|System: Wii U|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
Ah, the Wii U, a family friendly console devoted to rich experiences that people of all ages can... HOLY CRAP THERE ARE ZOMBIES EVERYWHERE AND THEY ARE COMING AT ME AND I'M GONNA DIE HOLY CRAP I'M GONNA DIE! That's about the feeling I had when I picked up Zombi U, Ubisoft's new zombie survival game. Trust me, this game is the last thing you would expect out of a console with the name Wii. It's a true hardcore experience that simulates a realistic zombie survival scenario… or at least what we all expect a realistic zombie survival scenario would be like, because, you know—zombies aren't real.
In Zombi U, you aren't some sort of super soldier that can be bitten and clawed by zombies over and over again without dying. You are a character, a human being that you name and create that is just trying to survive the zombie apocalypse in any way they can. In Zombi U, there aren't any second chances. Get bitten or scratched once and you get infected, turning you into a zombie and giving you a game over. Yes, in Zombi U you have one life and only one life, which makes you extremely paranoid. You become very protective of your character and become excessively nervous about all the dangers in the game. You get attached to your character and treat them like a part of you and when they die it truly feels like you have lost something.
Now, when you die the game isn't over. Instead, you take over another character, who explicitly isn't your original character in any way, shape, or form. This character can take over the missions and objectives your previous character had, but they don't have any of your character's weapons, gear, items, and so on. Even worse, your former character is actually wandering around the area he was killed as a flesh craving undead monstrosity, and he will attempt to kill your new character should you get close. Of course, killing your old character also nets you all of your old former gear, which is awesome, though seeing your old character walking around, decomposing, actually does make you hesitate as if you were killing a loved one.
Ubisoft seems to be going for a sort of realistic survival take on the whole zombie apocalypse. Ammo is incredibly scarce, as are guns, causing you to instead choose more reusable forms of zombie dispatching. Melee weapons are useful, especially bladed ones, but these put you within range of the zombies, and remember one bite or scratch turns you into a horrible drooling undead beast. Crossbows are extremely useful, allowing you to not only kill zombies from far away but also retrieve the bolts from the corpse afterward.
The Wii U GamePad is your "survival kit" in Zombi U, and without using it you will be zombie chow in no time. On the touch screen is a mini-map that shows your surroundings. Sonar constantly pings outward, allowing you to see the position of zombies and other survivors. Of course, looking at the mini-map causes you to take your eyes off the screen, which also means taking your eyes off the action and danger. Not only that, but your mini-map and sonar are not actually perfect. They come in from a digital feed, and you can lose connection in the middle of the action. At one point during the demo I not only lost my mini-map connection, but my flashlight ran out of batteries as well, leaving me almost entirely helpless. Of course, in this situation your natural instinct is to panic and get away from zombies RIGHT NOW! Unfortunately, that's exactly what ends up killing you most of the time.
In fact, the entire game is built around the concept of "zombie realism". For example, there's no real cut-away menu. Instead, your menu, inventory, status, and more are all on the Wii U GamePad. You can only hold four items in your "pockets" and everything else has to be put in your bag. Taking things out of your bag takes time and leaves you vulnerable to zombies, so make sure to stuff your pockets with the right ammo and items. In addition, looting boxes and corpses makes you vulnerable, so make sure your surroundings are clear before stuffing your backpack with your spoils of war.
Really, the best thing about Zombi U is the atmosphere. You'll find corpses strewn about the ground, but each of these corpses has a chance of being a hidden zombie, so make sure you double-tap it before you loot it. The Wii U GamePad doubles as both a scanner and a sniper scope, so half of the game is actually spent staring down your augmented reality sights. Heck, you can even shake zombies off of you by shaking the GamePad itself. Oh, and zombies aren't even your biggest worry in the game. You'll have to cope with other injuries as well, like sharp objects, random explosions, and plain old burning to death. Be careful no matter what you do because remember, you only have one life to live.
Overall, Zombi U is one of the best survival horror games that I have ever played, and who would have expected it to come out of Ubisoft, on the Wii U of all things? It re-creates a survival scenario like no other game I have ever played. Keep a look out for this game. As long as gamers can get over the fact that it is on the Wii U, it may just re-invent the zombie genre as we know it.
Angelo M. D’Argenio
Date: June 7, 2012