When the Wii U launched last year, I was excited to bring home ZombiU as one of my launch titles.  Although major titles such as Darksiders II and Assassin’s Creed III were among the available titles, ZombiU was a Wii U exclusive I had to sink my teeth into.  I’ve been a fan of survival and horror titles for years, and love how they can really get my heart thumping.  I was a little thrown off by the reviews I had seen before the game’s launch, but now that I have beaten it and died many times in survival mode, it is difficult to rate it poorly.

Ubisoft did well in taking a big step by introducing a third-party launch title on a whole new kind of system. It was a risk others didn’t take, and I thank Ubisoft for doing so.  Curious to see what I think of this zombie apocalypse?

I will admit this first – I didn’t survive very long.

GamePad Integration

The GamePad has many different uses and abilities for developers to try out, and Ubisoft found a formula in ZombiU that worked well.  The GamePad is unique, and combining it with a zombie survival horror allowed them to use actions and tools already familiar to fans of the genre in new ways.

ZombiU used the GamePad as a device in the game that allows the survivor to detect objects and signs not visible on the primary screen.  It also allows for player to manage their inventory, which can get rather intense when you have a horde of zombies slowly approaching you. It was easy to equip and organize my items, but it forced me to look away from my main screen.  I was often startled by a zombie while rummaging too long for a candy bar – and that zombie wasn’t interested in the candy.

zombiureviewvisualsThere was an initial awkwardness with the scanner, and you do spend a lot of time searching for items or signs not visible on the game screen.  This game is a true blue survival horror title, so having all those items is key to beating the game.  I found myself scanning every corner of every room to make sure I gathered everything, and for some this might be a bother.  I wasn’t very bothered though – those few extra rounds of ammo saved my skin multiple times.

As for the initial awkwardness, the scanner works as if you really are the survivor in the game so you have to hold it as such.  It can take getting used to, but after playing for a bit I had no problems with it.

This game is slow-paced, but with the new controller I found this a blessing while I learned to use the GamePad as a part of the gameplay and not just an alternate screen.  It didn’t overwhelm me with different controls and features all at once, and eased me in gradually. As you might expect, the difficulty of the game increases as you learn, which helps in keeping the game challenging but still fun.  No matter how prepared or ready I was though, my heart was still racing a million times a second the moment I had to leave the safe house.

Not A First Person Shooter

Although ZombiU is played from a first-person perspective, it does not play like a first-person shooter. If you want a fast-paced game where there are enemies to shoot and blow up around every corner – this isn’t for you. It is a survivor title at heart, and will challenge you in various ways appropriate to the genre. It’s also definitely a horror title – I suggest playing in the middle of the night with all the lights off, so that every little sound will have you jumping.

The story to ZombiU isn’t very different from other zombie titles, besides taking place in London. It might catch you by surprise towards the ending, but the characters you meet as you progress help move it along.  You are guided by a man known as The Prepper, who has been preparing for this to happen for years and takes a biblical approach to the world ending via zombie infestation.

Diverse Gameplay

I found myself using melee weapons more often than firearms if I could do so.  Ammo isn’t found too often, and firing a loud gun gathers unwanted attention.  Still, although I did prefer to use melee weapons, the melee combat was a little clunky.  The melee weapons were sturdier, but you will just have to find your own comfort zone in how you deal with zombies. It took a little while for me to really get used to it, and interacting with objects in general within the game was a little stiff.  You have to point your camera at objects with certainty and precision, which is difficult when running away.

I think one of my favorite aspects of the game is how it deals with the death of the player.  When you die in ZombiU, the survivor becomes infected. A single bite will kill you, and for someone like me who hates to die and be reminded constantly of  how many times I have done so, will make surviving all the more sweet.  When the survivor becomes infected, you come into control of a new one and have to find your previous zombified-self in order to get your supplies back.  This makes surviving an even deeper component to the gameplay.  

zombiureviewmeleeWhen you first pick up the game, your first death will be your hardest. You will be nervous around every corner and have a glimmer of hope to survive the entire game without dying.  Once you get over that phase and die, which you most likely will, you will learn from it and become less frazzled about death.  It also makes you leave a few items in the safe house, so that the next survivor won’t be left empty handed.

Along with the story mode is an incredibly difficult survival mode, where you’ll only get one life, one chance for survival. I haven’t beaten it yet, but I enjoy playing the standard story mode more.  For players that enjoy a challenge though I would definitely put completing this as a major achievement.  Each time I die I learn how to survive just a little longer. Practice makes perfect!

Exciting Multiplayer

ZombiU has an extremely fun multiplayer that ranks as one of my favorite Wii U games to play with friends. The multiplayer pits friends against each other in a King of Zombies contest.  The player with the GamePad places zombies around the survivor, who has to use the weapons and tools available to capture flags and rack up points. There is a limit to the amount of zombies used and types, but as each player levels up they are able to use more variety of weapons and zombies.  The GamePad has an aerial view, which allows the player to place their zombies strategically for the survivor to run into. Oh, did I mention the zombie team collects points as well, like the survivor team? One zombie will collect points, while the others attack the survivor team.  I love playing on the zombie team.

The only issue I had with the multiplayer was the survivor controls.  Until I bought a Pro Controller, I had to use the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to move through the level.  The way to turn was to point the Wii remote in the direction you wanted to turn, and for this game I found this annoying and a little jarring.  With the Pro Controller, however, I had no problems blowing off zombie heads.  This might just be me, but I didn’t like the pointer control scheme but have solved the issue by purchasing a Pro Controller.

Sound and Visuals

This game is dark, with plenty of blood and dead bodies.  The soundtrack isn’t terrible, and every small sound in the game will give you a warning of what is coming – just try not to become startled at every little sound.  ZombiU doesn’t have the same enthralling visuals as the colorful Nintendo Land, but it holds its position with other zombie games.  It has a more realistic style as compared to The Walking Dead, but has a more serious game tone that makes London the cold and zombie filled place it is.  The graphics are nothing to sneeze at nonetheless, but you might be a bit too busy fending off zombies to sniff the flowers.

8Out of 10

The Bottom Line

ZombiU is an unappreciated launch title that is definitely worth playing.  The gameplay offered by the GamePad is the most polished use of Wii U hardware compared to other third party titles, and being a Wii U exclusive gives it even more appeal for early adopters.  It has a good amount of replay value to it as well. I have played through it on the first two difficulty levels, and continue to polish my survival skills to better my number of deaths each time. When Nintendo spoke about courting more titles that appeal to the more intense gamer, they didn't just mean major franchises like Mass Effect and Assassin's Creed. ZombiU is great game that can only be fully realized thanks to the GamePad and Wii U capabilities.  There are a few rough patches with the controls, melee combat, and constant scanning of the terrain, but with the fun multiplayer and use of GamePad integration I overlooked these issues and enjoyed the game at its core.

Categorized Under: