zombies at a time in a given location. This proved both fun and challenging. It may seem easy for your opponent to hone in on your location as you scurry to evade and resupply, but they must also wait until they can drop again, thus giving you time to capture.
Most of the zombies can be taken out by blasting them in the shins with the shotgun, or getting a nice headshot with the crossbow. Although these are fun, other zombies, such as the quicker yellow suited ones in the demo, waste no time to come and get’cha.
In cases where multiple zombies are in the general vicinity of your face, you’d want to make sure you are reloaded and using the melee accordingly. It was a little awkward to do both of these actions. The controllers’ ‘LS’ and ‘RS’ are not offset like that of the Xbox 360, which left my trained hands to fumble for the buttons.
The melee is only introduced by pushing the fire button ‘RZ’ when zombies are close enough to hit. If you are caught in the grasp of a zombie, you can stab it in the neck with your syringe. You only get a single syringe to use in order to free yourself, so make sure you mean it. I didn’t care too much for the melee option being mapped to the same button as fire, particularly due to the fact that there is no jump button, freeing up one slot. If you do not complete this action, down you go. Even with these small critiques, the map and mode were surprisingly fun to play.
The game plays like that of the Left4Dead, being that you are swiftly moving through the map, but also resupplying and evading different classes of zombies. The regular campaign seemed more like a Dead Island type game, but of course included its own survival tactics. It is tough not to compare it to games such as these, both of which lying heavily on survival tactics, firearms and hand-to-hand combat.
Hardcore gamers might think it easy to write off ZombiU as a knockoff of other similar titles. Even so, it does bring new mechanics to the table with the use of its hardware. The Wii U Gamepad also offers something different, particularly for the current stage of social gaming. You might even pick this up and play it with your teen son or daughter. Who says daddy’s little girl doesn’t like to blast zombies in the face?
I think that ZombiU will be the perfect starter for gamers on the Wii U console. We are finding out that the title has a bit more depth than previously thought. It also is shaping up for multiplayer action and may even compete with current big hitting zombie titles.
The Wii U Controller Pro is sleek, light and comfortable. Minus my Xbox 360 gaming preferences, it does seem like a viable choice for those looking for a traditional style controller.
Even for the case of a bloody survival horror title, Ubisoft has found a way to share Nintendo’s togetherness theme.