When you think Nintendo, zombie survival games are probably the last thing to pop into your head. Personally, I think of colourful family games along the lines of Mario and Zelda. For the Wii U though, it looks as if Nintendo are attempting to shake that image and bring back the vast audiences that the N64 enjoyed, and it looks like Ubisoft’s Wii U exclusive, ZombiU, could well do that.
Graphically, I’d say this is on par with other zombie survival games like Dead Island, though on the level I played I found it to be a bit dark and bland – mind you London tends to be like that all the time. However, I assume you can venture outside where there’s bound to have a little more colour.
I dived straight into the game with a little help from the ever-friendly Ubisoft guy who gave us a quick walk through with the buttons. They’re pretty generic to be honest and nothing you cannot grasp – probably designed to be instantly familiar for newcomers, what with the Wii U being new and all that. I did get a little confused at times though, but that was more down to unfamiliarity with the GamePad’s layout. Whilst I’m picking at it, I did also find the controls to feel slightly clunky and slow but I gather you can probably change the sensitivity within the options menu. In what is also likely a move to raise tension, you can’t shoot a weapon from the hip at all. While I’m sure it’ll be a feature you get used to quickly, it didn’t help in tense situations where all I ended up doing was pushing oncoming zombies away.
Apart from these minor niggles ZombiU is actually quite fun and at times rather tense. Starting off with a baseball bat and, after searching some drawers around me, a pistol with 5 bullets I was eager to get stuck in a went brawling ahead in search of zombies. This is not a smart move, ZombiU is not forgiving at all and zombies are a total nuisance to kill, plus you die extremely easily – just like real life I suppose. Upon dying you’re revived back into the body of a different character. If you want to get your stuff back, you then have to go and find the now zombified character you once were, kill them, and reclaim your stuff. While this is an idea I’d never come across before, I believe that it’s actually a similar mechanic employed by Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls – although with a zombie twist.
Another neat, and also slightly borrowed Dark Souls mechanic is the ability to leave notes on the floor in chalk to aid, or hinder, your friends who play the level. Such a subtle addition could really bring a lot of fun to the proceedings as in the zombie infested wastes of London you could play some rather fun tricks on your friends – lulling them into a false sense of security when a horde waits around the corner.
I suppose what you all really want to know is how the GamePad’s touchscreen is utilised by ZombiU. When searching drawers, cupboards and bodies, instead of your inventory appearing on-screen it pops up on the GamePad – thus allowing you to drag and drop things to or from your backpack. You’re vulnerable during this state, so it means that the TV screen is then uses to keep an eye out for any incoming zombies that are after your brains. Another nice feature the GamePad does is turn into a scanner to help look for clues, viewing it from the GamePad screen whilst your TV shows your character using it. Almost like another pair of eyes to keep watch on yourself whilst carrying out something different on the smaller screen.
Personally I can see this becoming a great success for both Ubisoft and Nintendo as it launches with the Wii U – especially if the game stays with the same direction that I experienced in the demo. It’ll be scary, tough, and an intense gaming experience that’ll really require you to go slow and think things through rather than running and gunning zombies as they swarm towards you.