Genre: First Person Survival Horror
Platform: Wii U
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Released: November 18th 2012
Releasing a third party game together with a Nintendo console is always something very bold to do since Nintendo games are always going to steal the spotlight during the first days after release: this is even more true in Wii U’s case, with a Super Mario game available with the console at launch. Ubisoft however decided to put themselves to the test, developing a title that’s far from the typical colorful and family-oriented style of Nintendo’s games; by having such a game out Nintendo and Ubisoft are trying to show everyone how things will be different with this new console and how hardcore gamers won’t have to worry about not having games suited to their own tastes on the Wii U.
Zombies, Zombies and even more Zombies
ZombiU is a survival horror game played through a first person view mode. The game, just like the name suggests, throws the player in the middle of a typical survival horror scenario: London has been overrun by humans turned into zombies by an epidemic. The plot is really nothing special, actually there’s very little of it: its only function is to tie all the missions together. There are no epic characters or cutscenes: just your generic character, one of the few survivors, and his desire to survive the zombie apocalypse. I personally loved the classic horror atmosphere but the plot could have definitely been more detailed, even just to make players feel more involved in what’s happening during the game. The only constant presence during the game is the character named Prepper who guides the survivors through the zombie infested city and even in this case it doesn’t go much farther than “go from point A to point B”.
The overall game’s structure may not be the most original in the genre, but the execution is not too bad: taking inspiration from Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls s, the game is really hard and you’ll die. A lot. Death actually plays more than a simple “try again mechanic” role: once a character dies, he’s gone for good or rather, he’ll simply become another zombie and the player will take on the role of another generic survivor. Starting back in the shelter at the beginning of each mission, players will be able to recover their items by killing the now zombified character they were controlling: doing this is fundamental to keep going since there aren’t many items available during each mission. The lack of items made me remember the days of the first survival horror games, especially the first Resident Evil and the first Silent Hill, and it really felt good.
Zombies ate my GamePad
As it was expected, Ubisoft tried its best to use the GamePad in a number of different ways and I have to say I was impressed how everything was implemented: no function feels distracting and some thing even make the survival horror atmosphere even better. The GamePad’s screen is mostly used to check the surroundings’ map and a radar which actually serves better as a way to increase tension rather than having a good use during gameplay; all the other uses of the GamePad are related to ingame actions like searching drawers for items and moving them to your backpack or using a scanner to search around the area for items, doors and switches; the best thing about all this is that the game won’t pause while performing actions with the GamePad so you’ll have to be careful when to do all this: searching a drawer at a bad time could cost you your life (and all your precious items). All other GamePad’s uses are related to other actions like forcing a door open, picking up special items, search zombies’ bodies and so on, and they’re performed through some specific actions that have to be completed on the touch screen.
Guns out, Cricket Bat in
You probably expect this, but let me tell you clearly that there are going to be a lot of zombies coming after you and even opening a door could lead to a close encounter with death: just a few hits are enough to kill your character and bring you back to the starting point. With so much emphasis on survival you’d think the battle system would actually give you many ways to escape an untimely death: unfortunately, that’s not the case and to be brutally honest the battle system is a bore fest. Since there’s not much ammo available and the zombies are always plenty, you’ll have to use the standard melee weapon available, the Cricket Bat: with just one single attack available, you can see how things may be getting boring very fast. There’s a real lack of variety, not only in offensive and defensive maneuvers but also in enemies: zombies are not smart at all and they all behave in the same exact way. Stealth may be an option to add some variety but most times you’ll be forced to engage the zombies due to level design choices. It’s almost as if Ubisoft wanted to have a realistic approach to the whole thing but forgot that everything needs to be fun: sadly, the game itself can’t ride only on the great atmosphere.
Not all zombies are made equal
ZombiU’s problems don’t end here unfortunately: graphics aren’t too good, especially polygonal models, textures and lightining effects. Given the hardware, we could have expected some Ps3/Xbox 360 level production but this is almost like going back a few years in the past: it’s really strange to wreak havoc inside a room and see that nothing gets damaged. The incredibly low interactivity level really brings down the overall atmosphere, even though the stages are not badly designed. Aside from the main game, there’s a local multiplayer option where the player with the Gamepad will be the King of The Zombies, placing those hellish creatures all over a map and the other players, armed with the WiiMote will have to dispose of them. It’s a nice diversion but the fun won’t probably last for too long due to the pretty basic battle system.
Zombie U kinda misses the mark, and it’s a real shame since it showed some real promise: the non-existant plot, the basic battle system and the mediocre graphics real bring down the game. Despite all this the game isn’t really that bad: if you’re a survival horror fan you’ll be able to enjoy the great atmosphere, reminiscent of the first games of the genre, some of the gameplay ideas and the GamePad use. Everyone else better try the game first: the shortcomings may bite you just like a zombie wandering in London.
- Great atmosphere
- Good use of the GamePad
- Good challenge level
- Paper-thin plot
- Standard and repetitive combat system
- Enemies’ AI
- Mediocre graphics
6.5 out of 10
Article from Gamersyndrome.com