Published on November 20th, 2012 | by Shawn Long, Features Editor
ZombiU was easily one of the most hyped Nintendo Wii U launch titles ever since the first time it was shown. Zombie games are all the rage nowadays, and Ubisoft looked to capitalize on this craze by debuting their own zombie madness on the newly releasing Nintendo console.
Most gamers remember Ubisoft’s lackluster debut on the Nintendo Wii with Red Steel, and most gamers were hoping history wouldn’t repeat itself. History may not have been repeated with ZombiU, but it’s too close for comfort.
The premise of ZombiU is that zombies have overrun London and you are one of the sole survivors left to combat them. Being guided by a voice known as “The Prepper”, you must uncover the secrets of the 400 year old Black Prophecy that is now coming to light by the ambush of zombies. The premise is simple, but it gets the job done.
The main interest of the game is, of course, killing zombies. Taking place in a first person perspective, ZombiU is a survival horror game with a HEAVY emphasis on the survival part.
The game is punishingly difficult. When your character dies, and you will die, you then become a zombie and start from scratch as a new character. Your previous character can be found, with everything that they had in their backpack available for you to loot. All items that are equipped however, are lost. At first, this is no big deal. The game starts in a very small area, but as time progresses, backtracking to find your previous character and get your weapons and health back, comes at excruciating lengths.
Scarce doesn’t begin to describe the ammo and weapons in this game. Most of the time, you are using a melee weapon, which is a cricket club. Now, you would think that since you can upgrade all your guns acquired through the game that you would be able to upgrade your melee weapon, or at least change it to something more powerful. However, you’d be very wrong.
The game has such a strong focus on ammo conservation that you would think that melee weapons would be bountiful and able to be customized, but they aren’t. To me, this is a serious design flaw in the game. Condemned was an excellent example of melee in a horror atmosphere, and I wish Ubisoft would have done something similiar.
Controlling your character is easy and fluid. The Wii U GamePad is used in a variety of ways, with one standing out amongst the rest. Holding your Wii U GamePad up towards the screen and hitting the “LZ-Trigger” emits a black light that allows you to scan for ammo, secret messages, and messages left by either developers or other people playing the game. The Gamepad also has a constant map display, and is used for simple things like entering a pin-code or picking a lock. Weapon swapping and cycling through other items in your pack are done with simple taps and swipes. It’s a nice integration of the Nintendo Network and use of the nontraditional Wii U GamePad.
Graphically the game is average at best, and looks somewhat poor compared to other debut titles for the Wii U. Games such as Batman: Arkham City and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 are among the better looking launch titles.
Most environments are stagnant, and after the initial finishing move kill animation is seen a few times, it becomes old hat. Clipping is persistent, and many textures look very low in quality. However, the gore is abundant, and some areas, such as the nursery, are very atmospheric. On the positive side, the sound in this game is very ambient, creepy, and well done.
The main problem with ZombiU is the punishing difficulty, though. There is no remorse in this game, and you will die many frustrating deaths. For the first few hours, I enjoyed it. It made me feel like I was doing something wrong and wanted to perfect my craft. After 10+ hours though, it just becomes tedious and a nuisance to have to backtrack constantly and go to areas that I have been countless times just to retrieve my items.
The save feature might as well not exist. When you die, it autosaves before you can turn the system off to keep your current character. I tried numerous times to get the timing down just right, but to no avail. You die, you get a new character, period. Also, the characters are disposable, as outside of a name and character skin, they are paper thin with no reasoning for being there other than to meet and survive.
Multiplayer should be a fun, online fest, but it’s just a blip on the radar due to it being local mode only. One person uses the WiiU GamePad to drop zombies down to attack the player using the Pro Controller. The player then must try and survive while capturing flags. Interesting, but not very deep.
ZombiU had all the potential in the world, but it falls flat in too many areas to be a quality title. There is so much potential that just isn’t met, and it’s disappointing. Melee weapons should be customizable and have a variety, but they aren’t. The game just seems very rushed.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy my time with ZombiU, as it was a fun experience at times, and genuinely scary. I just feel that Ubisoft rushed this out the door to have a game at the Wii U Launch, similar to Red Steel on the Nintendo Wii. Not a bad game, but not a good one.
If you are a fan of survival horror games, then it’s worth a rental at least.
[xrr label=”Rating: 6.5/10″ rating=6.5/10]
+ Nice gore
+ Very atmospheric
+ At times very fun
– Maddening difficulty
– No online
– Feels rushed