ZombiU Preview:

How Long Wii(ll) U Survive?

 ZombiU is the M-rated title that has everyone buzzing, and as a likely Wii U launch title the buzz couldn’t be louder. ZombiU drops you in to a post infection world where you must loot and survive. Oh, and there are no lives, no restarts, and no traditional checkpoints. You get one life, so make it count.

The innovative concept of a single life makes for interesting and tense strategy. Every turn of the corner could be your last steps. Once killed you are turned in to the undead and join the ranks of those that took your life. The game isn’t over, just that survivor’s life. Let’s call him Alex. When Alex dies, you come back to the game as a new character who must finish the quest at hand. The twist that turns the zombie survival genre on it’s ear is that you must now find Alex as this new person, let’s call him Kyle. It is now part of Kyle’s quest to find Alex, kill him, and loot him, and then continue on as long as he can survive.

ZombiU will offer classic weapon choices and a looting system for ammo, medicine, and other items. Think Walking Dead. Looting is key to a post infection world. You will have a club, shotgun, pistol, and crossbow, among other weapons collected along the way, but ammo will be limited. There’s no hundreds of bullets. Think Half-Life.

Everything is kept in a backpack. What sets the inventory system in this game apart from others is that picking a weapon or item out of your bag happens in real-time. If you want to switch from your pistol to your shotgun, then your character takes the bag off his shoulder, kneels down, and rifles through the bag to get the item and put his backpack back on. ZombiU doesn’t allow for a COD or Borderlands quick switch, you have to find things in your bag, so switching weapons in a fight is almost not an option. You will be overrun while you search through your bag.

ZombiU is compatible with the Wii Pro controller, but it shines brightest with the use of the Wii U game pad. It is genuinely well used in many ways. Quicktime games like lock-picking happen in real-time, and occur on the touch screen. Aiming happens with the game pad. If you want to aim with your crossbow, then you hold the game pad up to the screen, and the sights of your weapon are on the touchscreen. Also, scanning a room for items is done with the game pad and highlights possibly vital items happens on the touch screen. You can scan the room in 360 degrees by simply turning around, pointing the pad and scan parts of the room not even displayed on the TV. It really is well used here as more than just a mini-map screen, though it does this, too.

It is unclear from the demo what your survivor’s task is overall. You have a voice that guides you through the game, seemingly a voice talking in your ear from a distant location. This gives the impression that your are often running tasks for small pockets of survivors. The classic gopher concept. In the demo, it was your quest to navigate a map to find much-needed medicine you were obviously sent to go get. You are not just a lone soul surviving on your own, think Book of Eli, you’re part of some bigger town or group and you’re the idiot willing to go out there.

With well-used new tech, gruesome violence, and a looting system set to the tune of one life to live, ZombiU will be the breakout hit of the Wii U launch, and will probably be a strong selling point for the hardcore gamer. The casual gaming market–families, kids, dance game, and WiiSports fans–might not bite on this one, but with the powerhouse developer of Ubisoft behind the title, it will probably do well. It is a potentially great game that shows off the potential of the Wii U game pad. Reports also indicate that ZombiU might not be Nintendo exclusive for long. What would they call it for other platforms, though? ZombiMove? ZombiKinect? They’ll cross that bridge if they can survive that long.

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