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The Ten: Updated Wednesdays-Fridays-Sundays

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"Not So Fresh" Review: Zombi U

Yeah, I may have died like, 26 times. But that's not MY fault.
WARNING: This review is written from the viewpoint of someone who is not fond of First-Person Shooters, but is fond of games that are hard.
 
What better way to show hardcore gamers that you want to appeal to them then making a Zombie title? Well, that's not what Ubisoft originally wanted to make- instead, they were far more interested in creating a title called "Attack of the Killer Freaks". That, however, transformed into Zombi U, an apocalyptic survival horror title that promised to utilize the Wii U Gamepad to its fullest extent.

Did it? Well, yes. But Zombi U does more than just utilize the Gamepad- it also puts a thoughtful and infuriating spin on the horror survival genre. What do I mean? Read on and find out.

PROS:

-Where most first person shooters of the day rely on linear level design and storytelling, Zombi U gives us a breath of fresh air in its interconnected locales filled with unique design. A touch of Metroid in its secret areas and exploration gives Zombi U an interesting edge.

-It's quite amusing to note that Zombi U makes use of the Gamepad just as well, if not better, than Nintendo's own attempts. The easy-access inventory system, a radar that puts you on edge far better than any other I've used, and a number of other gimmicks like scoped and mounted vision, blacklight scanning, real-time lockpicking and inventory arrangement make Zombi U's features stand out.

-Zombi U's game mechanics hinge on a willingness to survive. You must be prepared for any situation and tread very cautiously- you are, after all, only human. It's a sense of weakness that truly drives Zombi U's gameplay home, and it's something that is rare in video games today.

CONS:

-With such a large and engaging amount of weaponry and options, the game often railroads you into situations that limit player choice. The final chapter is particularly guilty of this. Scripted events that throw overwhelming odds against you are certainly nerve-wracking, but limiting the ways of approach is a little disappointing, especially with such a unique game.

-The game, even after having been out for a fair amount of time, has its share of persistent bugs, sometimes not acknowledging objectives that have been completed and robbing the player of options they should have, or Zombie placement in awkward areas. It feels like a rushed product and that's a bit disappointing to admit.

-Zombi U's game mechanics hinge on a willingness to survive. You must be prepared for any situation and tread very cautiously- you are, after all, only human. It's a sense of weakness that truly drives Zombi U's aggravating aspects home.

THOUGHTS:

As a flagship title, Ubisoft did a fantastic job driving the nature of the Wii U home. The gameplay present in Zombi U is stressful and overwhelming, and perhaps built for a specific kind of player. However, its ability to establish tone and atmosphere is fantastic, painting a moody and dark portrait of London post-Zombie breakout. Even in its brighter environments, it is still a dark game, and while that might be annoying for some, it does a great job of amping up the tension.

But it seems for every aspect this game did right, it has an opposing flaw. Where ammo is scarce and storage is limited, you must often rely on the elusive and unreliable Crossbow and the repetitive melee combat. Scripted portions, like Zombies spawning without radar detection, are game-breaking and annoying. I had far too many issues with the endgame, in which you're stripped of the ability to fast-travel and scavenge for an extremely intense horde encounter. Also, right before that, you're purposefully stripped of all your survival tools and forced to survive an arena battle with nothing but a pistol... while I think this is a good move and smart for a survival game, you're also killing me softly because you're stripping me of everything I've ever prepared for. Maybe that's just an embittered opinion.

But when a game, especially a survival game, makes life and death a meaningful element and keeps the player thinking and anticipating the many elements that can kill them, how can you dock points for it being hard? People have beaten the one-life mode, and that means they're either SUPER cautious or SUPER invested in knowing every twist and turn. Zombi U was fun, though quite exhausting and probably an experience I'll only ever play once, and its mechanics sound. I just can't see myself ever coming back to it.

Final Verdict: If you're looking for an intense Wii U game, look no further. If you want to survive in an isolated portion of London and kill the undead, this is the game for you. Outside of its paper-thin story elements, Zombi U has great gameplay and Gamepad implementation. Be warned, however- the only intensity you'll find is the slow, creeping horror of the undead as they shamble towards you. You are not superman in this game, just a lone survivor that is very, very, VERY weak.

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