Lasting First Impressions of Zombi U
Developed by Ubisoft
» When Ubisoft announced their lineup of launch titles for the Nintendo Wii U, the title that truly stood out as being the one game I had to play was Zombi U. I have often said that Ubisoft is one of the most innovative game developers out there. When Microsoft first launched the Kinect, Ubisoft was there with some of the best games to utilize the new hardware. As such, I was not surprised to find that Ubisoft now boasts 25% of the launch titles for Nintendo’s new console, including titles such as Assassin’s Creed III, Rabbids Land, Just Dance 4, Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013, and at the forefront of all these games is the Wii U exclusive, Zombi U. So is Zombi U the must have game for this newly launched console? I sat down with it for an hour to see if it would live up to the expectations that have been set by some amazing preview videos to see if the hype was indeed worth it.
Zombi U is, as I’m sure you can tell from the title, a Zombie survival horror. It has not been common in recent years that an M-rated game like this makes its way to a Nintendo platform so this title is set to not only show off what the new hardware can do, but also signals to the world that Nintendo is trying to win back some hardcore gamers. The basic goal of Zombi U is to escape London with the help of several main characters who will radio instructions to you as you progress. The unique angle in this game is that your character, if caught by the zombies, will become a zombie and you begin the game from the starting area as a new character. Additionally, any items found as your previous character will remain with their now zombified persona so, if you want your items back, you must hunt down and kill your previous self to collect them. This is one of the most innovative ways of introducing multiple lives in any game. If you think you can best the game with only one life, however, you can start the game in Survival mode which gives you only one life. Period. Should you die as that one character, you are dead and the game is over.
Zombi U is what the Resident Evil series was before it became more of an action game. It’s dark, eerie, and disturbingly frightening. With the city of London having suffered a zombie outbreak, most of the power has been cut off so the city is covered in darkness. Utilizing an available flashlight, a good deal of the game is played walking through dimly lit corridors hoping that a zombie isn’t going to be waiting for you around the next corner. Entering a new room or area and hearing the guttural growl of a zombie somewhere close by is enough to get your heart racing. When not frantically running away from a zombie horde, I find that this is a game worth played very slow, calm, and methodically.
With the Wii U hardware comes a new kind of controller, the Wii U GamePad, a controller with a 4 inch screen. In typical Ubisoft style, the GamePad is put to amazing use in Zombi U. While traversing the city of London, the GamePad displays the area map and quick inventory slots allowing quick weapon switching, control of the flashlight, and management of the backpack. When you need to scan an area to analyze the surroundings, pressing the Left Trigger moves the visuals from the TV to the GamePad and you then move and tilt the GamePad around as if you’re actually scanning the area. This same control scheme is used for other things such as a sniper rifle scope or a mounted gatling gun. This feature alone was incredibly satisfying as it is definitely a new and unique take on video game controls. The speakers on the GamePad act as your radio for when the main characters speak to you, adding even more to the immersion of the game.
I am very happy to see a Nintendo console finally up to the graphical power of the current generation of consoles. It may be six years behind the other console makers, but the power in this is still enough to satisfy any gamer. Zombi U looks great and plays great. The controls feel natural and the screen of the gamepad adds some great new gameplay mechanics not found on any other system. The game is not easy either. Conservation of ammunition is key, especially since you will lose everything you have if you die and begin again as a new survivor.
As if right on cue, the character I started the game with was ambushed by a horde of zombies right at the one hour mark and I was unable to hold them off or escape and so she died. That hour was definitely one of the most intense hours I have played in a survival horror since titles like Dead Space. Any fan of this genre of gaming will absolutely get much enjoyment out of Zombi U and will certainly appreciate the love and care that went into crafting the new GamePad controls. The GamePad may seem like a new gimmick for gaming, but it really works well in Zombi U and makes for an amazing immersive experience. With no doubt, Zombi U lives up to the hype that was created prior to launch and should be on every mature gamer’s list as a Wii U must have. With this game, Ubisoft has entered the Survival Horror arena with great confidence and success.
Ubisoft, I gave you an hour and I am IMPRESSED.