Here at ONM we've been following the progress of ZombiU for some time. We were the first team to get a proper hands-on playtest with the game back in June and those eight solid hours of play left us in no doubt that Ubisoft's Montpellier team was onto something special. Whether by design, chance or just bloody-minded persistence (realistically, heaped measures of all three), this game had the potential to be the Wii U's killer app.
Lots of games show great potential at an early stage, though, and more often than not an overambitious design, diminishing budget, lack of leadership or hardware deficiencies can strip even the best title of its glowing armour, leaving an underwhelming carcass to fend for itself.
We've seen many dozens of games that have excited at the first-look stage, only to turn out decidedly average upon completion and during the past five months we've done our fair share of worrying and nail-biting over whether or not the finished ZombiU could possibly live up to our exuberant cover feature promise.
You'll be very pleased to hear then, that it does. ZombiU's greatest achievement is that it does exactly what we wanted it to do. Deep down inside we wanted a game that scared and excited us in equal measure. We prayed for a launch game that featured gameplay-enhancing uses of the GamePad, but didn't fall over its feet by trying to be too clever.
Well, we've certainly got it. ZombiU does all these things and, while some distance from perfection, its ability to overwhelm the senses makes up for its few downfalls.
Fear And Loathing In London Town
We should make one thing clear from the start: this ZombiU review won't mention a lot of the twists and turns that happen later in the game, just as it won't mention the multitude of new weapons, skills and abilities that you'll unearth along your way through London's undead hordes.
We've been unlucky in this respect (we're so hard done-by...). Back in June the development team showed us many of the things that make this game truly great, but now that we've played unaided from the start, we can see that this knowledge taints the experience. Aside from reading this spoiler-light review, we would recommend you try to stay away from online exposÚs. It will only ruin it for you.
ZombiU plays on that most powerful of fears: the unknown. Your story begins abruptly, following a short history lesson about The Plague and the Great Fire Of London. It seems that history is repeating and you begin your 'quest' (straight-up survival is a more accurate way of looking at it) by fleeing into Shadwell station surrounded by undead hordes. From one moment to the next your thoughts should always remain on the single goal of staying alive.