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by Tom Malina - November 7, 2012, 8:30 am PST
Total comments: 7

Learn more about the main characters and the plot of an old prophecy that foretold the zombie apocalypse. 

Update (6:37 EST 11/7/12): Corrected a statement regarding online multiplayer in ZombiU.

It is strange to think how far ZombiU has come over the course of its development. From its meagre beginnings as the bizarre comedic sci-fi shooter Killer Freaks From Outer Space to its current state as a marquee title for the Wii U launch, it has certainly been a wild ride for this new survival-based FPS from Ubisoft. Since the marked change in tone and direction became known at E3 2012, the focus has largely been honed on the game's unique approach to character death and its showcasing of the Wii U GamePad. As it turns out, ZombiU will also tell an original story that places its roots deep into British history.

Now, while your first thought may tell you that it must be very difficult to have a worthwhile plot in a game where your playable characters are permanently removed from the equation when they die, story director Gabrielle Shrager has laid out some unique themes that, if conveyed well, could make for a compelling narrative. First and foremost is the background involving the original 007 himself, John Dee. An actual historical figure, Dee was the royal astronomer and cryptographer during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Within the fiction of ZombiU, though, Dee predicted two plagues that would destroy civilisation; the first was the Black Plague of 1665, which was subsequently eradicated by the Great Fire of London one year later. The second plague, however, was pegged for 2012, setting the stage for the zombie-infested London in which the game takes place.

Who knew that the cause behind all this was, in fact, the Black Plague?

From this background mythology, several different story branches will grow. Over the course of the game, the player will interact with different groups, who all have their own interpretation of John Dee's so-called "Black Prophecy" and their own approach to this doomsday scenario. For much of the game, your survivor will be guided by a survival expert referred to simply as the Prepper, while the rest of your group takes refuge in his bunker, only being sent out one at a time when the current survivor out in the field is killed. The Prepper treats the Black Prophecy as gospel, believing that a great fire will wipe out the plague as before and spawn a whole new world from its ashes. 

You will also encounter a scientist named Dr Knight, who argues that science shall prevail in the war against the plague. He has sealed himself under Buckingham Palace to search for Dee's fabled panacea, a universal cure for the disease. In addition, you will come across the secret society known as the Ravens of Dee and their leader, Sandra, as they strive to prepare people for this arduous struggle for survival and help them escape from London. When you consider just how pervasive the premise of a zombie outbreak is, both in video games and other media, the presence of these fascinatingly unorthodox narrative themes in ZombiU could be just what it needs to stand out amidst the rest.

All right then, lads! Time to take out some zombies, London style...

Of course, being a Wii U launch title, the game pulls no punches on showcasing the various new capabilities of the console. Much has already been shown of the GamePad's myriad functions, including inventory management and context-sensitive environmental elements, but we have since learned of an RPG-style levelling and upgrade system. Throughout the game, the player can use the GamePad to scan the environment for items such as weapon parts. Upon entering a safehouse, they can upgrade their weapons with these parts, boosting attributes like damage, firing speed and accuracy. Plus, the more the player uses a certain type of weapon, the better their character will become at handling those kinds of weapons as they level up different skills. These skills only apply to one character at a time though, and they disappear if said character dies, so careful play is encouraged in order to preserve these levels.

We now know about the local competitive multiplayer mode, which seems to be one of the few things to have carried over from the game's previous incarnation as Killer Freaks From Outer Space. In King of Zombies, one player controls the survivor using the Wii U Pro Controller, with the aim of reaching certain points in the level. Meanwhile, the opposing player on the GamePad acts as an AI director of sorts, spawning different types of undead and placing them strategically around the map; for them, the only goal is to kill.

Furthermore, players can affect each other's games even when they aren't playing together. Characters who are killed in one game can appear as a zombie in another player's experience, complete with all the gear they were carrying when they perished. Friends can also share messages with each other using a selection of pre-set symbols, presented in the game as spraying graffiti. When one person leaves a message somewhere in their game, it can be found by their friend using their handheld scanner when they visit that same location. Last but not least, there will also be online leaderboards that tracks everyone's survivor statistics.

Your spray-painted message could be a friendly greeting. Or a warning to great danger lurking around the corner.

Slightly curious name aside, ZombiU is a game full of potential. We have all probably partaken in our fair share of zombie slaying over the years, and for that reason, it might be easy to dismiss it out of hand as an also-ran. However, between the intriguing plot threads and the willingness to explore pretty much all of the new things the Wii U is able to do, ZombiU is looking more and more enticing for when it launches in the US on November 18, shortly after in Europe on November 30, and finally Japan on December 8.


Spak-SpangSeptember 18, 2012

Hopefully, this story will allow for branching paths in the game...and alternative levels and situations.

The thing with a Zombie survival game is that to be realistic, there are no real levels...except that you are trying to survive and get out of dodge.  So the levels come into play when you are trying to achieve something more than just surviving.

I personally hope that the game creates three different story arcs.  Following the Scientist who will have you seek goals towards finding a scientific cure and the means to end the Zombie crisis in that direction.

Following the believer, who will want you to fulfill the prophecy and seek a mystical cure and "rid the plague" with fire. 

Finally, I hope the third option is the learning to live in this new world.  The third group (I hope) will not be interested in solving the new crisis but accepting it as the new status quo and setting up a society and means to live in a new world affected with Zombies. 

By creating 3 different stories, the game could be a shorter game...which actually for a Zombie game...escaping the Zombies and getting outta dodge, should be shorter experience rather than longer...but have different levels, objectives and paths to beat the game.

What I mean is what if one story had only 5 levels...and you beat the game.  Another story had 5 completely different levels and you beat the game...and finally another 5 levels.  Or even 4, 4, 4.  That would create a pretty big gaming experience.

And if the world is one interconnected world, you could be going into other stories levels and interweaving your own story...listening to all 3 parties and solving levels for each story before finally settling on a mission goal and finishing the game. 

Last, I was trying to think about game progression, and what if at the end of the levels, you did something that drastically changed the game world or environment.  Like if you extend a bridge to help you escape to another area...if your character died that bridge is already extended...you don't have to do the level again your progress is already saved. 

Or if you captured a Zombie or dragged a dead Zombies body to the scientist to examine and do research on...he already has that Zombie and you don't have to do it again.  This would allow story to progress naturally between the different characters. 

Killer_Man_JaroTom Malina, Associate Editor (Europe)September 20, 2012

There are certainly many possibilities with a story like this - I do like the idea of branching paths depending on which side of the argument you fall into. They will no doubt face a challenge with the playable characters having no personality of any description, so we'll have to wait and see.

Fatty The HuttSeptember 20, 2012

"I'm a Prepper, he's a Prepper, you're a Prepper, what's a Prepper, wouldn't you like to be a Prepper too! Be a Prepper, drink Dr, Prepper (and play Zombi U)!"

Where's the product tie-in for this game, dammit? I want Zombi U Dr. Pepper cans and snappy jingles.
Why does no one ever ask me?

tendoboy1984November 07, 2012

There is an article summary on GoNintendo that states this game will have online multiplayer. True or not?


Killer_Man_JaroTom Malina, Associate Editor (Europe)November 07, 2012

Quote from: tendoboy1984

There is an article summary on GoNintendo that states this game will have online multiplayer. True or not?


Yes. Read the rest of my preview. It's a competitive game mode called King of the Zombies.

TaffypoolNovember 07, 2012

"Slightly curious name aside, ZombiU is a game full of potential."

Again, it's not a curious choice of names. Ubisoft made "Zombi" in 1990 for computers. Now they're making "ZombiU." Besides the obvious usage of zombies in each, they both also use the system where a character who dies continues to exist within the game as a zombie.

ThePermNovember 07, 2012

i liked the old days of Nintendo 64 where every title has 64 at the end of it. Bring on the ZombiU, MarioU...etc

Mario Universe? Metroid Universe? StarFox Universe

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Game Profile

ZombiU Box Art

Genre Action
Developer Ubisoft

Worldwide Releases

na: ZombiU
Release Nov 18, 2012
jpn: ZombiU
Release Dec 08, 2012
eu: ZombiU
Release Nov 30, 2012

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