I’m a latecomer to the Wii U – while I have always been a fan of Nintendo, there was nothing that stood out for me at launch. It is only now, with a big release every month (starting off with Pikmin at the end of July) that I decided to invest in the console. The launch of the Wii U had 2 games that tickled my fancy – and not particularly that hard. New Mario Bros U looked fun (it is), but wasn’t an incentive to buy a console. ZombiU looked promising, but when mixed reviews came out, I decided to hold off until the Nintendo big names launched.
So it was with surprise – after playing a very enjoyable demo – that I decided to purchase ZombiU from Nintendo’s e-Shop (a respectable UK price of £24.99). And I’ll begin by saying – this is the creepiest game I’ve played in a long time (personally, since Doom 3).
Why the game had such a mixed response I don’t know, but this judgement meant I had delayed a fantastic experience. It’s survival horror, and it uses the Wii U controller perfectly. Picture the bleak setting of 28 Days Later and you get an idea of where the game is going.
Starting off as a random survivor – post zombie invasion – you are brought to a safe house in the London Underground. Your only communication is with the ‘Prepper’, a Sean Bean sounding soldier who communicates through your comms device – which is the Wii U’s touch screen controller. This device has a number of functions – some very cool (like the scope of a sniper rifle), others more a necessity. The predominant function the device (trust me) is the Aliens-esque motion tracker, which gives off a red dot and blip when zombies are near. While this can give you a heads up for any approaching zombies, it only works on the same level – picture walking down some steps in the darkness, hoping nothing is lurking around the corner, or approaching a corpse and hoping it won’t sit up.
ZombiU is one of a few games I can only play in small bursts. The level of tension becomes too much at times, whether it be crawling through an air duct with only your torch to light the way, or walking through water, unable to use a weapon as you hold your precious back pack. And talking of weapons – this is a survival horror game. It is often better to use your cricket bat, to avoid the sound of gunshots. And if you do decide to use a shotgun to blast through a sticky situation, it might be best to reserve ammo the rest of the time.
The game looks great – and while not up there with the graphics of the latest Rockstar game (say), the lighting plays exceptionally well, adding to that underlying feeling of doubt and despair.
An interesting game mechanic is the death system. Should a character you’ve been playing as for several hours get attacked (my deaths always involve zombies with gas canisters on their backs – steer clear!), you will wake up in the safe house as a new character. It works surprisingly well – and also means, should you not store the items your previous character had, you will need to search for their corpse (or zombie) and retrieve them. It can be unsettling to see a character you’ve gone through hell with attack you in their undead state. A reminder that no one is safe in this game.
With recent reports that poor sales of ZombiU indicate no sequel, it’s a shame this world (and its clever use of the touchscreen) will not be explored further. But for what this is – and for those who are willing to invest in a Wii U – prepare to have the shit scared out of you.