‘ZombiU’ has good scares with technical issues
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 00:02
As the years pass, the survival-horror genre is spreading thinner and thinner in the wonderful world of gaming.
Many gamers feel it has been a while since we had a true survival-horror experience, or feelings of loneliness, caution, desperation, and above all, fear. Instead, survival-horror has gone down “action alley” to suit those who prefer explosions to eerie silence.
“ZombiU,” one of the many launch titles for the Wii U, dared to defy this trend when it was unveiled.
Set in London, players assume the role of a random survivor in a struggle to stay alive and escape the nightmarish zombie apocalypse. Assisting them in their fight for survival is the Prepper, the mysterious man behind the walkie-talkie.
When the character you are playing as dies, you spawn as a new survivor and forfeit all of the loot from your previous character. However, you can travel back to the location you died at and kill your now-undead character to reclaim your supplies.
It is certainly an interesting concept, but is ultimately pointless. Usually, you don’t need to go out of the way to retrieve your supplies because they are in the location you have to return to anyway. The Prepper also talks to you as if you are the same survivor he was previously guiding and assumes you understand the task at hand.
Keeping you character alive is not without a purpose though. Not only will your score increase the longer you are among the living, but you progressively gain skill with weapons. Once you die, the bonuses you earn with weapons reset.
As a launch game, “ZombiU” does not have great visuals, but they are not terrible either. What the game lacks in graphical power it makes up for it in its realistic lighting effects. In most games that have dark areas, there is somehow a light that makes the environment around you illuminated. In “ZombieU,” however, you cannot see anything unless your flashlight is turned on throughout the game.
The zombies can look quite gruesome. As you bash them with your cricket bat or shoot one of their limbs, it will show flesh ripping off from the body in a bloody manner.
Much like the visuals, the narrative is not worth your attention. It does such a sloppy job of explaining certain plot elements that it made me stop caring after a while, but plot is not the central theme of this game, nor its biggest selling point.
Instead, you should play “ZombiU” for its realism.
For example, the pacing of your character is spot-on. Normal movements are comparable to power walking and “sprinting” is running at an adequate speed.
When you are aiming any firearm, it is never completely accurate, similar to other shooters, but this is not a fault. It is more realistic because the person you are playing as likely does not handle firearms on a daily basis.
You must scavenge a variety of items such as weapons, medical packs, ammunition and weapon upgrades throughout London in order to survive. Once you grab an item, it will never come back. This caused me to be wary and conservative of how often I would whip out a gun or regain health.
With an Internet connection, you may possibly stumble upon other player’s dead characters. Not only can you view the score their character had, but you can also eliminate their zombie and possibly acquire useful loot.
My cautious behavior also activated when I fought my first zombie. Even a single zombie caused a bit of fear to run down my spine, but when I found myself facing a horde of hungry flesh eaters, my heart raced. Even a simple scratch to the arm doles quite a bit of damage. I cannot remember the last time I played a game where the average enemy could strike this kind of fear in me.
Your most important tool in your fight for survival is the BOB (Bug Out Bag). Your BOB holds supplies, weapons, healing items and useful tips on exploring London. While scavenging through the BOB, the game does not pause, leaving you vulnerable for an attack at any moment. This exposed feeling instilled fear into me, even when I simply needed to review my bag.
Your other vital survival tool is the Pad, which has multiple functions including a map, a radar for movements, hacking electronics and a black light scanner to search environments for necessities. With an Internet connection, the Pad can be used to write messages on walls for other players to view online. As you progress through the game you will acquire upgrades toward the Pad. One of these upgrades includes keeping the radar constantly scanning, which took some of the thrill out of not knowing what could be around the next corner.
You will have to perform other tasks such as lock-picking, opening sewer grates for fast travel and unblocking a door with the GamePad. Executing these tasks also happens in real time, which made for some great thrilling moments.
Saving requires you to locate a bed, which helps recover your health as well. The save points are few and far between, as I only found two beds through my entire play-through. It became irritating to run all the way back to the safe house just to save.
“ZombiU’s” greatest shortcoming is its combat. You will spend a majority of the game bashing zombies with a cricket bat. It is one of the most repetitive combat mechanics I have played in any game. Killing a typical zombie takes at least five or six hits to bring one down and then to finish off with a final swipe. To top it off, swinging the bat is extremely slow.
Alongside the repetitive combat are frustrating technical issues. With random falling damage sometimes I would plummet two feet while running down stairs and lose half of my health. Other times I would fall 10 feet, land on sand and die. Then I would fall twice that distance on stone and lose as much health as I did from falling two feet on a flight of stairs. In a game that has fantastic points of realism and relies on your survival skills, I could not prevent raging when I died from a 10-foot fall on soft sand.