Release Date: November 18, 2012
Developer: Ubisoft Montepellier / Ubisoft Bucharest
Genre: First Person Survival Horror
Plataform: Nintendo WiiU
To play as loads of different people in a very small time interval was never so fun and yet so “frustrating” at the same time. I felt terrible to see my first character dying in the middle of a zombie horde, and losing all the weapons and equipment that I collected in the first few minutes of gameplay. But, even worse was when I started with a new character, Liz, who died right before she was able to recover all the items that I lost some minutes before. And the worst part: against the same zombie! At that time I realised that I should get used to the idea that I would be losing all “those people” during the game and that I should accept it or, If I didn’t want to feel so frustrated any more, then perhaps the best idea was to take the game out of my WiiU and focus on New Super Mario Bros U again. So, this review is for you if, like me, didn’t give up on playing ZombiU just because of one frustration or, hmmm… maybe 30 others. LOL.
Wii U Game Pad features right in the first minutes!
Talking again about my first minutes of game, the first impression that I had with ZombiU was how immersive this game is. Without revealing any spoilers, the game starts with the first survivor in the middle of a zombie attack, in one of the numerous streets of London. The action starts without giving you any clues, or even a moment to catch your breath. This first minutes work as a tutorial, but they don’t pause at all for you to learn it too well — your only option is to hear the voice that talks with you, and follow his instructions, running away from that attack and hiding yourself in the safest and nearest room available. This “tutorial” ends up being a good option, since the normal human reaction for this situation is always to run away, trying to figure out the controllers by themselves. And yeah! I did it. HA!
The game brings to you the best working example of the WiiU since the launch. A lot of the features are presented right there, showing what the Gamepad is capable of. I would say that if you are a new owner of the Nintendo WiiU, you should start with ZombiU. It’s a great choice! 🙂
It’s impressive how immersive the game can be having the Gamepad as the main controller. In the game you control a lot of things directly through the Gamepad. Your map is always visible on it and by pressing a radar button you can scan to see if there are zombies nearby. It’s scary some moments in which you are in a total darkness and you turn on your radar and can see zombies ominously approaching you. By the way, another very nice feature – which may sound a little bit silly – is the lantern. With one click you can turn it on or off. While on, the battery will decrease, but if you turn it off again it will recover very fast. The strategy is to use it in a intelligent way, because if a zombie sees your light you can be sure that the game will be even harder. They will hunt and try to kill you at any cost.
The Gamepad also offers different features such as the innovative Scanner that you have probably already seen in one of the videos online. The Scanner is used to identify hidden items around the environment, as well giving you a night vision, or even the capability to hack some cameras and systems in London. The player can move with the Gamepad in any direction around itself to actually see the real environment in-game, or you have the option to just rotate using the right analog stick. After scanning objects, they will be fixed in your map forever so it is easy to search for later.
Another exciting moment is that every time that you need to get an item from your inventory the game does not pause. You need to select everything directly in the Gamepad in real-time, being sure to always keep in mind that you could be mauled by a zombie at any time. LOL.
But, surprisingly, one of my favourite Gamepad features are the voices that come directly from the Gamepad. Everything that I hear from my “guide friend” – speaking in English, with his amazing British accent – comes directly from the Gamepad, making me feel like I’m even more inside the game. The quality of the audio is AMAZING! You feel like someone is there, in your “hands”, trying to help you. You can only understand this feeling after you finally play it. So, for now, just believe me.
Besides that, ZombiU offers more than 20 different features to show off what the Gamepad is capable of. Between those features, the most common are: the aforementioned Sonar; the Weapon Crafting, that gives the option to upgrade, tweak and customize your weapons and gear to give you a much needed edge over the zombie hordes; the precision sniping, that makes the GamePad transform into a scope that enables the player to zoom in for headshot; the hack door systems; the lock picking, the blacklight, the turret, the mini map, the inventory management, the shooting skills, the personal notebook, the barricade system and others.
The Demon’s Souls of Nintendo?
As I said at the beginning of this review, if you are not a hardcore gamer, or if you hate how hard a game like Demon’s Souls can be, you should maybe avoid using time playing ZombiU. Maybe I’m over exaggerating and the difficulty is not THAT HARD, but believe me when I say that it is at least comparable. ZombiU offers two different game modes: Normal Mode and Survival Mode, and both modes are pretty hard.
In Normal Mode, every time you die you start as a new character, with only a pistol with 6 bullets and a piece of wood in your inventory. If you want to recover all the items that your last survivor collected, you need to find him on the map in his zombie form. The game registers each one of your survivors during the game, as well as your name, last name, gameplay time and other small information. This way you can keep a track of how many survivors you have played with during your campaign and how long each one survived. That’s not a joke when the Game X-Statement is: “How long will you survive?”
For Survival Mode the game is even more insane. If you die, the game is over! Like, really over! At least the player has the chance to choose between two modes inside Survival Mode, the chicken one and the hardest one.
The difficulty of the game is impressive. There are some moments with a slower pace, with some environment exploration and chance to search for some items or small “puzzles”, but for the most part the game follows a faster pace and when a battle starts you can expect at least eight more zombies to come to attack you, all at the same time. Some of them possess different characteristics and attacks, creating different types of combat situations with close combat or long range attacks. For example, there is a zombie that spills a powerful vomit that burns the player or a guard zombie that uses a helmet, making his resistance to attacks higher.
Despair in the streets of London
If you have ever been to London this is another aspect that will make amaze you about this game. It is unbelievable how faithful the game is with places of London. It’s awesome to see the same places that you’ve visited before in real life, but this time all destroyed, in flames and populated with hordes of roaming zombies. There are some moments in the game that you will need to visit places such as the Buckingham Palace while you are facing a huge storm. You will also find and read some of the letters written to the Queen. It’s AMAZING!
But this is not a huge surprise, since Ubisoft is well known as a company that creates environments very similar to the reality, e.g. Assassins Creed Trilogy. While the game shows a lot of huge and very beautiful environments, it loses some points for repeating little aspects of some of those environment in a way that can make you feel as though you have already been there before. But not to an extent that actually makes you feel too bad about it.
Talking about the feeling of despair, ZombiU does a great job. Mixing a gameplay style that features Survival Horror with a First Person Game, you will feel excited and scared for the majority of the game. A lot of the environments in the game will be in the dark, allowing you to make good use of your lantern in the right moments of the game, as well as creating a better horror atmosphere. The game makes sure to create some specific fright moments that make you jump behind your sofa, or at least almost that. LOL. Maybe one of the reasons to be so scared to die are the controls of the game. And that is what I will be talking about in the next part of the review.
Level Design, Objectives Directions and Controllers
You probably read somewhere online or heard one of your friends saying that the Controls in ZombiU are probably not the best. I mean, after some minutes of gameplay, you can easily learn how to aim better by utilising your weapons or understand the best combat strategy for a situation according to timing. But even so you might hate how at some moments of the game the controls feel like it is playing with you! I can’t say very well how I would make the controls differently, since the conceptual idea for the game was to focus on the Gamepad new functionalities, but definitely I can imagine that new First Player games will have the same critics focused on how inefficient it is to play with the Gamepad. But again, nothing that you can’t get used after some time. Aside from that, all the other controls seem to work well and the control scheme seems to be easy understandable. You can make your character run by pressing the left analog stick while you move it forward. And this is one of the things that you will be mostly using in the game. Oh, yeah!
As the Level Design and Objective Direction in the game, I can say that ZombiU works very well. At any time, by pressing the button “-” in your gamepad, the missions will be displayed on the gamepad screen at the same time. And all the time, by starting a new mission, a direction mark will show on your map in the gamepad, helping you to not feel so lost during the game. Honestly, I just felt lost for two moments of the game, and mostly because I was more distracted with a fire environment that made me fail to notice that there was actually a path right in front of me! But generally speaking the missions work very smooth, as well as directions, in-game information etc.
Hunting other Online Zombies
ZombiU offers a very simple Online Gameplay Experience. According to the game idea, I believe the online experience is quite good enough actually. The game does not offer an online campaign mode against your friends, or anything like that. Mostly, the way it works is that during your main campaign, if you are playing online, is allowing you to find other players’ survivors that have turned into zombies. So, by killing them, you can loot their items and also have their gamertag registered in your gamepad, showing how many other online zombie players you have killed during your campaign. I agree this is not as much as fun as they could have done – for example, if other online players could control their zombie against you, but again, I believe this is to create foster the idea that the game wants us to feel loneliness in the chaotic universe they have created.
Another online function present in the game is the In-Game Online Messages. After around two hours of gameplay you will find a spray paint can that gives you the option to leave messages on the wall by using some default drawings that the gamepad offers. You can see those messages during your campaign by searching with your scanner. You also have the option to like those messages or not, making them have more realistic value if the information is trustful.
The King of Zombies: A “blah!” Multiplayer Experience.
I’m not sure if the reason that I disliked the multiplayer was because I played with my roommate while he was using the WiiRemote + Nunchuck instead of a Wii U Pro Controller, but the game play was pretty hard, and not to mention somewhat annoying. Well, both game modes are nice, actually, but the gameplay experience is frustrating.
Basically ZombiU Multiplayer features two modes: the King of Zombies and the cliche Capture the Flag Level. In the King of Zombies the player with the GamePad needs to use their energy points to summon zombies around the level, trying the best to kill the survivor. All his strategies need to be done directly on the GamePad screen, making each decision a mystery for the other player. The player controlling the WiiRemote (BLAH!) or the Pro Controller needs to survive as long as he can, killing the zombies summoned by the King of Zombies. With time, the King of Zombies can summon new types of zombies, increasing the difficulty.
The second multiplayer mode is the Capture the flag Level, in which the King of Zombies needs to again summon zombies before the other player captures all flags in the level. Both Game Modes offer different types of levels and conditions.
The problem is that the player who is controlling the survivor will face a lot of frustrating moments, since the control layout used on the Wii Remote are a piece of junk! It’s super hard to aim and shoot using the Wii Remote. The controls are difficult to memorize and to feel right, considering that the player is in a fast paced situation. But talking about the King of Zombie the experience is quite exciting, offering a new type of gameplay style and a very intelligent one as well.
Again, maybe the problem was the controller that I used. At least I’m hoping for that.
Nintendo Wii U first option game!
Finally, to finish this review, I would say that if you are planning to buy a Nintendo Wii U, or if you already bought one, you should get ZombiU. Of course there are a lot of small issues, as well as some control problems and repetitions, but definitely if you want a great introduction to what the Nintendo Wii U can do in this generation, ZombiU is the best option to show you that.
Nintendo made an excellent choice by releasing the game with the début of their new console. Maybe the game does not have the best graphics ever, but for sure it has a innovate and uniquely immersive gameplay experience, with a reasonable length, very challenging game difficulty and environments with amazing lighting and scary moments.
As a final score, I would need to take 0.5 points from ZombiU because of the confusing Multiplayer Mode that didn’t please me, even though it featured a nice concept. But what is a nice concept without good execution?
My Personal Score: 4/5
[button type=”icon” icon=”paper”]Written by Matheus Pitillo.[/button]