The proposition of having a hardcore experience unlike anything that’s ever been seen exclusively on a Nintendo console made me uncontrollably curious. Sure, other games like Mad World and Manhunt 2 had pushed the levels of accepted violence on a Nintendo system in the past, but this is the Wii U, people – Nintendo finally making good on their promise that they would bring hardcore gaming experiences to the masses and what better way to do it than with hordes of the undead? I mean, what’s scarier, more gruesome and hardcore than murdering zombies? Survey says: NOTHING!
Obviously Nintendo were going to start off their new era with a bang. Launch game or not, with Ubisoft behind it and a pile of promising previews and trailers, ZombiU was sure to be good. I’d heard it was going to be “Dark Souls” difficult and in this day and age of games holding your hand every step of the way, I certainly relish a challenge.
Word on the street was that ZombiU was also legitimately scary.
So I caved. It sounded like everything I wanted from a game. In the end, I wish I’d researched the final product before buying as thoroughly as I had researched the trailers and previews.
ZombiU seems really fun at first but man does it get boring fast. Within the first five minutes of the game, you’ll find your primary weapon, a cricket bat, which you will immediately use to put down an undead by bashing in its brain. Cool, huh?
Now get ready, because you’re going to do that what seems like a million more times before you reach the end. There are other weapons, but ammo is in short supply and usually saved for hordes. The problem with the bat is that it isn’t fun at all. Every zombie takes between four and six hits to put down – it’s wash, rinse, repeat. There are no cool, one-swing kills… you hit the zombie, then you hit it again, and you hit them again, and then one more hit… and then you finish them off – by hitting them. The game is as tedious to play as that last sentence was to read.
The combat is clunky, the hit-detection and physics are poor to the point that sometimes striking an enemy will cause it to glitch out and appear behind you. As a result, you’re going to die often. Dying in ZombiU means you wake up as a new survivor. It’s ridiculous: without a doubt the most ludicrous idea ever put in practice within a game that attempts to tell an evolving story line.
Your first survivor could literally make it to the very last enemy in the game, only to be killed. You then wake up back in your safe house, but now your a new person. The new survivor retains some of the previous survivors gear (the cricket bat, a pistol with 6 bullets and a radar device you find early on) but nothing else. You’ll need to track down the previous survivor who is now a zombie, kill it and retrieve your loot from the corpse.
If the new survivor dies before killing the now zombified previous survivor, you lose everything. Where did survivor number one, with the backpack full of guns and ammunition go? No one knows.
It’s an interesting concept, that could likely work in a different type of game, but it’s so ridiculous that it only served to keep me from losing myself in the game. If ZombiU wasn’t trying to tell a story, this mechanic would be fine. The game would be about surviving as long as you can, trying to get the highest score while exploring a zombie infested world. It tries really hard to be something that it’s not.
Another thing that it’s not, is pretty. Now that Nintendo has made the jump to the “next” (some would argue “current”) generation with a high-definition console touted as being able to produce visuals and physics on par with Microsoft’s and Sony’s consoles, hardcore gamers are expecting top of the line visuals and great sound. You won’t find that here.
ZombiU is as boring to look at as it is to play. The world is dark and made up mostly dull greys, blacks and browns. The textures in some areas border on horrendous. The environment is boring and completely forgettable. You’re constantly boxed in (even when outdoors) and I often felt as though I was playing a game that was originally intended to be released on the Xbox or the Playstation 2. The junctions linking areas are identical, right down to the placement of holes in the wall and the broken candy machines. One several occasions, I thought I was back-tracking, not entering a new area.
Now I will admit that the gamepad integration is pretty cool. The radar works like the motion tracker from Alien and it’s cool how the narrator, known as The Prepper, speaks to you only through the pad. It’s also interesting that when sorting through your inventory you have to look away from the screen. This does not pause the game, so you’d need to be quick to make sure a zombie doesn’t sneak up on you while you’re equipping that flare. Some of the more basic integration (tapping repeatedly on a sewer cover to open it) are kind of forced in, but they don’t take away from the experience and are forgivable.
What is not forgivable are the game-breaking glitches that mean deleting your save file and starting a new game. I encountered one of these an hour in. A quick search online showed me that I was one of many encountering this glitch.
There are load screens that show the same clip every time and sometimes you’ll be asked you if you want to skip it. When the game picks up again, the word ‘loading’ will appear for a few seconds before you can progress. It boggles the mind. More than once, the game failed to load at all leaving me stuck and forcing me to restart.
There are countless issues: items will sometimes become locked as equipped and you’ll be unable to return them to your inventory; Zombies will clip through walls; Empty cardboard boxes can’t be move but large barrels bounce around the room like they’re balloons. It reeks of a game that was rushed to completion.
ZombiU is unfinished, and in many ways, completely broken. I believe ZombiU was released in spite of these facts, because the game was sure to sell. Hardcore gamers were promised exclusive, mature content that catered to their needs, and loads of early system adopters were eager to see if Nintendo would live up to their word. It’s understandable why reviews of this game were embargoed until the day the Wii U was released, and I feel cheated. There are many things ZombiU could have and should have been, but the only thing it ended up being was bad.