ZombiU – The World Ends With U

ZombiU opens with uncertainty. Just what the hell are we getting into? Is the game good, bad, scary, ugly, beautiful? Music plays with a scattered melody as a man stands alone. Sweat drips from his face as the hopelessness of his situation sinks in, he’s surrounded. He threatens to give the scene a 4 out of 10, but the zombies pay no mind. They walk the streets with lopsided confidence. They know how dangerous they are, and soon everyone will.

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Enter the Prepper! A nutjob “end of the world” fanatic has been watching you on security cameras and he’s got a present for you. What, you can’t see it? Look down. No, not with the analog stick, with your head! That’s right, the GamePad is an item in the game and it’s your new best friend. The GamePad lets you scan things, organise items, view information, including an all-important radar to spot movement. Is that a rat, or a zombie? Sometimes you just have to go around the corner and find out.

The mechanics of the game are what define the experience and separate ZombiU from other zombie games.  What’s unique about ZombiU is that items don’t appear out of thin air, there’s always a “process”. You have access to 6 items on the quick menu, and changing items means an animation that lasts a few seconds. Furthermore, going into your backpack to swap items around and equip things completely removes your view of the main screen, where anything could happen.

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When you want to use a long range weapon like a Crossbow; you’ve got to equip it, hold up the GamePad to aim, then fire. How awkward, right? Well imagine there’s a Crossbow on your desk right now. How quickly can you to lift it up and fire an accurate shot? You’d probably shoot yourself. These are normal people you’re controlling and ZombiU highlights our vulnerabilities.

The zombies themselves have basic patterns and usually approach with a slow predictable swagger. A few good hits with the cricket bat will do the job, the stupid zombies just walk right into it! They’re easily distracted by flares and enjoy a good explosion. The game at its core is easy, but the cocky nature of the zombies means you can NEVER let your guard down. You might think one zombie by itself is no big deal and you can conserve your ammo, but it’ll take 5 or 6 swings to kill it and that gives you plenty of time to make a mistake or arrogantly circle it and lose track of your position. Suddenly you’re dead and this easy zombie is enjoying a nice meal. One hug is all it takes.

Zombies mostly act the same throughout the entire game with a few different outfits and forms, but the scenarios and environments vary a great deal. The graphics are fantastic and it looks very polished for a launch game, some of the places you have to go are downright terrifying. Crawling in vents and wading through water leave you completely vulnerable as you can’t reach your backpack. There’s some nice looking places and a few surprises, the outdoor areas do a good job giving more scope to the whole “end of days” vibe. Some of the scenarios and events are quite unexpected and intimidating; it’s the kind of unexpected you have to expect when the world ends and shit hits the fan.

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The online aspect isn’t quite there but it has a nice interactive feature that links your friends games together. When you die you appear in their games in that same spot as an infected, and you see others in your game too. It can be an ominous warning that you’re approaching a dangerous place, but that’s countered by the thrill of looting their backpack for supplies if you can kill them. You can also write messages on walls in the game but they’re all predetermined graffiti marks and I found it quite useless. I never saw any of my friends messages; only random people I’ve never heard of across the Miiverse, and the signs were just generic thumbs up or arrows. Did any of you guys see my messages? I’m curious, I left a lot!

ZombiU creates an amazing atmosphere and it’s the best survival horror game I’ve played since the Resident Evil Remake. The experience is crafted not through immersive graphics or over-the-top action scenes, but solid gameplay mechanics and terrific use of the GamePad that brings the controller into the game as an item. It extends the game outside your TV and gives meaning and comfort to the space around you. ZombiU is simply an amazing horror game and there’s nothing else like it. It’s my favourite game this year and the massive 9 hours I lasted in Survival Mode were the most engaging and memorable I’ve ever had playing a game. True horror, truly awesome. Stop hoping the world will end tomorrow and play ZombiU instead.

5 thoughts on “ZombiU – The World Ends With U”

  1. I’ll definitely be picking this up when I get a Wii U.

    How scary did you find the game? I notice a lot of people saying it’s scary, but nothing I’ve seen of the game has seemed all that scary. Is it the tension from the punishing difficulty? Or is this something that you just have to sit down and get immersed in the game’s atmosphere?

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    1. It’s scary, you probably can’t see it in videos because there’s nothing at stake. The terror is in being caught off-guard and losing your progress, especially in Survival Mode where you only get one life. When there’s multiple zombies you really need to focus.

      The atmosphere is also very good, quiet but with lots of little noises.

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  2. It’s a definite must buy for me once I get my Wii U as well. Those certain ‘professional’ reviews that predictably slammed the game may have given trolls and haters another banner to wave but the ‘criticisms’ in those reviews actually gave me further confirmation that it’s precisely what I want; a proper survival horror game instead of another cinematic action-shooter with a zombie theme on top.

    While many of the haters have referred to it as a poor man’s Dead Island (something that’s actually a much graver insult than they realize considering how sh*te Dead Island was and itself a poor man’s Borderlands) I’ve actually heard others say the maps/progression are more akin to Metroid. Truthfully the best thing IMO about Rocksteady’s Batman games is their Metroid-esque level design and progression so hearing such a thing about ZombiU makes me quite intrigued. So, for anyone who has played both Metroid and Borderlands (or Dead Island), which is ZombiU more akin to in terms of level design?

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    1. I’ve played Borderlands (a lot) and love it, but ZombiU is not much like that. Metroid is more apt, since you’re opening up new paths and backtracking in different ways, it’s more structured than Borderlands. Loot isn’t hugely important if you’re a smart fighter, you’ll always have just enough ammo and carrying too many things is actually a burden. The developers themselves said they were inspired by Metroid, I never thought about it but it does show, places slowly open up and eventually link together. Upgrades to your pad and certain items give you more access to old areas.

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