ZombiU Review

ZombiU (Available exclusively on Wii U)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Survival Horror
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montpeller
Release Date: November 18th, 2012

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates ZombiU M for mature because of blood and gore, intense violence, and strong language. ZombiU takes place in a zombie-infested London where players must use whatever they can to survive by any means necessary. This leads to all sorts of violence and cheap scares aplenty.

Plays Like: Inventory management, bullets as scarce as you can imagine, and zombies all over the place. Sounds like any other survival horror game, and in fact it plays very similarly. The main difference here is the Wii U Game Pad and all the unique ways ZombiU allows players to interact with it. Sometimes for better, or worse.

Review Basis: Finished the single player campaign and tried the multiplayer component.

ZombiU was one of the Wii U titles I was the most eager to get my hands on. While it may not have lived up to my lofty expectations, I think there’s enough interesting gameplay mechanics featured to convince Wii U owners to take a look. If nothing else, the atmosphere alone should convince hardcore Wii U owners that there’s certainly content available for them at launch.

The Great:

The atmosphere in second to none. There’s a phenomenal sense of isolation and claustrophobia. The environments do a fantastic job of pinning players down narrow pathways and directly into harms way. At no point do you ever truly feel safe. Even looking at the map, or interacting with some of the in-game objects leaves you at the mercy of the zombies. It’s great fun!

The Good:

  • Strategy plays an important role. At no point can you run into new areas guns blazing, or your journey will be cut short. Players are rewarded for thinking about their current situation and taking out zombies one at a time.
  • Having access to an always-on map, and weapon load-outs may seem trivial, but as the DS proved it does enhance the gameplay experience. While some Game Pad features may not be overly exciting, such as scanning for various objects in the environments, others are great, like having the Game Pad act as a mirror so you can see what’s happening behind you as you fiddle with your backpack.

  • Two-player local multiplayer works well and is fun. It’s a unique game of capture the flag, where one player is a survivor and the other is a zombie king. Both feature radically different play styles, and offer up hours of good fun. Shame it isn’t online though.

  • Audio visual presentation values are excellent for this being a launch title. The music sets a nice creepy undertone as you frantically make your way from one objective to another. The graphics are lush and detailed, although some animations are a little stiff.

The So-So:

+/- When your character eventually dies, you have to retrace your steps and pick up their backpack in order to continue with your previous supplies. While interesting in concept, this proves quite a chore after a while because situations often arise where you can’t get your bag back, therefore forcing you to continue without any of the weapons you previously had.

+/- As you inevitably fall victim to the zombies, a completely new character takes up the charge. While a very intriguing idea, it leaves a disconnect with the storyline. How can a complete stranger simply pick up where someone else left off, and be expected to follow the same instructions, etc. It never feels as cohesive as it should.

The Bad:

  • The default cricket bat is how you will dispatch the vast majority of zombies Taking out zombies requires a random number of hits, meaning you could end up whacking the same zombie a dozen times or more.
  • Bullets and other weapons are simply too scarce. There’s a fine balance to play with items in a survival horror game, and sadly ZombiU doesn’t hit the mark.

  • The Ugly:

    Getting killed and realizing you have no way to recover your backpack, which just so happens to have all your latest weapons and upgrades you just spent the past hour collecting.

    The Lowdown:

    ZombiU isn’t the AAA killer app we were hoping for, but it’s not the utter failure some are making it out to be either. What it is, is a highly atmospheric survival horror game that needed just a little more time in the oven to let some of its more interesting ideas pan out. It makes great use of the Game Pad and is a very early look at what an ambitious developer can do with the Wii U hardware. I’m very excited to see where this leads in the future.

    Final Score: 8.2/10

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