Impressions: ZombiU

Will ZombiU change our minds on the stale zombie genre?

We’ve never been fans of zombie games. We play the, sure, but they’re not our go-to genre for some relaxing fun. So imagine our surprise when one of the best things we saw at Nintendo’s Press Conference was in fact a zombie game from Ubisoft appropriately titled ZombiU.

The reason ZombiU is actually so appealing to us is because it does a couple of things in gaming that we’ve never seen before.

First up is the survival system. In ZombiU, you progress through the storyline as many characters. As you get attacked and become a zombie, you don’t just restart from a previous checkpoint. Rather, you pick up as another survivor in the storyline and have to go find the zombie that used to be you and kill him or her to get back your equipment that it is carrying. The dynamic is more than a bit compelling when you get in front of the screen because it makes you feel like you’re actually killing swarms of people as you progress through the game, so you will cherish every life you have.

As you die, you also lose any skills and special upgrades you might have picked up along the way. For example, if you’ve managed to survive for an hour and your character has become very adept with wielding a baseball bat, for example, when you eventually die and have to become reborn as a new character, that skill will not follow you into the new character. It sucks, but it makes perfect sense, so here’s to realism, we guess.

Another element of ZombiU that really gets us as very realistic is having to navigate through menus on the Wii U GamePad in real time. This doesn’t sound like anything remarkable, but swapping through your inventory on the GamePad means looking down from the television while zombies climb up to you on the 42″ screen in front of you. When you look up, believe us, you will be frightened.

Perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not, depending on who you ask, the graphics in ZombiU are quite remarkable. Of course, it is clear that gameplay is the main draw here, and with games like Resident Evil 6 on the horizon, we actually like the style of ZombiU much more. Lighting and shadow effects are very smoothly rendered as you might expect from Ubisoft, and the textures and mapping looks like some of the best stuff we’ve seen on a Nintendo platform. Ever.

We didn’t really have a great way to test out the audio in the game as we were playing alongside 40,000 other people in a packed convention centre, but with Ubisoft’s experience in crafting incredible titles in every facet, we’re not worried at all.

ZombiU is expected to be a launch title for the Wii U, although nothing has been confirmed yet. It was certainly one of the biggest surprises for us at the show and really left us rethinking the whole zombie game genre.