ZombiU is one of the best survival horror titles to hit the market in years, and makes excellent use of the new technology of the Wii U. There’re flaws preventing it from hitting true greatness but an overall intriguing, inventive and genuinely scary experience still makes it one of the best title of the year and a great launch title for Nintendo’s new console.
ZombiU throws you into a post zombie apocalypse London, unprepared and confused, before an disembodied voice, calling himself The Prepper guides you to a safe area of the Underground and encourages you to fight and survive the hordes of zombies that now infest the streets. It’s a vague introduction but a compelling one. You’ll crave answers and follow The Prepper’s advice without question, primarily because facing the unknown alone is such a terrifying prospect.
Indeed ZombiU creates a powerfully eerie atmosphere, and its zombie menace is aggressive, strong, and numerous. The dark, debris filled interiors and misty streets are home to dozens of threats, and with only a cricket bat and six bullets to defend yourself with initially, you’ll find engaging just a couple of zombies a very risky and challenging endeavour.
Zombies will swarm around you, scratching, biting and grabbing, rapidly consuming your health bar. In the early stages a cheap one-hit kill from a Zombie’s grab is a common occurrence, although you do find a counter a few hours in. However, despite death being a constant companion, it seldom becomes frustrating. When you die you respawn back in the safe house as another survivor, with your previous self now a zombie skulking in the area you died in. Borrowing inspiration from Dark Souls, ZombiU gives you the opportunity to reacquire any equipment from your undead self, but if you die before you collect everything then it’s lost forever. It’s a great risk/reward system. Weapons and ammo are very hard to come by and losing a pump action shotgun can be a devastating thing. It’s adds to the tension marvellously.
Aiding you in survival is your tablet, the in-game representation of your GamePad. This acts as your inventory screen, map, sonar, and method of interacting with the world. By scanning CCTV junction boxes you unlock a map viewable on the GamePad, additionally you can scan items and enemies which will then show up on your TV to help track them. Changing weapons, using items, and switching on and off your torch are all done through the GamePad, either through the quick access slots you can move item to, or by accessing your inventory in your survivor’s backpack. Rummaging around in your backpack as well as looting causes your character to rest their backpack on the ground, leaving you vulnerable. Whilst you’re doing things on the GamePad, the action continues on your TV, requiring you to loot quickly or clear an area first.
The sonar works similarly to the Aliens one, showing up red dots and beeping for every moving thing the pulse finds, this ranges from birds and rats to the undead. The familiar and dreaded beep of a new, moving entity in your area shifts your focus between the TV and GamePad and provides another fantastic way of increasing the tension.
The cherry on top for ZombiU’s atmosphere comes from the brilliant audio. The bloodcurdling cries of the infected will send a shiver down your spine and your character’s panting and yelling as you explore and fight, paired with the up-tempo music that accompanies danger, will get your heart racing. It all comes together to immerse you in the world.
The social aspects that the Wii U brings to proceeding are excellently catered for here. Other player’s zombie selves can appear in your game, complete with all their loot. A quick press of the Home button allows you to take a screenshot of a player’s bloody, beaten corpse and post it for the world to see on Miiverse. Additionally you can spray symbols onto walls which act as message for other players, although this is a very limited system of communication. Meanwhile multiplayer allows one person to spawn zombies with the GamePad from an overhead view, whilst the other battles against them with the Pro Controller. It’s a shame it’s restricted to local play but it’s still a blast.
Indeed ZombiU is a unique survival horror title that never compromises it’s horror for action. Load times can get a little on the long side, many of the interior areas are copy pasted, and it’s a challenging fight for survival, but it’s also an intense and deeply satisfying experience.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Platform: Wii U Release Date: 30/11/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of ZombiU for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a Wii U. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.