ZombiU - Preview

ZombiU coming to Wii U at game

If there's anything that prevented the Wii from having truly stellar success, it was the lack of third-party support and the lack of anything meaty and mature for the more hardcore player to sink their fangs into. So here's something smart that's going to help the Wii U out of the starting blocks: a gritty, dark, survival horror game from Ubisoft, and a game with a healthy appetite for the core crowd that many believe Nintendo has under-served in recent years.

Zombi U is, in fact, a melting pot of all that the core crave, with elements of Left 4 Dead, Resident Evil and, somewhat brilliantly, Dark Souls all being thrown together for what's unquestionably an eccentric bit of hardware. The result is something that promises to be, at the very least, one of the more interesting games of 2012.

Undead Nightmare

The setting's a London that's been struck by a catastrophic zombie outbreak. It's a backdrop that might be superficially similar to Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, but in Ubisoft's handling the dark humour's a little more tongue-in-cheek, with a certain amount of Eurotrash working its way into the French studio's depiction of England's capital. Infected Beefeaters patrol streets that are lined with fish and chip shops, while double-decker buses and black taxicabs lie crumpled on pavements dotted with red telephone boxes. It's an outsider's view of London, but it's no worse for that.

London vs zombies in Zombi U on Wii U at game

You're a survivor trying to work their way through this mayhem, fighting in a first-person perspective that only briefly switches to third person whenever there's a puzzle to be solved. Except you're not just one survivor - and it's here that Zombi U gets really, really interesting.

As you crawl through the flotsam of the apocalypse, there's a palpable sense of danger that's helped by what is an exceptionally brave design decision for a game that's after the mainstream dollar: one single bite from the infected can kill you in an instant. And when your character's gone, they're really, really gone - turned forever more into one of the undead.

Sweet Soul Music

So you're forced to start over from the very beginning again, but there's a twist. Work your way to where your last character died and you'll be able to rummage through their belongings and pick up some of those hard-earned spoils to increase your chance of survival next time (though be warned - it's also perfectly possible that you'll run into your freshly zombified, older self).

Use the GamePad in ZombiU on Wii U at game

It has the potential to turn Zombi U into the kind of dread-soaked atmospheric experience that helped make Dark Souls - an unlikely inspiration, but certainly the most prevalent - such a huge critical success. Progression is made step by gentle step, and the horror that's been so lacking in recent zombie games is restored to its rightful place.

There's also the issue of the Wii U hardware, and this is the least convincing part of the package right now. Zombi U certainly proves that Nintendo's new console is capable of producing first-person action games that are at least on a par with what we've become accustomed to on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but the feasibility of a tablet enhancing that experience is a little less certain. You're asked to scan rooms and you're tasked with managing your inventory through the GamePad, though rather than adding to the immersion it simply breaks it, taking your attention away from the horror that's unfolding on the main screen.

Fortunately, there's enough elsewhere that Zombi U gets right. It's a big-blooded, gutsy shooter that think a little bigger than what we're used to from the over-saturated zombie genre - and for the Wii U, it could be just the ticket that Nintendo needs to prove that it's got what it takes to play with some of the meaner boys in the console playground.

Published: 08/11/2012

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