The Backlog Diaries: ZombiU

Jeremy finally gets around to the spoopy Wii U launch title. How does it hold up?

(The Backlog Diaries is a new feature here at Qoopa Klub! It will make appearances whenever I have a game that has been unloved in my collection until, by some whim of fate, I decide to start playing it. So, don’t expect these, like, every week or whatever. :D)

zombiu

When the Wii U launched in November of 2012, we had our Mario game. We had our glorified collection of tech demos. We had a completely superfluous and bizarre port of Mass Effect 3. We also had an extremely innovative title in Ubisoft’s ZombiU. This game certainly had my interest: all the coverage looked great, it seemed like a game that didn’t historically “belong” on a Nintendo console, AND it was third party! Like, whoa. Perfect storm here. However, poor Jerms here only had enough money to buy the Wii U and 2 games. Being the Nintendo fanboy I am, I went with New Super Mario Bros. U (which is a fantastic game, and easily the best in the “New” Mario series) and Nintendo Land, a game I didn’t get a ton out of due it’s party game aesthetic (YOU try having a party in a studio apartment, fool). I wanted ZombiU, but it would have to wait.

And wait. And wait. And wait some more.

I didn’t get around to picking the game up until this past summer, when I saw it at Best Buy for a measly $10.00. I knew I couldn’t pass this deal up, so I snagged the game, and there it sat on my shelf for a while. I figured with the Halloween season being all scary and creepy and whatnot, now was the perfect time to dig in.

I’m so glad I did!

So, the basic stuff first: ZombiU is a no nonsense survival horror game with some Demon’s/Dark Souls elements. If this fails to excite you, then please check to make sure you still have a pulse. You are cast in the role of a survivor of a zombie outbreak in London, who is given tasks to complete and assistance from a mysterious character known only as “The Prepper” via radio. The mechanics of death in this game are quite interesting. Your survivor character is a one note, generic cutout of a person, but I feel this is meant to involve the player more personally in the experience rather than get into the character ‘s back stories. It works well. When you die, you no longer control that survivor, and you wake up in The Prepper’s safe house as a new character. You also have the option of tracking down your last survivor, who is now infected, to put them out of their misery (and loot your previously held items in the process).

cricketbat

Taking down the infected in this game is an arduous task. After your first grisly encounter with the undead (and after a survivor death that I think cannot be avoided), you are given your first weapon in the game: the cricket bat. Slow to use and weak in terms of it’s hitting power, the cricket bat has, so far, been my weapon of choice. For one thing, conserving ammo in this game is VERY important, as it is often hard to come by (just like the days of old!). Secondly, although slow, whacking a zombie with the cricket bat feels SO satisfying. There’s a definite weight and impact that is communicated excellently to the player, and it’s something I dig about the experience a lot. I also enjoy that every encounter is a “to the death” affair, meaning that you can’t just come into a situation with guns blazing and legs akimbo and expect to make it out alive. Taking down one zombie is “easy” enough, but in a group of 3 or more? You’re fucked unless you can engage them from a distance with your handgun, or a grenade/molotov cocktail. My preferred method for crowd control is to do my best to separate one zombie from the herd, deal with them as silently as possible, and wash, rinse, repeat. This is a slow process, but it’s much safer than the alternative.

zombiu-gamepad-play-1280x720

This is the first Wii U game I’ve played to fully realize how to use the Wii U Game Pad to enhance a game to it’s maximum potential. Many games are content to offer nothing more than off TV play, or offer sections of the game that require some stylus play, but nothing that fundamentally changes how you approach the game as a whole. Not so with ZombiU. For starters, all of your inventory and equipment is managed using the Game Pad….in real time. This means that the action on screen does not pause for you to look through your backpack for a gun, or to loot enemies that you’ve take down. For a survival horror game, this adds an element of extreme risk/reward that takes the tension and cranks it up a number of notches. Doing things like picking locks, removing barricades from doors, and scanning your environment are all done using the Wii U Game Pad. Don’t be surprised if you think you’re in the clear to start picking a lock when you hear the shuffles and moans of the infected coming after you when your back is turned. What is most impressive about how the Game Pad is used is that this is a launch game, from a THIRD PARTY. In previous cases (I’m looking at you, Nintendo Wii), Nintendo is tasked with showing devs how to utilize their hardware correctly (Wii Sports, Super Mario Galaxy, Skyward Sword all come to mind). This time around, Ubisoft led the charge for others to take note of how using the Game Pad in different ways can lead to unique experiences not quite possible on other platforms. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that many people took note of this (except for Platinum Games with the lovely Wonderful 101, but even that feels less integral to the core game than ZombiU’s implementation).

I’m still really early into the game, but as you can see, I’ve got plenty to say about it. If you’ve not yet tried this game, please, give it a go! If you have played this game and loved it, or if you hated it, let us know why!

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