WiiU

North America

ZombiU

by Andy Goergen - November 20, 2012, 1:28 pm PST
Total comments: 18

9

London Bridge is burning down.

ZombiU is terrifying. Let’s get that out of the way early. This is a game that hammers home how fleeting life is, over and over again. It’s a game that makes you swear out loud with frustration, and a game that has your heart racing with every hit of a cricket bat to a zombie’s rotting skull. It takes you up high, and then throws you off a building. As London burns to the ground around you, you inhabit a series of survivors from the zombie infection. How many survivors you play as all depends on you.

As you take on the role of each survivor, you begin with the cricket bat and a pistol containing six bullets. This is true no matter how far along in the game you are. How well prepared you are to handle this sort of consequence is entirely up to you, as your safehouse holds a storage box in which you can stash weapons and ammo. Every time you die, all the gear you held remains attached to the now-zombified body of your previous character. You have one chance to kill that zombie and reclaim your goods; if you die in that effort, those supplies are forever lost. You can replenish these items, as they regenerate in areas you have previously found over time, but to say that losing supplies is a setback is a major understatement. 

Melee combat is slow and difficult, requiring precise timing and spacing. If you miss a shot, you leave yourself vulnerable to attack for several moments, which is all a zombie needs to kill you. Don’t fret, though: you will die a lot no matter what you do. This is the nature of the game. As you play longer, however, it’s easier to adjust to the challenges of swinging the cricket bat, becoming more proficient at beheading undead foes. Some zombies take quite a few hits to kill, so if you have to deal with a horde, you are better off advancing and retreating to maximize your chances of success.

The game requires you to use the screen on the GamePad for all non-combat tasks, such as inventory management or barricading a door. While in many games having to take your eyes off the screen may seem like bad design, in ZombiU, it’s effective in adding to the sense of panic and vulnerability. When you need to manage your inventory, you have to do so quickly and without error, or you leave yourself helpless against attacks. The inventory screen is a bit clunky, but perfectly usable without resorting to the stylus. ZombiU also uses the GamePad as a scanner. Scanning requires that you hold the L button on the GamePad, and use either the right stick or the gyro controls to move around and detect items in the distance. Unlike in games like Metroid Prime, where the story is largely revealed through scanned items, the scanner in ZombiU is mainly used to find ammo and health items. It can help identify from a distance which zombies are worth looting for supplies, and which are empty-handed. It’s occasionally used to progress the story as well, but if you find it slowing the pace too much, you can scan only as often as you feel is necessary most of the time. 

The story is a bit uneventful, unfolding the tale of a prophecy that foretold the zombie apocalypse. A faceless NPC called “The Prepper,” whose sole job is preparing survivors to get by in this hellish world, guides you through the game. It’s a bit jarring when he talks to you as if you’re the same character the entire way through when clearly you’re going through multiple characters as you die, and the same goes applies to several other NPCs you meet in the game. The story feels as if it came before idea of multiple player characters was developed, and never tweaked to make the two agree. Regardless, the voice acting is well done, and lends to the realism of the bleak world.

Aside from the cricket bat, your character can use firearms, but they are easy to lose if you die, and ammo is hard to come by. You always start out with a pistol and one clip of bullets, but the pistol doesn’t necessarily seem like a better way to kill zombies once you are proficient with the cricket bat. Luckily, you can upgrade all the weapons, and those enhancements survive even when your player character does not. It’s one of the few things you can bring across from character to character, and it’s very helpful. 

The longer you survive and kill zombies as an individual character, the higher the score attached to that character. This ends up being a fun way to have a high score battle with yourself as you play, and alternatively, a fun way to know how well you were doing after you die. Folks from Miiverse show up in the game as zombies as well, carrying whatever loot they had on them when they died, which is another way to compare character scores and get extra supplies. It’s a fun reminder that Nintendo has built a very subtle, but effective, social media platform running underneath the games on Wii U.

The world of ZombiU looks fantastic, for the most part. Some textures blur when you get too close to a sign or a wall, but many areas have incredible detail and are littered with embellishments that make this post-apocalyptic version of London believable. One scene in particular subjects you to a thunderstorm, and the weather effects add to the game immensely. The lighting tricks the game employs are very successful, and despite my early misgivings about blurry textures, the more I played of the game, the more impressed I was by how it looked. The world of ZombiU falls apart around you, and the mood is set early and often.

The game contains a few simple local multiplayer modes wherein one player uses the GamePad to deploy zombies, and another player uses the Wii U Pro Controller or Wii Remote and Nunchuk to play as a survivor. One mode has you capturing flags, and another simply asks the survivor to hold out as long as possible in a score attack-like mode that includes leaderboards. Neither mode seemed all that interesting when compared to the single-player campaign, but their inclusion is a nice touch. Another way in which you can compete for high scores is the Survival mode. This mode is identical to the main campaign mode, except once you die, that’s it. There are no continues. You are scored based on how long you last and how many zombies you kill, much in the same way that you are scored in the regular campaign on a per-survivor basis.

ZombiU seeks to scare the hell out of the player by making their very survival doubtful, and wildly succeeds. This game is stressful, terrifying, bleak, and, in all of that, wonderful. It is one of the best launch titles I’ve ever played, and quite simply, a return to form in a genre that has taken a distinct turn toward run-and-gun. These kinds of games are not for everyone, and some people may not like ZombiU due to its high level of difficulty or clunky combat. However, if you appreciate the qualities of the older Resident Evil games, the challenge of a game like Dark Souls, and the exploration of a Metroid-style world, this game is absolutely for you. Enter the survival horror.

Summary

Pros
  • Fantastically realized world
  • Great voice acting
  • High level of challenge
  • Scary as hell
Cons
  • Multiplayer options are limited
  • Some blurry textures

Talkback

ShyGuyNovember 20, 2012

Glad you are enjoying the game. Do I have you on my friends list? I haven't found any blurry textures yet, can you suggest some?

cL7oudNovember 20, 2012

its amazing how divisive this game is. I cant think of much more games this divisive, perhaps other m

Basically, any text on a sign in the game is difficult to read up close.  Also, the bricks in the safe house aren't super sharp. It's no biggie, the game looks great overall.

Pixelated PixiesNovember 20, 2012

Great review. This game definitely seems like the most interesting of the Wii U's launch games (with the possible exception of Nintendoland). Let's hope this does as well for Ubisoft as Red Steel did. This game at least seems more deserving of that level of sales.

AVNovember 21, 2012

can the graphical glitches be fixed in a patch?

KDR_11kNovember 21, 2012

Anything CAN be fixed, it's more a question whether the publisher/developer WANTS to fix it since fixing costs money.

They're not glitches.  It's just the textures they made for the game.  It won't be patched, because it's not broken.

TJ SpykeNovember 21, 2012

The GameTrailers review showed stuff like enemies floating through walls, there are graphical gltiches (even if it's not the textures).

pandaradoxNovember 21, 2012

Ugh! I just died in Buckingham Palace on Survivor mode last night.  It's crushing.  Of course, I should probably play the game through on Normal first, but where's the fun in that?  I've been jumping like a punk since I started. 

Quote from: TJ

The GameTrailers review showed stuff like enemies floating through walls, there are graphical gltiches (even if it's not the textures).

I haven't seen anything like that in my playthrough so far.

DarthKoopaNovember 21, 2012

I saw several negative reviews for this game pre-launch. I cancelled my preorder and got something else. Post launch I saw three or four good reviews. I think I'll get this game after Christmas.

pandaradoxNovember 21, 2012

OMG OMG OMG...


http://uplay.ubi.com/en-US/game/zombiu


SO, there is very VERY little online about the content involved, but with the Uplay rewards, you can trade in 40 points for... wait for it... Multiplayer Survivor Mode!  I'm really hoping this means a Co-Op Survivor Mode, but I really doubt it because that would make my year.  Has anyone looked into this at all?  It's really not that hard to get 40 points, just start a Uplay, get the BOB, and top 2k on Survivor Score. Bam, DLC. 


Thoughts?  If anyone knows more, let me know.  I'm going to hop on tonight and see what if I can get it.  I already managed uplay rewards, so maybe they'll be added once I link.  I'll post more then.

pandaradoxNovember 21, 2012

:(... it may just be like Kill Box, just without the leveling up part. Ugh.

Quote from: pandaradox

OMG OMG OMG...


http://uplay.ubi.com/en-US/game/zombiu


SO, there is very VERY little online about the content involved, but with the Uplay rewards, you can trade in 40 points for... wait for it... Multiplayer Survivor Mode!  I'm really hoping this means a Co-Op Survivor Mode, but I really doubt it because that would make my year.  Has anyone looked into this at all?  It's really not that hard to get 40 points, just start a Uplay, get the BOB, and top 2k on Survivor Score. Bam, DLC. 


Thoughts?  If anyone knows more, let me know.  I'm going to hop on tonight and see what if I can get it.  I already managed uplay rewards, so maybe they'll be added once I link.  I'll post more then.

Interesting.  I'll have to check this out and report back.

HypotheliciouslyNovember 21, 2012

Excellent review. Articulate, informative, and concise.

Survival Horror is my favorite genre, games or otherwise. I feel like I'm missing out on not owning a Wii U.

One question though, did you try and leave messages for others on your play through and did you see any messages left for you?

EasyCureNovember 22, 2012

Quote from: Stogi

Excellent review. Articulate, informative, and concise.

Survival Horror is my favorite genre, games or otherwise. I feel like I'm missing out on not owning a Wii U.

One question though, did you try and leave messages for others on your play through and did you see any messages left for you?

I wasn't really following Zombie U news for the last month or two prior to launch so I had known you can somehow leave messages for other players but wasn't sure to what extent. Once I started using the scanner in game I'd see these messages, displayed as mail/envelope icons on screen but all you could do was mark it as untrustworthy or leave it be. Even in the Miiverse game community there was some confusion as to how to "read" these messages but i soon figured out; you don't.

These in-game messages are more like hobo-signs. You find a paint can  in came and it becomes a permanent item (you won't lose it if you die and go on to your next character). All you really do with it is leave graffiti tags with pre-defined icons such as directional arrows, zombie caricatures, a house, manhole cover etc..

At first I was disappointed you couldn't actually leave a custom message, it would of been kinda cool and creepy to see something cryptic written on a wall as you're playing the game; distracting you from any nearby threats. Then I realized I prefer the vagueness of the hobo-markings. I also like that you can mark them as untrustworthy because it may in fact be a helpful sign, but if you want to be a jerk you can spam it as untrustworthy to lure some poor sap to sudden death, so either way the tension is high.

For example I had once seen a marking indicating there was a zombie horde in this particular direction; is it accurate? No one flagged it so I enter the doorway with my flashlight on and go down this dark stairwell to find..nothing. A few zombies on the floor, sure, but none of them attacked when I came close, and to make sure I bashed them in the head anyway. I found myself in a dead end, some storage closet or sorts with a few small health items, not worth it unless you pick them all up but I only had inventory space for 2 or 3 tops. I head back and think maybe I'll leave a marking for myself to remember that there are a few health items (not even knowing if there was an icon that I could use or not). I was no longer cautious though.. I didn't use my flashlight going back up the stairs and before I reach the virtual 3rd step I just barely make out the shadowy figure at the top of the steps. I stop suddenly, hoping it hasn't seen me, it is dark afterall, and hasn't heard me.. it knew I was there and started coming down the stairs at me. Instant panic mode because I could only maneuver myself back into a narrow dead-end. Barely came out of that one alive..

pandaradoxNovember 27, 2012

So I activated the extra game-mode, but it's nowhere to be found.  The 80s logo perk makes the title screen like a SNES screen and changes the music, definitely creates a huge contrast to the game tones. 


I think I may be one of the only ones left playing this game in survivor mode as my first play through.  Definitely dying here and there, but getting stronger.


Oh!  Has anyone figured out what the Dev Team's going to do tomorrow?  They left a message right outside the safehouse (http://n4g.com/news/1126675/mystery-message-points-to-zombiu-dev-team-planning-in-game-event).  Something is going down tomorrow.  Prepare! 


I hope they activate co-op or maybe a side-quest?

OblivionNovember 27, 2012

Thanks for letting me know about that online mode.

Share + Bookmark





WiiU

Game Profile

ZombiU Box Art

Genre Action
Developer Ubisoft
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

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

Related Content

Got a news tip? Send it in!
Advertisement
Advertisement