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ZombiU Review

Greg Tito | 20 Nov 2012 21:00
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Perhaps the best aspect of how the pad is used is how all looting or inventory management occurs in real time, with your avatar bent over your pack on the main screen. There's no pausing - zombies can and will attack you while you're fiddling with your stuff, which ramps up the tension nicely. You develop a careful ear playing ZombiU. Often, I was only saved from a zombie grabbing my neck by hearing a groan or a shuffle and jumping up to whack it in the face.

It's not just the zombies that will cause you headaches. The respawn system offers ample opportunity for glitches that bring down the overall experience. You can often go back to where you had just died without finding your last avatar as a zombie. When your old backpack was full of medpacks and special items, it's a bummer to make do with just the standard kit. Mission objectives aren't always triggered when exploring the zone, leaving you to wander the labyrinthine levels thinking you had missed something. Both issues are solved by exiting the zone and returning, but that process loses some of the investment ZombiU has earned.

Locations and zones are often reused with missions requiring you to return to places you've cleared to open up new areas with the required item like C4 explosives to clear rubble or a simple keycard. There's nothing wrong with recycling per se, but the levels are generally so linear to start with it that you'd rather see more of the city than go back to Brick Lane Market again and again.

ZombiU's multiplayer is local only, with one player using the Game Pad as the "King of Zombies" and another using the Nintendo's Pro controller (or Wii Remote and Nunchuk) as a survivor. The King of Zombies using the touchscreen to drop various types of zombies on the map to ambush the survivor or to capture flag points. The survivor in the meantime uses the TV to shoot the undead while also capturing flags. It's a neat diversion and serves to prove how a combination RTS-FPS style of gameplay is possible on the Wii U, but the lack of an online option will reduce its playability.

The tension you feel in just trying to stay alive is ZombiU's best feature, but it's also really hard to sustain. After you smash the hundredth zombie in the face, the terror subsides to a constant state of hyper-attentiveness that starts to drag after a while. That's a failing of horror games in general, but perhaps more variety to the infected would have helped. You get sick of bludgeoning the same cop in riot gear and the occasional acid-spitting or smoking zombie don't require vastly different tactics to overcome.

Still, there's terrible fun to be had clubbing zombies as you work your way through the 10 or so hours of the campaign, and the truly masochistic of you will love the Survivor mode that only gives you one life without respawning to see how far you can get - but like any good horror film, ZombiU is best played with a friend. Turn off the lights, turn up the sound, and get ready to have a night of exquisite dread.

Bottom Line: A survival horror game that delivers tense exploration with more than a few drawbacks, ZombiU succeeds in making the Wii U's gamepad feel like an essential part of the experience and proving well-designed mature games can flourish regardless of what console it's played on.

Recommendation: If you've missed feeling the terror in survival horror games, you should buy a Wii U and a copy of ZombiU.

Game: ZombiU
Genre: Survival Horror
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platform(s): Wii U
Available from: Amazon(US), GameStop(US), Amazon(UK), Play.com(UK)

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