I recently played ZombiU, one of the launch titles for the Wii U. Was it an awesome Zombie game for the hardcore fans, or was it some kiddy Nintendo game trying to cash in on the Zombie craze?
Some people are probably getting tired of all this talk of zombies. There are zombie movies, zombie tv shows, and many zombie games. I’ve definitely seen and played my fair share of zombie media, but I wanted something good to try on my brand new Wii U. I could have either gone with the safe mario game or re-released games like Mass Effect 3, or I could take a chance with the brand new ZombiU. I decided to go with ZombiU because I wanted to see what the Wii U could really do with a game for the adult audience. In short, ZombiU did not disappoint.
Visuals and Sound
Let me start off with the basics. The sound of this game is pretty lack-luster. I plugged the Wii U’s HDMI cord into my 7.1 Surround Sound system to try and immerse myself in a post-apocalyptic zombie atmosphere. Unfortunately, the game didn’t deliver with any real surround sound capabilities. I know the Wii U doesn’t have any special audio outputs, and it doesn’t look like it can even use Dolby or DTS audio, but I was hoping for something decent with the HDMI output – hell, the Wii U has an option for home theater output. In reality, it’s almost like using stereo and having the surround sound try to set it throughout all the speakers. As for in-game sounds such as weapon hits, gun shots, explosions, and environmental sounds, they were all average. In game sounds were nothing special, but they definitely were not junk.
The visuals of ZombiU are far from the average Nintendo kid game. You will constantly see zombie’s skulls being broken in, blood splattered all over, and many, many zombie heads being blown off. That’s the only way to make sure a zombie is dead, right? I was really hoping for an awesome looking Zombie game since many people kept saying the Wii U would be stronger than the PS3 and 360, but if that’s so, ZombiU does not use the full potential of the console’s hardware. Many areas are separated into small areas, so there’s no reason to not up the visuals in each area. Now, I’m not saying the game looks bad, but it’s not better than many 360 games currently out there. It looks as if the game runs at 30 frames per second (average), and the native resolution is 1280 x 720, which is a bit above average for games, but should be the base-point for visuals these days. Basically, this game won’t wow you, but it’s not garbage that will make your eyes bleed.
Believe it or not, there is an actual story to this zombie killing game. I found the best summary over at Wikipedia, believe it or not. It’s short and sweet:
400 years ago, Welsh astronomer John Dee creates an apocalyptic prophecy known as The Black Prophecy which will be fulfilled in 2012. “The Prepper”, an “ex-army, no-nonsense” man sees this apocalypse coming and prepares, whilst a secret society known as the ‘Ravens of Dee’ researches his predictions to find a way to stop them from being realized In November 2012, the Black Prophecy begins to be realized in the form of a zombie outbreak in London, England. Survivors hide in the Prepper’s bunker, with one, the player, being chosen to confront the zombies, supported by Raven leader Sondra. Meanwhile, one of the Queen’s doctors, Dr. Knight, searches for the fabled panacea under Buckingham Palace.[Source: Wikipedia]
As you may or may not have noticed, the story summary says survivors, plural. If you’re playing on Survival Mode, the entire story will end there. If you’re playing on Normal Mode, you become a new survivor and continue on with the story. There are really only three ways to die in ZombiU:
- Suicide. It’s possible to kill yourself with an explosive or incendiary weapon.
- Attacks. It’s possible to be injured so much that you die. There is a life bar on screen that will show how much health you have.
- One Bite. Like all the zombie movies, one bite and it’s over. Try to keep your distance from a zombie or the game may be over!
It can be a bit annoying sometimes to instantly die from one bite of a zombie, especially since they lock on so quickly and randomly instead of attacking with their hands, but it does make the game that much more interesting. Once a survivor dies, you must go find the newly zombified survivor (if they were bitten), kill it, and pick up all your old equipment. I really wished there were only fast, slow, and big zombies that can take a lot of damage in the game. Instead, they decided to add a few special zombies to add variety and difficulty. There are six types of zombies all together.
- Zombies. They move like a regular person.
- Acid-spitting zombies. Zombies that spit acid at you from a distance.
- Electric zombies. Zombies that can shoot electricity to injure and slow you down, similar to Pikachu.
- Bomb strapped zombies. Zombies that have explosives attached to them. One bullet or melee attack will cause them to explode. If you’re too close, you’ll instantly die in the blast.
- Police zombies. Zombies that have body armor and helmets on.
- Poltergeist zombies. Zombies that are part ghosts. They will disable your game pad and warp from area to area.
The weapons of ZombiU aren’t too varied. There’s only one melee weapon — a cricket bat — and several firearms like pistols, shotguns, carbines, and assault rifles. After killing enough zombies with a weapon, your skill with the weapon will increase. Weapons can be modified once in each of four areas: ammo capacity, weapon spread, power, and firing speed. If the current survivor with these weapons ends up dying, all skill for the gun will be cleared, but the modifications will remain if you can find and pick up the weapon from the last survivor.
Finding items such as weapons, ammo, and health items will be tough in a post-apocalyptic world. All weapons are in pre-determined areas, which are sometimes locked or slightly hidden. Healing items are varied, such as soda, candy bars, energy drinks, and medic kits, and they will randomly appear in the environment. Without a doubt, the hardest thing to find in ZombiU is ammo. I think it’s a bit unusual to kill zombies who were once soldiers, yet none of them have any ammo! But it makes engaging groups of zombies that much tougher and scarier when paired with one bite deats. Luckily, another weapon of sorts will be available later in the game that stops a zombie from biting and instantly killing you. This weapon is a syringe which will instantly kill one zombie and stop them when they’re chomping at you. After using it, you will have to find another zombie to pull out more of this liquid for another shot — not all zombies carry it.
Using the Wii U’s Gamepad in ZombiU makes the game very unique. All info such as maps, radar, and items are entirely on the Gamepad. The survivors in the game will also have a pad similar to the Gamepad to make what you see on screen happen to you. When using your bag to store items or pick out different weapons, everything will still be in real time. The game will not pause, meaning you have to be quick or in a safe location away from zombies. There are also six quick use boxes to put items instead of going into the bag to grab an item every time. I suppose those are your pockets instead of your survival backpack (Called the Bug Out Bag or BOB). The bag can only hold so many items, so the items can be safely stored in a metal container at the safe house. Two upgrades to bigger bags can also be found in hidden areas out in London.
The story mode isn’t terribly long, but it will probably last you longer than many typical first person shooters, and the survival mode will make things much tougher. Remember, once you die in survival mode, the story will completely end! If you want to search every small area in the London Map, then the game may last a bit longer. The map is separated into several locations which can all connect with the safe house. Find junction boxes in each area to hack and connect cameras to your safe house’s monitoring system. This makes it much easier to find items from the safe house instead of searching yourself and wasting supplies.
ZombiU also features a “multiplayer” game mode, but it seems to be local multiplayer only. One person uses the game pad while other players use the pro controller. Since I don’t have a pro controller, I wasn’t able to check this out.
All in all, ZombiU is the best zombie game I’ve ever played, and it’s a game I can proudly call a survival horror. Survival horror video games have become very scarce over the years, and some people even think the genre is dead. The last true survival horror I saw was Siren: New Translation / Blood Curse which was released four years ago. Don’t get me wrong, ZombiU is not the absolute best game out there, just the best survival horror zombie game, in my opinion at least. The visuals are decent, not great, and the sound is pretty lacking. If you’re a true zombie fan, or even a survival horror fan, you must pick up this game! Since the Wii U is still so new, I can easily say this is one of the best Wii U exclusive games out there!