+Challenging survival gameplay
+Great use of the Wii U GamePad
-Lots of backtracking
-A bit too challenging in some situations
-Some mechanics are a bit too complex
Final score: 7.5 / 10
A working Nintendo Wii U
The Nintendo Wii U was released several weeks ago and besides the traditional first-party games made by Nintendo, only one third-party retail title was exclusive to the new home console – ZombiU from Ubisoft.
With the promise of delivering a tough survival experience that put players in shoes of people who need to brave a zombie-infested version of London, the game takes advantage of the Wii U's power and its unique features, like the GamePad controller.
Can the first-person survival game deliver a great experience or should new Wii U owners save their money and brains by skipping it? Let's find out.
Explore London ...
... and kill zombies
ZombiU is more than just a zombie-killing game, as it has quite a nifty story, even if it doesn't attempt to force it down your neck. You play as a survivor of a zombie plague and, under the guidance of the Prepper, a mysterious voice on the radio, you need to make your way across London and complete all sorts of tasks.
While you can't really cure the zombie apocalypse, as that's the job of a group called the Ravens of Dee, you do get to strengthen the odds of your survival by helping the Prepper in taking back control over London from the undead horde.
Not much else happens and, seeing as how the story isn't mentioned that much during the actual missions, you might even forget the overall plot, which is a good thing considering you need to focus on your own survival.
ZombiU is your traditional first-person zombie shooter, but it takes full advantage of all sorts of features that can be delivered through the Wii U's GamePad.
The unique controller is actually present in the game, in the form of the Prepper Pad, which serves as a sort of scanner that allows you to tag living zombies as well as inspect dead ones or items that can be looted.
In real life, the GamePad is also used to display the minimap, interact with your inventory that's represented by your backpack, and switch between weapons, toggle different items like a flashlight, or deploy a special radar that can detect nearby creatures, whether they're zombies or animals.
It's important to note, however, that if you're interacting with the GamePad, ZombiU doesn't pause its action, so you might find yourself rummaging through the inventory only to get attacked by a group of zombies that you didn't get to detect with the radar.
This can get a bit annoying, as the environments are tight, dark and twisted and the zombies are quite powerful, requiring a fair bit of punishment before they're completely dead. What's more, your main weapon is a cricket bat that needs to be swung a few times before inflicting some actual damage to the zombies.
You can use other weapons, like guns, but they're quite complicated to operate and, considering there aren't a lot of bullets and that they make a lot of noise when fired, you might want to stick to the cricket bat.
Death is practically a constant in ZombiU, as the game has a special Dark Souls-like mechanic that turns your current character into a zombie and lets you control a brand new survivor. You must then track down the zombified remains of the previous character and kill it in order to get your backpack and your precious loot back.
Zombies are relatively smart and can withstand a lot of punishment, especially the riot squad police officers. What's more, engaging with more than one zombie can be a dangerous thing, as they can easily surprise you while you're paying attention to other creatures, even if they're just able to crawl on the ground.
For those who are up to the challenge, ZombiU also has a Survival mode, which only gives you control over a single survivor. Once he's dead, it's game over and you'll have to start the single-player campaign from the beginning.
The controls are relatively decent, but there are some instances where the game uses the GamePad's touchscreen only to brag about this, like when you're dismantling barricades or opening up sewer holes. What's more, inventory management with the GamePad's resistive touchscreen technology is quite annoying. You can use the built-in stylus to make things easier, but this is a hassle just to move around items in the backpack.
Kill your zombified remains ...
... and try not to get killed
ZombiU features a special King of the Zombies local multiplayer mode, in which the player who wields the GamePad can unleash zombies while others, wielding either Wii Remotes + Nunchuks or Wii U Pro Controllers need to control survivors and disrupt the undead horde.
This mode is pretty engaging and should provide some fun sessions for you and your friends, especially since both the skills of the King and the survivors progress through time and you unlock special abilities to help achieve your respective goals.
Graphics-wise, ZombiU isn't that impressive, as its visuals are pretty low quality, even if they're hidden by the constant darkness. Couple this with low-resolution textures and the fact that there are just a handful of zombie models and you won't really be able to show off the Wii U's power with ZombiU.
In terms of sound, the game still doesn't impress, as the music is subdued and only increases in intensity when you're actively engaging the undead. In those moments, however, you'll be way too focused on trying to survive than on enjoying the musical score.
Voice acting is decent, but the characters tend to rely a bit too much on British slang and you might not even understand a lot of what they're saying.
Use the Wii U's GamePad ...
... in different situations
ZombiU is reminiscent of the tough-as-nails survival games that appeared many years ago. It makes the player extremely vulnerable and quite a few of its mechanics are harder than they should. Some players nowadays welcome such a challenge while others might get extremely mad with the mechanics. Ultimately, it depends on what type of player you are.
As a game to show off the Wii U's strengths, it scores in a few aspects, like using the Wii U GamePad in great ways, while missing other ones, like the sub-par graphics that don't complement the console's capabilities.