Friday, October 31, 2014

Better Late Than Never Reviews: ZombiU (Wii U) Review

To wrap up this month of SuperPhillip Central content is a Wii U exclusive that launched with the system two years ago. It's a horrifying survival horror game, ZombiU, a review perfect for this Halloween night. Enjoy.

Zombies Ate My London Neighbors

"How long will you survive?" That is the question that Wii U exclusive ZombiU asks players. That's when the game isn't kicking your ass left and right, causing your adrenaline and pulse to pump wildly in fear, having you throw you hands up in the air when an infected grabs onto you and chews on you like a doberman with a fresh piece of meat. ZombiU is a genuinely scary game where survival isn't just of the fittest, but also the smartest, the most strategic, and seldom the most foolhardy.

ZombiU thrusts you into the zombie apocalypse as a vanilla survivor, who has nothing on him or her than a cricket bat and a handgun with six bullets in it. That's it. Through careful searching of your surroundings, new gear, new weapons, new upgrades, helpful items to keep the undead at bay, and items for your health can be found. Your bug-out bag (or B.O.B.) is where you can store goods. However, this is just temporary for reasons you'll soon find out.

This shot to the head is gonna
be a wicked pissa'!
For those who enter ZombiU thinking it is simply a game where you run and gun, mowing down the undead with ease, you're going to get a very unwelcome brush with reality. ZombiU is not like that whatsoever. It is indeed one part survival and one part horror, with a huge emphasis on survival. Frankly, this change-up from what we're used to seeing with zombies in games is a breath of fresh air. I guess in the case of zombies and this game, it's more a breath of rotten air. ...I'll be here all night, folks.

ZombiU is harsh in its difficulty. Each encounter is incredibly intense. It's just the degree of intensity is higher when dealing with a whole horde of undead coming after you. When dealing with just one zombie, things can become very tense very quickly regardless. All it takes is one missed swing of your cricket bat, your lone melee weapon, or one poorly timed shove and a zombie can go in for the kill, biting and infecting you.

Well, this survivor's screwed.
One of the pieces of ZombiU's playbook that resonated with me so well is how many ways you can deal with a given encounter with a zombie or a pack of zombies. Do you stand firm with your back against a wall and hope for the best? Do you throw a flare, running to safety as the zombies are distracted? Do you hide in a hallway, using a doorway as a means to funnel zombies through, picking each one off one by one? By making noise or having your flashlight on, however, you risk getting zombies zeroed in on your location. Alternately, you can just run around like a chicken with its head cut off, hoping for the best. Just some advice-- don't bring a cricket bat to a horde of zombies fight. It won't end well for you. Nonetheless, the amount of scenarios with different tactics you can use is amazing, and it makes repeated play-throughs worthwhile.

Going in guns blazing like Rambo
is not usually the correct strategy.
When infected, your survivor is dead and done for. There's no bringing them back; there's no quitting the game to cheat your way out of your failure to stay alive. Instead, you get an entirely new survivor who comes with the starting gear of your previous survivor-- that cricket bat, that pistol, and those six bullets inside its cold chamber. All of the gear your deceased survivor had is lost.

There is a chance to regain these items, but it's just one chance only. Your survivor will take the form of a zombie at the place where he or she perished. You have to return to that area, kill the now-zombified survivor, and take back their goods. If you fail again, the goods are gone forever, and in a game that is punishing in its challenge, what, with so few consumables, health packets, and ammo lying around, this can mean the difference between being able to continue your missions unabated or being heavily inconvenienced by being forced to replenish your stock of goods out of necessity.

Hmm. I doubt that sign on the top
left has to do with zombies...
London holds a select few safe houses outside of your main home base inside the subway tunnels. Here, you can save your data, replenish your health without using any consumables, stock items within a metal container (these don't disappear when you die), and upgrade weapons using a variety of collectibles found with London's bleak setting. With a dozen or so unique weapons to find and use, such as shotguns, sniper rifles, crossbows, and more, one's armory can be plenty stocked.

Each survivor you control earns points for things like completing missions, killing infected, etc. When your survivor dies, a high score is shown. There's online leaderboards to compare your best survivor total with other players. It's also a means to play against yourself, trying to score high, keep your survivor alive and successfully get through as much of the campaign as possible.

Being a launch title, showing off what the Wii U GamePad, Nintendo's big innovation (you can put that last word in quotes if need be) for their latest home console, is a must. I would surmise that Ubisoft Montpelier has accomplished that goal not only as a launch title but ZombiU still remains one of the games that best uses the GamePad in general.

Pretty much every non-combat-related task within ZombiU is performed by interacting with the GamePad's screen. You can scan the area for hidden items, see which infected are worth troubling with by seeing if they are carrying any helpful items, and so much more. My favorite feature, and this is one that makes the terrifying nature of ZombiU so incredible, is using the GamePad to organize and select contents within your survivor's backpack. The game does not pause when you're checking the contents inside of your backpack, a task that is done on the GamePad screen. This means you're vulnerable when looking at the GamePad and fiddling with backpack organization. There's always the chance that a stray zombie can come in from behind or into the fray and infect you while you're in the middle of selecting items.

The Wii U GamePad is put to excellent use.
While there is no online multiplayer to be found in ZombiU, what is offered locally is clever enough. It has two sides, one using the Wii U GamePad to deploy infected on an enclosed map, and the other using an alternate controller to complete some kind of mission, whether that be capturing flags or simply trying to stay alive as long as possible. It's a fun excursion from the main story campaign, but it's by no means a selling point at the end of the day.

ZombiU captures the feeling of hopelessness, and part of that is due to its abundance of amazing imagery and visual design. Post-apocalyptic London feels like the real deal with such a natural design that nothing really feels too out of place or game-y. The disheveled streets, littered with garbage, messages on walls, huge attention to detail-- all of this makes London a character with a personality of its own, helping to lend itself to the absolute bleakness players will find themselves in.

Hello sunshine!
While plenty of other games of its kind go for an all-guns blazing-type approach, ZombiU sticks with tried and true survival horror. The game is an endurance challenge for even the most skillful of gamers, and there are legitimately spooky moments, sometimes even giving you fits of pure panic and fear. Hell, ZombiU is a textbook definition of survival horror, and it's one of the few games that does both "survival" and "horror" exceptionally well. It's a darn shame that most Wii U owners and gamers in general turned away from ZombiU, as it's a game that will infect players and keep them addicted from beginning to glorious end.

[SPC Says: 9.0/10]

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