Published on August 15th, 2012 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
We Go Round Two with ZombiU
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: TBA (Fall 2012)
Our first encounter with Zombi U was during E3 2012 and it was, shall we say, infectious? At the Nintendo booth we spent a good amount of time playing the two-player capture-the-flag mode. Our time spent lead to some good hands-on with an early model of the Nintendo Controller Pro and Nintendo Gamepad.
Recently, Ubisoft held a pre-Gamescom event in which we were invited to spend quality time amidst the zombie infestation.
The area that we saw in the most recent demo was a pretty impressive layout of Buckingham Palace. I don’t think the Westminster ever looked so gory. The scene opened up further in the storyline than what was shown at E3 2012, but with just as much darkness. This time we were hot on the trail of making our escape from the palace, rather than finding shelter within. Even with the London games now long gone, it was now time to really test our own running athleticism.
In this area, we got to see more of the “pick up and play” style the game has been getting a lot of attention for. The first survivor we encounter is a 23-year-old college student by the name of Lucy Cox. After a brief introduction and some dialogue, we were ready to investigate and decimate while tearing through the city looking for weapons. Falling during battle leaves your survivor to wander the streets as one of the undead and infected.
Becoming infected, or dying, in the game means that you will enter the city as another character. If you thought encountering your doppelganger would be wicked, try your undead self.
As we ventured through the city streets, we discovered various shortcuts. These shortcuts come in the form of manhole cover discoveries, which can be opened and used by other characters to continue on where you previously died. After cracking open a manhole cover, it soon lead us to the palace through a lower region of the royal building.
Upon entering the first of a few dark rooms, we were able to explore the surroundings and use the gamepad’s screen to investigate bodies for loot. A few cuts through dingy dark rooms littered with corpses and we finally arrived at the lower level of the main building. At one point, we heard a piano playing off in the distance, not really paying much attention as if it were part of the game music. We later discovered that one of the former guards, now turned zombie, is gently tapping away on the ivory keys. Spooky inclusions such as these gave the game flavor and made it fun, even though it is seeded in the survival horror genre. After taking a couple headshots and making our way up the stairs, we finally got closer to our destination, or so we thought.
As we attempted to continue on and escape the palace, there were a lot of things to take in. The general graphics were looking pretty sharp. Even though areas were pristine and close to completion, others visibly showed signs that the game was not 100 percent complete. Things like the blood splatter from a cricket bat-to-skull encounter almost elegantly cut the air. Other effects, such as glistening dust particles, were impressive to see as we explored. However, this was contrasted with the pixelated textures of the wall and ground that was not as pretty to look at.
During the demo there were various zombie types spread throughout the lobby and staircases. Seeing your prior character’s body limp and groan while charging forward is as eerie as it sounds. Spitters fogged our vision with goo, making it very tough to run without another zombie catching a wiff of your fresh body. One of my runs ended here when it seemed as though every zombie in the room was on my tail. Before I knew it, another spitter tracked me down, filling both peripherals with nothing but zombie. Even after making it to the upper staircase we were greeted by another foe.
[Note:To further showcase the gravity of the situation, during gameplay, notifications on the upper right hand side of the screen will tell you when friends have also been overrun by the disease. These are social notifications when others become infected—which shows that you aren’t the only one who got tossed by that spitter.]
A helmeted motorbike zombie hobbled through an upper room and onward he marched. His helmet meant that the zombie was guarded from easy headshots with the wielded cricket bat. We had to rid the attacker from this protection before incapacitating him. This was strategically done, adding more challenge to the game, by removing the helmet with a few forceful blows and then bashing his brains in. Using combinations of pistol shots and swings can save your ammo for larger attackers. This is also where the important “push” tactic can save you some rounds.
Other characters, like the spitters, can be tough-as-nails to defeat being that their infection level is a lot higher. Hitting them in specific places, like multiple shots to the head, can drop them faster. Even so, a single shot to the brain often doesn’t drop an enemy right away, shielded or not.
Having the right items can make or break your current survival time. Loot, such as weapons, can be easily dropped into slots in your backpack. These can then be accessed by tapping them once they are placed into the slots. For areas such as the main staircase in the palace, being organized and equipping the right weaponry can save your life.
While we were excited to see more of the title, little things kept us from getting the full experience. Such small details as the pixelated textures and un-customizable button layout was a bit displeasing, but the game still has months to go before its final release. This is also backed by the fact that it is releasing on a new console, which we all know can have day-one patches.
We are just as excited to see the final product with this Wii U launch title. More importantly, we have been hoping that we will be seeing a release date at some point for the next-gen console.
The game does have some time before it completes its development cycle, but judging by what we’ve seen thus far, it looks as though it will definitely be worth the wait. I can’t wait to loot dead bodies and tag creepy things on the wall, hopefully Fall 2012. If the rumors turn out to be true, heck–we could be tearing through zombies while we tear through Thanksgiving leftovers.