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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Review: 'ZombiU' - Survival Horror At Its Finest

ZombiU is one of the premiere launch titles for the Nintendo Wii U. It's a game that has promised to not only show what the GamePad is capable of, but the entire console as well.

While it has been getting mixed reviews, most of them terribly awful, ZombiU is a game that will absolutely please the right type of gamer. To put it bluntly, gamers that aren't afraid of a little difficulty once in a while.

ZombiU is a must own game for any Wii U owner. As for the negative reviews out there, I'm here to set the record straight.

First and foremost it's incredibly important that you understand ZombiU is not a fast-action zombie shooter. If you are looking for a game like Left 4 Dead or even to a certain extent Dead Island, then ZombiU is absolutely not for you. It's a Survival Horror game in nearly every aspect of the term.

ZombiU doesn't place you behind a single character and propel you through its story. Instead, you play as a lone survivor of a UK zombie apocalypse. Armed with a Cricket Bat, a weak flashlight, and a black light to point out certain objects, your job is simple - survive at all costs. I use the word 'simple' loosely as ZombiU is anything but. 

What makes the game so difficult isn't over-powerful hordes of zombies. It's instead how human your character is. Movements are slow and methodical, zombies take several hits or more to take down, and your aim is shaky and somewhat predictable.

This doesn't mean that the gameplay mechanics don't work well though. They work perfectly to be honest. Not once in my many deaths did I feel the need to blame the controls. 

Which brings me to dying. Something you will most likely do far too often. If by chance you are overtaken by zombies the game isn't over (unless you play 'Survival Mode'). You are instead transported back to base and given control of another nameless survivor. There's a catch here though. Remember all that inventory your old character had? It's still out there, waiting in your old backpack on the back of your old character. 

If you want it back you'll have to find your old survivor and kill him/her. Yes, you'll have to find and kill your old self. If you die before you make it there, all that inventory is gone and you're forced to start from scratch. Sounds a little bit like Dark Souls if you ask me. Which is never, under any circumstances a bad thing in my book.

Enough with all the bullshit though. Let's get to the real nitty-gritty. How ZombiU works with the GamePad (which just so happens to be brilliantly).

During your mission to survive you'll be using the GamePad quite a bit. Don't worry about not being able to look up and down at two screens at once as it's set up more intelligently than that. While the main game will be playing on your big screen, the GamePad will hold your inventory, radar, black light vision, and map. At any point during the game you can simply click the radar and it will ping out, bouncing off any movement that may be around you. 

Problem is, that movement isn't always a zombie. Rats, birds, and other animals roam the streets, screwing up your radar and making you sweat for no reason. This simply adds to the already intense atmosphere as you can never truly trust your radar. 

One of my favorite uses of the GamePad in any Wii U game I have played so far is the way ZombiU tackles inventory. If you want to find an item you have to manually pull the GamePad screen down to open your bag and start searching. Thing is, the game doesn't pause during this. If zombies are near you they can (and will) still attack. What happens here is immersion at its finest. Suddenly it's not just your video game character looking up and down frantically, but it's you as well. Rifling through the inventory has never felt so real. 

Adding to the ambiance and terror are the graphics themselves. ZombiU looks beautiful. It's dark, detailed, gruesome, and exactly what I would imagine an area infested by brain-eating zombies to look like. The sound, coupled with the GamePad is also exquisite. The entire time you are led by an individual known as the "Prepper". If you turn the volume up on the GamePad his voice will come out of the embedded speakers. If you really want a creepy experience plug in some headphones. 

If this is the future of the Wii U and GamePad, count me in. I can't remember a time where I felt more involved in a game.

ZombiU tracks how long you survive and posts it to the leaderboards. It does this because it knows you won't survive very long. It doesn't keep track of kills, weapon statistics, or even story progress. It's you, your Cricket Bat, a few rounds of ammo, and a whole lot of ground to cover. Prepare yourself for a very difficult journey as ZombiU is anything but forgiving.

I'm fairly convinced that any negative reviews out there must have been written by individuals that either don't understand the genre or weren't prepared for the game they played.
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