Article first published as Nintendo Wii U Review: ZombiU on Blogcritics.
ZombiU was first announced at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles back in 2011. Since then it’s made the rounds again at each Wii U event, from the 2012 E3 Expo to special Wii U press event over the fall. At this point, there is no shortage of zombie games. Valve’s Left 4 Dead has been out a couple of years and received a sequel and adventure game maker TellTale just wrapped up their Walking Dead series. There has even been an action RPG, Dead Island. You might think that the subject matter is played out and that Ubisoft should have dug something else out of the vault to continue.
The trailers and even the short playthroughs haven’t prepared most gamers for the type of game ZombiU is really. Strangely, it’s actually an action RPG somewhere between Dead Island and Demon Souls. It is however, much more demanding than previous and not quite as pretty as the latter. Like the survival horror games of old, ZombiU gives a limited arsenal to keep yourself alive. Following with that theme, you will need to get adept at wielding your cricket bat. There are guns to find but a scarcity of ammunition.
Your character carries a backpack with a few supplies and eventually more as you find them. This inventory system, as well as a map are displayed on the GamePad’s screen. The rub is that while you are digging around in your backpack your onscreen character is doing exactly that. You are completely defenseless until you zip that bag up with a swipe. This type of realism is likely to frustrate many gamers. In addition to your map and inventory, the GamePad also works as a scanner that will show you relevant location and item information. While you are supposed to lift the GamePad up and spin it around you, you can cheat it with the right analog stick.
For an action RPG, the movement is pretty limited in ZombiU. You can look around, walk and run. Other than those options, things like ducking, crawling and climbing are all contextual. The melee combat isn’t particularly easy either. You will have to lift the bat and then swing it with separate controls and one hit isn’t enough to kill a zombie. It will take five or six blows until a finish prompt will pop up and you can crush its brain. Luckily, there are no zombie hordes but, you can imagine that fighting even two zombies in this fashion isn’t quick or easy.
When you die in ZombiU and you will, you take control of a new survivor. Your new survivor is just that, new and with none of the cool stuff the guy that just died had. You will have to go hunt down the now zombified corpse of your predecessor to get the backpack. Except for the name and face, there really aren’t any differences between your incarnations. There are a few cots that serve as save points but they are few and far between. That means that there is also quite a bit of backtracking so much so, you might decide that dying is a better alternative.
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