Anyone who knows me, knows how unreliable I am when it comes to gaming. I am what Nintendo would class as an ‘Advanced Gamer with a lot of Experience’, and although this is arguably true, I struggle to complete games. It’s not because I am bad at games, but because of a mixture of lack of time and impatience. Not impatience with the games themselves, because there are a lot of games that are incredible in my backlog (and I will complete one day – promise), but simply because I want the next game right at that moment (which obviously I have to then begin to play immediately).
So, in this vein (and in lieu of actual reviews), I decided to start my own Feature articles giving the best impressions I can of certain titles (with as few spoilers as possible). It may come a little bit after the release dates of the games, but I will endeavour to write this sort of article about every game I play this year. So, with no further ado, the Wii U launch title – ZombiU.
The first, and most long-lasting thought, I have about ZombiU is that it is absolutely relentless. Right from the very first few minutes (in which you are dropped in the centre of a London struck by a plague causing most of the city to become, what is easiest described as, zombies), the tension is set at a very high level, and doesn’t really lower fully (even when you are in your safehouse). There is a constantly pervading sense of fear created by the feeling that you are never really alone. Sure you have the means to search your surroundings for infected, but all that achieves is instilling a sense of dread when you see that little blip appear. Even worse, sometimes this is for nothing, and your caution only reveals a group of rats.
Of course, this all intrinsically aids the atmosphere, but would be nothing without the infected themselves and their capabilities. They are violent, quick and all too eager to remove your vital organs. They will follow you almost anywhere you choose to flee, and do not give up until you kill them. Even random corpses laying around cannot be trusted. You have various implements to help you dispatch them and, if you take your time, you can avoid having to confront more than one at a time (most of the time anyway). Unfortunately this doesn’t remove the fact that (en masse) they can be a frightening and intimidating foe.
Then there’s Ubisoft’s unusual take on the zombie game, and where it’s tagline comes from – “How Long Will You Survive?”. This is the developers basically telling you that you WILL die, it’s just a matter of when. If you die, you lose that survivor and awaken as another back at the safehouse. However (as another interesting twist), your previous survivor is now roaming as an infected, and they are still carrying all the gear they had. So, if you want it back, you know what you have to do. At the point of writing I have lost 10 survivors, but have only managed to hunt down 8 of them, so there’s 2 still left roaming, waiting to get their teeth into me.
Also, as an added dynamic with the infected survivors, the game subtly links your game with the games of those on your Wii U friends list. If one of your friends loses a survivor, there is a possibility that the infected survivor will appear in your game (or, of course, vice versa) carrying the same equipment they were carrying at time of death. The differences between these and standard infected are that the Nintendo Network ID and score of that survivor (which is worked out based on how long that survivor lasted, and how many infected were taken out), and that they will always be wearing a backpack similar to yours.
However, I am pretty sure that this wouldn’t be the reason that you would be reading this, you probably want to know about the GamePad controls. Of all the games I have played on Wii U, ZombiU has some of the best implementation of the Wii U GamePad I have come across. From simple things, like having the mini-map on the GamePad’s screen, and storing the inventory on the same screen. To the more complicated, like holding up the GamePad in front of your TV screen to see the room you are in through your scanner. It is obvious that Ubisoft have worked very hard to make ZombiU an experience that you just can’t get elsewhere. ZombiU could have easily been a practice in how much of a gimmick the GamePad could be, but instead Ubisoft have created a ‘hardcore’ shooting experience but made the GamePad itself central to the game, instead of something tacked on.
As another great feature of the title, I have to highlight the multiplayer mode. Over the festive period, I had an opportunity to play the 2-player local (unfortunately, there’s no online) modes, and they are a treat. Using the asymmetric gameplay element; the player with the GamePad is the ‘King Of Zombies’ and the other is a survivor. The point of each type of game in multiplayer differs (and I want to leave it to surprise you), but the part that impresses me the most is the balance of it. The ‘King Of Zombies’ may be powerful, but restrictions are placed on that player so that the survivor has more than a fighting chance. Quite honestly, some of the most tense moments I have had on ZombiU were playing these modes.
So far (and I hasten to add that I am nowhere near finished), my experience on ZombiU has been hugely positive. The setting is suitably dark and foreboding, and the use of actual locations in London makes for an interesting change from the ‘generic infested town’ standard that horror fans are used to. The controls feel fluid and intuitive, even though (up to this point) I still haven’t used the quick-turn button (despite needing to).
The only thing that I feel lets the title down (and then not by very much) is the graphics. For one of the first titles on Nintendo’s new high definition console, the visuals just aren’t as polished as I would expect. However, with the game itself being good-to-excellent in all other areas, this isn’t really a cause for concern. I would also like to add that there a lot of features that I haven’t covered in this article, simply because I wouldn’t want to ruin any of it (such as the plot) for anyone.
So far, I would thoroughly recommend ZombiU. If you have a Wii U, you need this title in your collection. If you have it, tell me what you think in the comments (no spoilers please) or tweet me @reubenmount.