A common concern expressed by gamers for Nintendo platforms in recent years is over the lack of third-party support. Upon unveiling the Wii U at E3 2011, Nintendo promised that third-party support would be a major focus for their upcoming home console in an attempt to appear to the “core” gamers and it was this year’s E3 where we first could see this come to fruition.
Multiplatform hits coming to the Wii U include past releases such as Batman: Arkham City and Mass Effect 3, upcoming blockbusters like Assassin’s Creed 3 and Darksiders 2, along with a few exclusives, one being ZombiU (previously known as Killer Freaks From Outer Space).
Ubisoft’s ZombiU was a major focus during the Nintendo keynote presentation since it was the go-to third-party title to exemplify the new features that the Wii U GamePad allows for. It was on display both at the Ubisoft and Nintendo booth’s on the show floor of this year’s E3 event in LA and we had a chance to play a few rounds of the game’s multiplayer.
In the game’s campaign, the Wii U GamePad (with the built-in tablet) serves as an easy-to-use and intuitive inventory system dubbed the “Bug-Out Bag” whereas the newly announced Wii U Pro controller allows players to experience the game like a traditional FPS title. The GamePad also works to offer new new ways to interact with a variety of in-game objects, as demonstrated in the gameplay footage from Nintendo’s conference. Players can scan the environment, punch in numbers to a keypad, locate enemies using a map and more.
ZombiU gets much more innovative with its multiplayer mode however, where it pits one player (with the tablet GamePad) as the zombie horde, the other uses the Wii U pro controller (a standard controller) to play the survivor.
The object of the game is to capture four flags before your opponent. In the playable demo, the survivor is armed with a shotgun, a pistol and a crossbow and can pickup ammo and other items (defensive syringes) along the way. The zombie player however, doesn’t use the TV screen at all and does not play in first person, instead making use of the tablet-based GamePad which offers a top-down view of the level map with icon representing the flags and the location of the survivor.
The zombie player uses the touchscreen to select one of four zombie types and places them on the map strategically to capture flags themselves and to attack or delay the survivor, and it all occurs in real-time. In the map and mode we played, the zombie player could place a maximum of 10 zombies, the slowest ones (zombified British soldiers) were there to capture flags and are worth the most points, meaning they take the longest to reload for the player to place again on the map. The fastest ones wear yellow jumpsuits and are the most effective at attacking the survivor.
If the survivor gets bitten by a zombie, they are dead and must wait to respawn. The only way to counter a zombie bite that we saw was to have acquired syringes which can be stabbed into the zombie’s neck when grabbed to deflect the lethal blow.
At the Nintendo booth we had a chance to experience both sides of the multiplayer mode and found the Wii U tablet features to be fun and innovative. While the idea is exciting, its implementation doesn’t do enough to elevate a zombie game which is otherwise limited. Watching campaign play and playing several rounds of multiplayer, ZombieU felt dated in gameplay, story and visuals. In short, the game is not as pretty as the ZombiU cinematic trailer. While only limited versions of the game were available, what we saw was underwhelming and we hope that before launch, this major third-party launch title for the Wii U, one that’s aimed at “core” gamers, can offer a deeper game and something that can compare to Left 4 Dead and Dead Island.
ZombiU releases for the Wii U this fall.
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