Review by bskiffington
"ZombiU does alot things wrong, but also does alot of things right"
ZombiU does alot of things wrong, but also does alot of things right. The game has been a bit polarizing amongst WiiU players after receiving some lukewarm reviews, but it really comes down to what type of game you were expecting. If you were expecting a slow, trodding, survival horror game where every last bullet counts then you will love this game. If you were expecting a high speed, ammo-full zombie death march to the end of the game then you'll be terribly disappointed.
ZombiU is an amazing survival horror game, providing scares and tension without going too far over the top. The main problem with this game, for me personally, was the combat, but we'll get to that in a bit. You're a survivor who has been rescued off the streets of a zombie invasion by a man known as the Prepper. The Prepper speaks with you via a device in game that looks just like the WiiU GamePad that constantly displays a map/sonar, can be used to interact with your backpack, and can also be used to scan the environment to reveal hidden objects. Your role is to survive, using this safe house as a hub of sorts, as you complete missions around different parts of London.
The catch in ZombiU is that it has a brutal amount of difficulty. Some Zombies can take over five hits with your cricket bat melee weapon to kill, which is a huge problem when you're in a horde. Sure, you can use guns, but they'll just attract more attention and ammo is so scarce that you need to conserve it. One bite in ZombiU is basically a game over, and if you die, you have to start back at the safe house as a new survivor. That means you lose all of your weapons and equipment that you had, and you start from scratch with just the bat and a handgun. You can then go back into the world and kill a zombified version of your previous survivor to take back your items, but be warned, if you die before you can do this, those items are gone. If all that doesn't sound hard enough for you, there is a Survivor mode in which you basically only have one life. If you die, it's a game over, no matter how far into the game you are. You need to go back to the very beginning and start again.
ZombiU uses the WiiU GamePad both very badly and very well. As mentioned above, you can use the Gamepad from alot of things ranging from scanning your environment, to looting enemies, to aiming down the scope of a sniper rifle. When used like this, the GamePad feels nice, it's fun to use it in these creative ways that they did a great job with it. The prepper will also speak to you through the Pad, which is a nice touch. There are some things about the GamePad that can be annoying/aren't as great as they should be. For example, there are sections where you'll need to pick a lock or pull a barricade off of a door on the screen while prone to attacks from zombies who sneak up on you. This is a great mechanic and things such as lock picking work really well. Then, there are sections where you need to pull the boards off of doors, or fill a needle, and it just looks terrible. You tap the item over and over again on the touch screen with no variety on a badly looking picture until the task is completed. Why couldn't they implement something as cool as the lock picking mechanism for other tasks like this?
The combat was a major concern of mine throughout the game, and not for the reason that you may expect. Gun play is fine, you can upgrade them to deal more damage, hold more ammunition, etc, so there's some variety. The problem is the physical combat is so boring and slow. As I mentioned, you can smash a zombie over four times to kill them with the cricket bat, which takes forever. You can do this task effortlessly without even looking at the TV and you won't need to fear a thing. As easy as this sounds, it then becomes brutally frustrating when you're out of ammo and you have three or four zombies on you, and all you can do is this weak physical attack or shove them out of the way. It would've been nice to have had some stronger physical weapons or a better way to do this.
There's also an issue with difficulty when you realize that a crawl space or a door can completely break the combat in this game. As a zombie crawls through a crawl space, you can instantly kill it in one hit by holding the ZR trigger. Of course, this appears to have been intended, but by doing this strategy you can easily whittle away a horde of zombies to nothing if you're patient. You can also use doors to a similar extent by opening the door to knock the zombies back, bash them once, then close the door and repeat. Whether that was intended or not is another issue, but either way, you can exploit these very easily. The thing about the combat for me is that it's either very hard or very easy, there's little to no middle ground. But gunplay was handled well, it's just too bad the ammo is so hard to come by.
This game is legitimately scary at points, which fans of the genre will like. Dark corridors are everywhere with zombies that jump out at you from around corners, play dead until you pass them, pull you through airducts, and more. You'll need to stay on your toes and keep a good eye on your radar via the GamePad. Sometimes it's best to scout the area and decide against attacking, since you might be ill-equipped to take on a horde. It always helps to weigh your options before you jump in, or you might find yourself starting back at the safe house with all of your weapons gone due to a small mistake that got your cornered or a bad grenade throw that ended up suiciding your survivor.
The other area I haven't touched on is the story. The game does have a bit of a story but, as you'd expect, it's not overly present. You're in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, so you'll be dealing with scientists, other survivors and the Prepper of course, as you explore places in London such as the London Tower. You can learn alot about the backstory by reading the various letters that you find around the game, adding some extra lore. There is a twist near the end as well, but for the most part, the story takes the back seat to some good old-fashioned survival horror zombie bashing. Which isn't a bad thing at all.
For everything that ZombiU does wrong, you can find two or three more things likable about the way that it's handled as well. Annoying combat can be considered a negative, though it does heighten the sense of danger that you feel while playing. The story takes the back seat, but that's not a terrible thing given the type of game you're playing. Ammo is scarce, but you'll get used to it. Replayability is good with the Survivor mode, multiplayer and three different endings to watch at the end of your campaign. The thing about this game is that I think alot of people went into it expecting a game full of action similar to Resident Evil 4/5/6 or Left4Dead, and they were disappointed by that. This game is great at what it does, and if you're a fan of survival horror then you should definitely check it out and form your own opinions of the game instead of listening to reviews.
Graphics - 8/10
Gameplay - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Story - 7/10
Replayability - 10/10
Total 41/50 = 81%
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 11/30/12
Game Release: ZombiU (US, 11/18/12)
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