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Review: ZombiUZombiU Ubisoft Wii U horror
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: November 18, 2012
Horror fans have had a rough few years. With releases of popular franchises such as Silent Hill and Resident Evil, there have been attempts to further change horror into an action-driven affair. Smaller developers have gone the opposite way and seen success, but does that mean a shift is occurring again?
Ubisoft Montpellier crafted a horror game which has divided many because it attempts to please both old and new groups of fans. However, only one type of gamer ends up benefiting from these decisions.
ZombiU is based very loosely off Ubisoft’s first foray into video games: Zombi. It is also based in a slow, difficult gameplay style reminiscent of horror where you weren’t simply able to gun everything down. Although it has a story, it is one which is mostly unnecessary and goofy at times. Again, this feels like what you might expect to hear of an older Resident Evil or Clock Tower game. Basically, ZombiU is a modern take on horror as it was.
In many ways, it feels similar to Demon’s/Dark Souls. This is because both games share a low margin of error. If you aren’t prepared to take on situations, then you’re probably going to die. Unlike games where you may simply pick off zombies easily, these groups of undead are much tougher. Instead of loading you up with tons of ammo and weapons, you’ll likely be fending off bites with a simple cricket bat, or rarely, a handgun. You are not meant to be overpowered. Even if you do have a stockpile of bullets though, it won’t be hard to discover that even shooting is harder than in other games. With the way zombies lumber towards the character, it is often hard to get a clear headshot.
If you have ever wanted to feel how you might actually survive against legions of zombies, then this game gets you closer than expected. Alongside meager, weak weaponry, your character is also frail. This isn’t some being who will be able to stand up to hundreds of bites. A few too many scratches, or if you get tackled, and it's all over. At least, that character’s life will end. One interesting feature of ZombiU is how it treats death. With one character down, you begin again from the safehouse as someone else. Then, you must trek back to where you died last and kill off the zombified form to get back your goods.
When that’s not hardcore enough, you can even enter into Survival mode which gives players only one life. First time players should definitely skip this mode. You may think you’re prepared, but there are many times in the game where it works to surprise you with zombies suddenly, which doesn’t jive with self preservation. However long you last, the game gives you a score to use to judge against other players. For the regular mode, there are two difficulties available, although both are harder than average. One change between them is how many hits it takes to get a zombie down. On the easy mode, it may take 2-3 whacks, while on the other it takes 4-5.
Since so much time will be spent hitting zombies with melee weapons, let’s delve more into it. Every character begins with a cricket bat and as such will come to depend on it. Weapons don’t break, thankfully, but they are incredibly slow. Anyone expecting fast-paced Left 4 Dead style melee will be very much put off. You must ready your weapon, allow it to go through a long swing animation, and hopefully have it connect with a zombie skull. However, if you’re just swinging wildly, you may miss quite often. Missing is deadly, as zombies will very often take your opening and cause serious damage. Learning how to effectively fight is a skill you must hone quickly, lest you go through dozens of survivors.
The Wii U GamePad implementation is done both well and poorly. The best features are being able to scan the environment, or use radar to be aware of your surroundings. This can help you spot upcoming zombies and lootable items. Then there are some silly uses, such as requiring players to tap away madly at the screen to open something. It’s far from inspired and Ubisoft definitely should have known better. At the very least, those goofy moments are few and far between, leaving you to have more fun with the other features.
Then there is looting, which is done through the GamePad only. While many may suggest it is more realistic to have to let down your guard to pick up objects, the act of doing so is a little finicky. The GamePad screen itself is a bit hard to touch sometimes, which results in many occasions where you simply can’t loot items quickly and efficiently. It seems, in the case of looting, that it would have been handled better by a simple button click or touch instead of dragging.
Visually, the game performs amicably, with the GamePad keeping up. One issue, though, is the zombie design. By itself, it stands out as being pretty disgusting, but not nearly as much once you have come across the same zombies time and time again. There are only a handful of zombie types, and it takes you out of the experience a bit to be stuck fighting them time and time again. It’s especially odd for a game purporting to be horror, that it basically requires fighting at many instances. It would have been nicer to be able to skip past normal zombies, and maybe only take care of the special ones.
The game itself is about ten hours exactly, although Survival mode players will probably take a much more ponderous playthrough. Once it is done, you can go back in or check out the local multiplayer options. There are two modes, although only one is particularly entertaining. That mode is a fun one where one player controls zombies via the GamePad and another uses a Pro Controller (or Nunchuck and Wii Remote combo) to play. The human player attempts to capture flags in a fast-paced FPS, while the GamePad player messes with an RTS mode. They will use the screen to place zombies strategically to try and eat the other player up. It’s a shame that this mode isn’t available online, but it definitely is fun for players who have all the controllers necessary.
Does ZombiU falter in any way? While it presents a very hardcore sort of horror game, it is certainly not free of problems. There are a great deal of bugs to be found while playing. Some aren’t too bad, such as zombies attacking through closed doors, but others are a bit more annoying. Sometimes missions will not trigger and other times the act of reviving will simply make all your items disappear with no chance to snag them off your corpse. None of these issues are game-breaking, thankfully.
As far as ZombiU is concerned, it manages to be a fairly solid game. The issue it has is coming as a launch title for people who probably expect a much simpler experience. If you want something easy to pick up and play, then avoid it at all costs. However, if you are looking for something to truly test your mettle, ZombiU is the best choice you have on Wii U.
+ Embraces difficulty
+ Interesting mechanics for death/respawning
+ Local multiplayer adds a different way to enjoy the game
- Amount of required zombie fights is strangely high
- Some gimmicky GamePad functions
Overall Score: 8 (Out of 10)
ZombiU is the kind of horror game that old fans of the genre should be looking into.
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