ZombiU is a very polarizing game. Players either like it or they don’t, which also seems to be the case when it comes to critical reviews. We were actually really shocked when we saw the kinds of scores the game was getting — they had us thinking it was going to be the Red Steel of the Wii U, but we had seen enough previews to know it was worth trying. Turns out, we actually like it.
In the basic game mode you start off as a survivor that you can use for the entire game. You get no info other than a name and occupation. If you die, that character is dead forever (as a zombie in-game) and you wake up in a safe house as someone new (Unless playing in the 1 life survivor mode wherein if you die you game over). In some cases where you think your character is super ugly, just feed him or her to the zombies and get someone else. The premise of the game is simple: Go through the story learning how to survive, then learn about a plot line (with a ton of back story you can read via files in-game) where you’re trying to find a cure and get out of there. To be honest, the story presentation is almost non-existent, but available for you to seek out on your own. To oversimplify things, the game is about surviving against zombies in a moderately open world that isn’t terribly big or, to be quite honest, all that open.
What ZombiU has going for it is the atmosphere. It’s generally not scary, but it is dark, dank, and the effects on the screen almost make it look like a dirty lense that makes it look like you’ve found lost footage. There’s one area where it’s raining and the atmosphere is just fantastic. Overall pretty nice visuals.
On your Wii U Gamepad you get the Prepper Pad and Bug out Bag (BoB). You’re able to ping the map to see if there are any zombies around you sorta like a sonar that can be fooled by harmless rats. Eventually you can upgrade this to constantly scan instead of having to manually do it. You can also manage your inventory on the prepper pad, and hold up the Gamepad to scan a room for items. All of the above happen in real-time and show your character on the main screen performing the activity. This means you can’t go looking for something in your bag mid-fight. There’s a bit of a learning curve in terms of the controls and learning to manage your inventory, but it gets quicker. Some other activities like lock picking (one of the better implementations we’ve seen), and removing a sewer lid (a crappy picture of a sewer lid you tap) make using the GamePad hit or miss.
Read on after the break for the rest of our ZombiU review.
Combat is done in first-person (ZombiU is a FPS). There’s a decent variety of everything: pistols, shotguns, smg’s, sniper rifles. Plenty of upgrades are available to make the guns do more damage, have better spread, be more accurate, etc. There are a lot of reviews that mention using the cricket bat can get monotonous, which is true to an extent, but it’s not like ammo is super uncommon — you can find it easily enough to use guns semi-freely. Once you get the crossbow, you can shoot a zombie in the head and retrieve your arrow.
Our absolute biggest gripe with the game is this annoying pistol that can’t be removed from your inventory. For some stupid reason you can’t put this basic pistol in your storage box; Instead you’re stuck with it taking up extremely valuable slots in your inventory. Even when you find a bigger bag, we’d rather have grenades or first aid items.
If you get some cool items and die, don’t worry! You can go find you former self as a zombie and get your stuff back — just whip out that cricket bat. If you have Miiverse friends, their zombies appear in your game and you can kill them and get their character’s stuff. It would be neat if the player-zombies were a little more difficult.
Other items like food, first aid kits, mines, grenades, and flares can be found. Remember Left 4 Dead when you throw a flare the zombies gather up? You can do that in ZombiU, then throw a grenade to make things easy.
We haven’t put a lot of time into offline multiplayer (Note: No online multiplayer). Basically one person runs around with guns while the other is the zombie master who uses the GamePad to send zombies. The human player uses a wiimote/nunchuck if you don’t have a pro controller, and it’s an abysmal experience. Aiming at the screen sucks — always has, always will. There are some other modes too, but we haven’t felt the desire to try them out yet.
ZombiU shares a lot of concepts with Dark Souls in terms of game difficulty, death penalty; certain online components that interact with the player in an offline game, like messages from other players and even the developers. So while it will remind you of Dark Souls, it does not play like Dark Souls at all.
Most of the negative reviews all boil down to people going in expecting something different from ZombiU. Go into it knowing you have a game trying to provide a FPS zombie survival experience with some plot line, all while introducing some innovative Wii U ideas, and you should enjoy yourself.
What we would like to see in the future from ZombiU are features from other games. It would be really cool if other survivors could actually join your game to help you or even invade your game to try and take your gear like Dark Souls. This would mimic the zombie apocalypse theme of never knowing if the person you meet will kill you for your boots — sorta like DayZ. We would also like to see the GamePad functionality fleshed out a bit more to remove the tapping gimmicks, and more options for melee weapons. Crafting like Dead Rising and Dead Island would also be cool. These additions would really enrich the experience, while still maintaining the core of the game. Perhaps we’ll see this type of experience in ZombiU 2.
We give ZombiU a 3.5/5