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OXCGN’s ZombiU Review: The Console DayZ

OXCGN’s ZombiU

The Console DayZ

by Nicholas Laborde

©2012 Nicholas Laborde

First, take a gaming niche that is nearly completely worn out and overdone.

Second, use an incredible new console and its intuitive controller to redefine how players interact with this game.

Third, use the new console’s social aspects to its full capacity and intertwine it with the game wherever possible.

Fourth and finally, take inspiration from some of the most influential games of recent years.

When you follow all of these steps, the end result is ZombiU.

It’s the standout hardcore launch title of the Wii U, and at the end of the day, is one of the most brilliant, misunderstood games of recent years.

I see U

ZombiU is the zombie survival game you’ve always wanted.

Throwing players into the midst of a second London plague, players don one of a handful of characters as they survive the end of the world.

A mysterious radio man guides the player throughout London and many of its famous landmarks, including Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace.

Without giving anything away, that’s really all there is to ZombiU‘s story. Initially, you’ll be guided toward Buckingham Palace and the story truly begins to unfold there.

ZombiU is a game you play for the gameplay, and while the story feels almost tacked on at the beginning, it molds the game as you progress further and sets an incredible tone unlike any other zombie game.

While it may seem a bit generic at first, you’ll warm up to the plague-ridden London and its lively inhabitants.

When in doubt, use a cricket bat

The gameplay is the real allure of ZombiU.

Out of all the launch titles on the Wii U, this is the game to pick up if you’re looking for GamePad versatility and originality.

On the surface, ZombiU is a simple first person shooter set in a zombie apocalypse. Nothing special, right?

Wrong.

A core gameplay facet is item management, and that’s where the GamePad is your best friend. Sure, you can shoot zombies, but ammunition is scarce and you’ll be using your trust cricket bat very often (because what else is there to bash in the heads of Englishmen with?).

At the upper left and right corners of the GamePad’s screen are your “pockets”, and hold several items that you can assign and switch between. The kicker? You’re completely vulnerable whenever you’re rummaging around in your backpack.

When opening your inventory, your TV screen will zoom out to a third person view of your character rifling through the bag. You then direct your attention toward the GamePad, where you’ll need to quickly and strategically organize what you need and hope no zombies sneak up on you.

This encompasses much of the survival aspect of ZombiU, but the GamePad is used for far more than just item management.

You also click your flashlight on and off via the GamePad, and also can use a radar system that pings the area and informs you of any enemy presence.

Occasionally you’ll encounter an obstacle that DJ Survivor Englishman needs to remotely access, and this requires a bit more physicality.

You’ll hold one of the controller’s shoulder buttons, and then have to physically move the GamePad around to “scan” the environment for your objective, and usually have to tap the objective. It seems like a gimmick, but it’s actually rather interesting.

Another intuitive use of the GamePad is similar to what I just mentioned, but comes in the form of the sniper rifle. When accessing  your scope, you’ll use the GamePad to hone in your sights on targets.

It’s simple, intuitive, and fun.

Now that I’ve described the controls, I’ll summarize what you actually do in ZombiU: survive.

Really, that’s it.

You have a safe house that you’re introduced to early on in the game, and it’s your main base of operations. Here, you can see live camera feeds of locations you’ve visited to scope out zombie presence, in addition to a box to store items (especially in the event of death), and a save area.

It’s also home to the fast travel system, which comes in the form of sewer tunnels. As you explore the world, you unlock them and can quickly get from place to place in the event of undead anxiety.

The Englishman on the radio guides you toward places of strategic value such as Buckingham Palace (which holds a hefty amount of weapons and ammunition), but you’re absolutely free to just roam the world and survive on your own.

The world itself isn’t a huge continuous area, but environments for the most part are large, interconnected areas that can be easily accessed via the fast travel system. Zombies are randomized, and provide for a different experience every time.

Death is a major theme of ZombiU, and trust me: you will die. As in DayZ, the goal is to acquire the best weapons and gear in the world with the hopes of surviving and become the zombie apocalypse king.

However, life is very frail, and you can die very quickly. All it takes is a few hits from a zombie, or the more common occurrence of a zombie latching on to your face and chewing through your neck.

As you progress through the game you get a one-time use syringe full of poison that you can use to prevent instant death when zombies do jump on you (and trust me, this does happen). You can refill it, but you need to avoid getting intimate with your undead colleagues as much as possible.

When you do inevitably die (which is still frustrating no matter how many times it happens), you see a Game Over screen showing how long you lasted. You then respawn as another survivor and keep going.

If you return to the scene of your death, you’ll find a zombified version of yourself that you must kill in order to retrieve your things.

This is an incredibly simple, yet utterly awesome way of handling death in this kind of game.

Social zombies

Okay, so the zombie apocalypse is a very lonely place. I mean, come on: your loved ones are walking around awaiting bullets, the world is in shambles, and the remaining survivors are more than likely insane.

ZombiU realizes this, and makes sure that you’re not alone.

Throughout the game (primarily in the safe house) you’ll see messages on the walls and floor form the development team, such as “This is a survival horror game!” or “Lost your weapons? Don’t freak! Go kill yourself!”

In addition to this, you are given a spray paint can to write messages on walls and floors so that other survivors can have links to the outside world (and by that, I mean other plague-ridden Londons).

You’ll encounter these throughout the world, and I’m fairly sure the developers intended this as a social experiment.

Just because someone wrote something on a wall does in no way validate its truthfulness. These messages do have ratings so that you can see for yourself whether or not you should heed the advice or move on.

Generally, people are friendly and try to help you out, but beware of anything that tells you of things too good to be true, such as weapon stockpiles.

This works in perfect conjunction with the MiiVerse, and the game’s channel is full of players asking questions about how to proceed, what weapons they should use, how far they got, and most importantly, posting screenshots of when players were truthful or not.

This is a perfect example of how the Wii U can use something extraordinarily simple to achieve impossible means.

Finally, there is a direct multiplayer mode that is restricted to local players only and requires a Pro controller.

It has one player on the Pro controller playing the game in traditional FPS view, while the second player dons the GamePad.

The latter player is the King of Zombies, and looks at the multiplayer levels from an isometric point of view. His goal is to spawn zombies and stop the other player, who is on the television in FPS mode surviving against said zombies.

Two modes are available, with traditional survival and then a Capture The Flag mode.

My roommate and I found the survival mode to be incredibly addicting, and we play it daily.

It may be meager, but it’s just enough.

x

Final word

ZombiU is the zombie game you’ve always wanted.

It has atmosphere, frantic gameplay, ingenious online integration, and insane difficulty.

You’ll try, fail, try again, fail again, try one more time, and fail yet again. But you’ll keep coming back, and that’s why it’s a game you need to play.

ZombiU is a fantastic game with intelligent design behind it, and is a tour de force of what the Wii U will mean for games in the future.

By no means is it perfect, but its few gameplay bugs are negligible. Zombie fans, get this game now.

8.5/10

©2012 Nicholas Laborde
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About exterminat (273 Articles)
I'm an American from steamy Louisiana, one of the most electronically deprived areas of the United States. I've gamed since I was four years old as a result, and plan to do it onto my deathbed. I discovered I could write in June of 2010 when I started a little site called Fans of The Genre with a few friends, and that eventually collapsed three months after due to social lives kicking in. No less than two weeks after that I discovered OXCGN via the community gamer gab competition, and become a staff member shortly after. In February of 2011 I was welcomed to the Editorial staff, then in March of 2012 I was promoted to co-owner... and here I am!

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