Review: ‘ZombiU’on April 30, 2013 at 8:00 am
This week, we have a special guest review from our super best Internet friend Brandon Oliver of twxxd fame. Y’all best behave for Mr. Oliver, or I will Freddy Krueger through your screen and lick your face. After eating Doritos!
First, let me say that I have a thing for zombies. Call them overused, but I just love the shambling buggers. When “ZombiU” was announced for the WiiU, I was excited (in spite of the name).
A lot of reviewers were not kind to “ZombiU”. There were even comparisons to it on the same failure level as “Red Steel” for the original Wii. I’m here to tell you that if you’re a fan of the zombie genre and aren’t a pussy, “ZombiU” is an excellent game. Not a perfect game, but excellent.
Challenging doesn’t begin to describe “ZombiU”. It is unforgiving. Not since the 8-bit days has a game quite owned your ass the way “ZombiU” does. You start off as one of many hapless survivors called upon by The Prepper (the game’s primary giver of missions, advice, and general survivalist ramblings). From there, you’ll go out into the world to loot ammo, find new weapons, and avoid becoming the next the next zombie chew toy.
If you die (I should probably rephrase that to “when”), you start back at your safe house with the same pistol and bat you had before. Your corpse is now marked on the map. And by corpse, I mean zombie. If you want all that loot you just worked for back, you need to go back out there and get it. Maybe that area’s crawling with the undead, or maybe it’ll be easy pickings. It all depends on how merciful the game is feeling. But, if you screw up, there’s no having multiple former yous to collect from. If you die again, bye-bye items.
Back at the safe house you have a storage container with a fair amount of space. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself hording some of the things you want to save for a rainy day. This combined with the constant fear of death/loss of items really emphasize “ZombiU” as a survival horror game. I was living the post zombie apocolypse survivor dream. It felt real, and it felt visceral.
Here’s one of the biggest issues with the game: the Cricket Bat. You will both love and hate this thing. Since ammo is sparse, you’re going to want to use it. A lot. And it’s not very good for crowd control, so I hope you’re good at taking them out one at a time (though pushing zombies with it can help in those situations). The biggest issue here being it can take anywhere from 1-5 hits to take a zombie down with the bat. There were times later in the game when I was walking through the Tower of London and saw spears and staves on the wall and was thinking to myself “come on you guys, can I have one of those now?”
Mind you, it’s not as bad as some reviewers made it out to be. This was really only an issue before I found a lot more guns/ammo about a 1/4 of the way into the game. Eventually you get a rhythm going, take out a few with a gun then finish the stragglers of with the bat. Those fights were actually quite satisfying. Also, since it’s your default “no ammo” weapon, when they take it away from you temporarily for one mission you really do miss it.
There are a nice variety of other weapons ranging from shotguns, SMGs, and rifles. You’ll get to appreciate them all at one point or another, but the shotgun was by far my favourite to mow down larger groups. I’ve also learned that I’m terrible with land mines and shouldn’t be allowed to use them.
Your Prepper Pad (patent pending?) is another tool that you’ll become best friends with. Not only do you use it as a touch screen interface on the WiiU gamepad to manage your inventory, you also use it to scan areas for items, information and secrets (a la “Metroid Prime”), as well as zombie radar. If it gets jammed, well, you’re walking blind. But it’s a nice use of the WiiU gamepad.
Without giving anything away, the ending is one of my favourites in recent memory. They throw everything at you so you’d best load up on your best EVERYTHING and then hope for the best.
If you’re just looking for an FPS, “ZombiU” probably isn’t the game for you. It is very specifically survival horror, and one very unique to the WiiU at that. The weak-willed need not apply. “ZombiU” will punish you. But it will reward you, too, if you give it the time.
Fun fact: Oddly enough, “ZombiU” was originally to be known as Killer Freaks from Outer Space according to Wikipedia. Missed opportunity, Ubisoft.