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ZombiU Review

Posted by Erin Marcon On Monday 7 January 20134 COMMENTS

Available on WU l Published by Ubisoft l Developed by Ubisoft Montpelier l Classified MA15+ l Supports 1-2 players

REVIEW IN BRIEF > Had enough of the undead? Make an exception for ZombiU. Ubisoft’s survival horror offering will challenge you on every level. Can you face hours of unrelenting difficulty and hours more of mind numbing repetition? More to the point, can you find the will to survive in a setting so far beyond hope that futility all but seeps from the walls? You can and you should, because ZombiU is great reason to own a Wii U.

REVIEW IN FULL > If you’re looking for a title to showcase the graphical bona fides of Nintendo’s latest system, ZombiU shouldn’t be your first choice. However, if you’re willing to look beyond the rudimentary character models, low res textures and occasional glitches, you’ll be rewarded with a desperate and immersive vision of a post apocalyptic London. This is city of mud and rust, rain and rubble, a city as dead as the vast majority of its inhabitants.

When you perish (and perish you will), the game reveals one of its more inventive conceits. You respawn as a completely different character.

You never feel safe. The end could arrive in any number of ways. You could be ambushed while crawling through a claustrophobic air-conditioning duct or overwhelmed as you try to open a locked door. Perhaps your torch battery will give out at just the wrong moment. If you’re being honest with yourself, you know you’re not going to survive. Much like the zombies, you’re just going through the motions.

When you perish (and perish you will), the game reveals one of its more inventive conceits. You respawn as a completely different character. You’re then tasked with tracking down your previous identity (who is now hell bent on killing you) in order to retrieve your lost equipment. It’s quite confronting and more than a little surreal. Ultimately, though, the feature feels a little underdone. The first person perspective and absence of dialogue ensures that one character feels very much the same as the next.

You may be taken off guard by the degree of challenge on offer in ZombiU. With rare exception, you won’t have the opportunity to dominate your adversaries. Every zombie is a threat. Every zombie takes a power of killing. If one manages to engage you at close quarters, you’re as good as gone. It takes at least one headshot (usually two) to put down even the most common enemy type. Oh, and ammunition is incredibly scarce.

Expect to die repeatedly during the early hours of the game as you gradually come to grips with what is expected of you. Each respawn triggers a significant amount of backtracking. While this is incredibly frustrating, it also serves to amplify the level of tension associated with each event. It makes you desperate. Gone is the shroud of futility hanging over your every action, in its place an animalistic will to survive.

Even if you love ZombiU, you’ll spend plenty of time hating it. This is a brutal game, seemingly oblivious to your cries of frustration.

Some encounters require a more strategic approach. You might use a flare to distract your foes before slipping through an area unseen. Perhaps you’ll lure a zombie into a fire filled room. This will allow you to shove it into the fire with a cricket bat and thus preserve your precious ammo. If an area is overrun with the undead, you might be able to lure them away one at a time and fight them on your own terms. Almost every battle feels like a potential set piece.

This is among the first titles to take full advantage of the Wii U’s unique features. The controller’s touch screen is used to manage inventory, track enemies via radar and scan the environment for items of interest. The interface is slick, intuitive and a hell of a lot of fun to use. A word of warning: using the touch screen doesn’t pause the in-game action, so before you decide to fish something out of your backpack, you’ll want to be certain you’re alone. (You’ll never be certain you’re alone.) The offline only multiplayer component also makes use of the touch screen. While it works as advertised, it’s rather small in scope and lacks the deliberate pacing and oppressive ambience of the main game.

Even if you love ZombiU, you’ll spend plenty of time hating it. This is a brutal game, seemingly oblivious to your cries of frustration. Nowhere is this more obvious than in its post credits denouement.  Die during this mission and it’s game over (no checkpoint, no respawn). If you’re keen to see the ‘good’ ending, feel free to restart the campaign from scratch. This game simply will not compromise. Fortunately, it’s all worth it. Desperate and compelling, ZombiU brings survival horror to the Wii U in a big way.

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4 Comments

  1. “Perhaps your torch battery will give out at just the wrong moment.”

    Many times when I was playing the light would go out as I opened a door, or walking down a hall and I would hit something with my feet at the very moment the light went out.

    Not sure if you have been active on Miiverse during your time with the game, and perhaps seen one of my messages, but if you haven’t done so yet, I’m trying to encourage all ZombiU players to post a picture of their game file once finished showing the number of hours it took to complete, and the number of survivors.

    Do you remember how many hours and survivors it took you to “survive” the game?

  2. Stephen Foote says:

    I’m see-sawing between getting a Wii U right now or putting it off until the inevitable release of Zelda. This is one of the games that has me tempted and your review isn’t helping me save my money Erin.

  3. Erin Marcon says:

    Don’t wait for Zelda, Stephen. That could be years away. Join us here on the Dark side!

  4. Erin Marcon says:

    Hey Coffee – I’m frightened to look at how many survivors I went through. Too many to count!

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