ZombiU (Hands-On) (Wii U) Preview

By Az Elias 26.06.2012 2

Review for ZombiU (Hands-On) on Wii U

Ubisoft has been a big supporter of Nintendo's new formats over the years, and although many feel the initial line-up is normally sub-par, at least it helps flesh out what could otherwise have been a barren first day showing. With Wii there was Red Steel, and now with Wii U there is ZombiU, the pseudo successor to a now ancient NES game. Being probably the biggest third party launch game for Wii U, the team at Cubed3 eagerly delved deep into the game formerly known as Killer Freaks from Outer Space.

For some reason many developers shy away from bringing first-person shooters to Nintendo formats, with the same going for survival horror, but those that did push hard, namely Activision with Call of Duty and Capcom with Resident Evil, found that so-called ‘hardcore’ games could indeed find a decent sized market on the Wii during the current generation. Now Ubisoft is trying to get in on the act in the same way it did at the launch of Wii with Red Steel, except this time it is more about how the company plans to utilise the innovative GamePad than the motion controls. The answer to the obvious question is ‘pretty darn well,’ but there are some concerns. In the demo at hand, everything was controlled with the GamePad, meaning that the smooth, intuitive controls Wii owners have become accustomed to appear to have gone completely out of the window in favour of extremely twitchy analogue movements that made making head shots an extremely painful process.

In the mode on offer, players started off as a random person waking up to find the world around them abandoned, before venturing outside to find it actually swamped with zombies. With limited arsenal at their disposal it was a case of trying to carefully pick off incoming fiends without wasting vital ammunition, and then quickly using the scan feature included that allowed for use of the GamePad held aloft to pan the surroundings looking for key objects to analyse. Upon finding something of interest and quickly darting across to it, again the scene moved to the GamePad as the lead character rummaged around inside, desperate for something of use. During this time, there was no audio and feedback prompt to raise awareness of incoming monsters and only the spray of red as energy was depleted proved to be an indicator. Whilst on higher difficulty levels this may be expected, during a demo for the masses, surely a lower setting should have been chosen -- unless, of course, a warning mechanism is simply missing from the product right now.

Upon imminent death, after once or twice managing to stave off the advances of the undead with a special injection, rather than being greeted with a simple ‘Game Over,’ intriguingly the action starts up once more, except this time in the body of another stranger, who not only then has to face the same onslaught of enemies, but must track down the previously felled combatant in order to rifle through their stash of goodies from the last round. Everything felt solidly constructed, and the times when the GamePad came into use for puzzles and accessing items were impressively implemented, albeit with the major omission of any warning system for incoming attacks. If there is any way the developers can include the option to play through with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, thus sacrificing the GamePad, however, they should definitely go ahead and do it…or at least include the choice of tweaking the sensitivity levels of the analogue controls.
- Adam Riley, Operations Director.

Screenshot for ZombiU (Hands-On) on Wii U

I love zombie games; there is something satisfying about destroying the undead. Therefore, having some hands-on time with ZombiU was greatly anticipated. This is a survival game through and through with sparse ammo caches and zombies that take a few hits to go down. The main tension builder is the live inventory manipulation courtesy of the GamePad as it makes players have to manage their time and breathing space. The camera pans out whilst rifling through bags and increases the sense of vulnerability whilst switching out weapons (two can be held in a quick swap) and set up healing packs. Navigating through the corridors and locations was a charm; it was clear that this game was designed for the platform instead of roughly ported over, a lá Batman Arkham City: Armoured Edition. The controls could have been tightened up a little bit, however, as the dead zone on the analogue sticks was uncompromisingly large, leading to overturning.

There was a little scare factor tied to ZombiU, and I mean past the whole undead jumping out of cupboards in tight hallways aspect. Towards the end of the demo players were required to scan a zombie nurse -- a tough cookie who has a habit of warping around and jumping out of the shadows. Once her brain is sludge, she had to be scanned with the GamePad. Nothing happened for a little while, but then suddenly her ‘ghost’ attacked the screen. Now, normally I don’t jump from scary games (I have been to Ravenholm and Aegis VII, after all), but the fact that I looked away from the GamePad and she was there on the TV screen gave me no room for thought past 18-rated comments. This kind of GamePad use makes me really excited for titles like this, but even more, Fatal Frame / Project Zero.
- Calum Peak, Alternative Content Editor.

Early impressions of ZombiU indicate that Ubisoft is going to do its very best to appease those players with a love of all things survival horror. With the Resident Evil series going a much more action-oriented route with the most recent additions, fans have been left to search harder for games that will give them that feeling of suspense and provide a real fright. And, despite the fact that the upcoming Resident Evil 6 looks to be encompassing a fair bit more of the survival horror elements that made the series so popular to begin with, even that hasn’t been confirmed to be coming to Wii U. ZombiU will launch not long after Capcom’s killer title so it will have some stiff competition, but it is a game that will be welcomed by Nintendo fans and the company itself to bring some much-needed grit, gore and scare factor to the console’s launch period line up.

Screenshot for ZombiU (Hands-On) on Wii U

Early impressions indicate there is still some work to be done on the controls front, with the analogue sticks being far too sensitive. I personally found it a bit difficult to play the game smoothly, so personal tweaking would need to be available come launch, which I’m sure will be added in after Ubisoft receives feedback. Stopping to look down and slide your finger on the GamePad to bring items into the player’s bag might prove to be a tad annoying, but will no doubt be something that becomes second nature to many. The analysing of bodies, boxes and other points of interest by holding the pad up and looking around is an interesting new element to the survival aspects of the game, with players making full use of it to determine if humans are dead or ‘alive.’ Online friends also get to hunt down your zombified characters to loot them and put them out of their misery if you do end up getting mauled, which is a neat little addition.

I managed to get some hands-on time with one multiplayer mode featured, which was quite unique in the way it was played. It involved one player acting as the survivor, playing with the Wii U Pro Controller and attempting to raise the flags dotted about the map. The other player used the GamePad to view a bird’s eye view of the area and spend points to place in different types of zombies on the map. The GamePad player also had to capture the flags with his undead creatures. Once the matches start to go on for quite a while, it does seem to get a bit boring for the GamePad player, who merely taps on the screen and doesn’t get to see much action as the survivor fends off the undead with guns and turrets, but it was still an interesting concept. Hopefully Ubisoft will be introducing a good few more types of multiplayer modes -- with online play, too. Anyone with even a slight interest in the world of zombies should be keeping an eye on ZombiU, as it has the potential to satisfy plenty of survival horror fans.
- Aaron Elias, Previews Editor.

"Sigh. Another zombie shooter?" Quite so, but don’t leave just yet! ZombiU has a few tricks up its sleeve that help set it apart from the hordes (no pun intended) of other zombie romps out there. For starters, there are no instant respawns, no checkpoints every five feet -- once you’re dead, you’re dead. Well, undead. Dying in ZombiU means your character becomes one of the very monsters he/she was seeking to evade. Meanwhile, the player is given control of a new survivor who can return to the spot of their predecessor’s demise and fight them off in exchange for looting their (your?) corpse for leftover weapons and items.

Screenshot for ZombiU (Hands-On) on Wii U

Death isn’t a rare event, either. One bite (or two, if you’re lucky) is enough to shuffle off this mortal coil, as well it should be -- zombies aren’t ones to mess around after all. To prevent this from happening you have a few options to choose from: guns (although bullets are scarce), blunt objects (axes, bats) or, if all else fails, a sturdy shove. Long-range weapons such as the crossbow benefit from motion-controlled aiming, but smaller weapons such as the pistol do not. Analogue sticks have never been the ideal input method for FPS’ but they feel particularly jarring alongside the precision afforded by motion controls elsewhere in the game.

The GamePad’s other main feature, the touch screen, gets put to good use; most notably as an intuitive inventory management device. Not only is dragging items around with a touch of your finger much less finicky than the inventories in most games, it also opens up an interesting new gameplay mechanic. Accessing your inventory is done in real-time, so while you’re glancing down at your GamePad to retrieve some bullets from a nearby corpse, the action on the main screen is still ticking away. With your weapons holstered and your attention compromised, these moments can be just as tense as exploring the darkened unknown of new areas.

Despite its overused zombie apocalypse setting, ZombiU is doing a lot of interesting things that could propel it to be one of the first “must have” Wii U titles. Having motion controls alongside conventional input (you can melee a zombie with a rigorous waggle, or a quick button press) should serve to please people on both sides of the motion controls debate. And although the Wii U GamePad is put to good use, it’s not just the Wii U-specific parts of the game that have appeal. The slow, deliberate pacing combined with permadeath and limited resources stand in stark (and satisfying) contrast to the frantic, run-and-gun gameplay of Left 4 Dead and its ilk.
- Karn Bianco, Special Guest Contributor.

Screenshot for ZombiU (Hands-On) on Wii U

Final Thoughts

It is pleasant to see Ubisoft putting its own twists on the survival horror genre, giving ZombiU the potential to stand out amongst the undead games crowd. With any luck, this will deliver the scares and frights that players got out of the earlier Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Project Zero series, whilst offering a more involving and interactive experience through the use of the GamePad. Zombie fans will definitely want to be keeping tabs on ZombiU when it launches for Wii U later this year.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (3 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop


Can't wait for this game. This will be one descent looking title too. Finally good things will start to happen to Nintendo fans

I liked what I saw, and I look forward to playing it at launch.

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