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ZombiU review

Ladies and gents, may we present the Wii U's first true killer app!

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.

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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.

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Comments

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  1. lifetimegamer Wednesday 28th Nov 2012 at 13:03

    Awesome, I'm a huge fan of survival horror so this sounds exactly my sort of game!
    Wasn't planning on getting a WiiU right away but, in light of the (mostly) positive ZombiU reviews, I caved and pre-ordered a 8GB Console, ZombiU and Mario yesterday afternoon.
    Roll on Friday!

  2. olrodlegacy Wednesday 28th Nov 2012 at 13:17

    92% is a bold score... I hope this isn't the WiiU's Red Steel! Will pick it up anyway, the ZombiU bundle is easily the best value for money.

  3. imbusydoctorwho Wednesday 28th Nov 2012 at 13:31

    Hopefully there'll be a demo on the E-shop.

  4. ThePokekid78 Wednesday 28th Nov 2012 at 17:17

    4.5

    Just sayinnnnn......

  5. Sonic_Freak Wednesday 28th Nov 2012 at 18:39

    4.5

    Just sayinnnnn......


    Like one review from one site really matters... Everyone has different opinions. This game has had lots of high reviews.

  6. TheVelvetRoom Wednesday 28th Nov 2012 at 18:51

    I'm gonna have to agree about the 4.5 review. Words can't really match proper footage, and what I saw of the game was a repetitive and clunky survival game where you wander around and whack a ridiculous amount of enemies with a cricket bat for a long time. Survival horror needs to achieve a precise balance with its enemies. Too many can actually encourage you to fight even when you should run away. Too little and you might not even think them worth your time.

    The main game everybody has compared this to is Red Steel, and I've been seeing a lot Ubisoft repeating history with this game. Mature first-person launch title with ambition sounds good on paper, but it seems that ambition and handling of new hardware and control schemes means polished and thought-out game design takes a backseat in priorities while they try to impress with supposed innovations. And it might work for a number of players now, but give it a year or two when ZombiU's talents are old hat and we'll probably look back on this as a mediocre let-down with potential. Though Ubisoft can at least rectify that by not waiting 4 years to make a followup.

  7. Argenthor Wednesday 28th Nov 2012 at 18:54

    92% is a bold score... I hope this isn't the WiiU's Red Steel! Will pick it up anyway, the ZombiU bundle is easily the best value for money.


    Considering that ONM are meant to have made their review scores tougher, it is a bold score! I'm looking forward to getting to grips with this hopefully at the weekend

  8. TheNUKEnukeM Wednesday 28th Nov 2012 at 20:20

    Can I ask (I can you, you told me I can all over the new magazine) Did Chandra actually feel the cricket bat was repetetive and it made combat dull. I mean the ign and gamespot video reviews both made the combat look painful and really unappealing. I do think that they didn't adjust with the game as much as Chandra.

  9. alexjones94 Thursday 29th Nov 2012 at 15:45

    While everyone's entitled to their opinion, the lower review scores tend to focus on the combat being clunky and there being too many enemies. My instinct tells me that these people aren't playing it as a true, old-school survival horror and if it's taken as a FPS, I can imagine that it's pretty rubbish, because that's not how the devs designed it to be played. I'm confident it's going to a great addition to the Wii U's launch line-up.

  10. TheVelvetRoom Thursday 29th Nov 2012 at 17:32

    While everyone's entitled to their opinion, the lower review scores tend to focus on the combat being clunky and there being too many enemies. My instinct tells me that these people aren't playing it as a true, old-school survival horror.

    Thing is, if you're suggesting that clunky combat is what makes it fit into the genre better because the classic survival horrors were like that, it's really not a point in the game's favor. The genre shouldn't be relying on tank controls or every enemy taking 6 hits of the same weapon to die every single time.

    The amount of enemies too is a legit complaint. One of the major factors that contributed to Resident Evil 6's suckiness was there was a never-ending swarm of enemies. It was nothing but combat. There's a difference between tension and tedium, and it reflects poorly on the game's design if it's leaving all these frustrating gameplay elements in and calling them features. It shows very little ambition to progress the genre, which betrays what ZombiU is said to be trying by bringing the features of this next generation system to survival horror.

  11. 3DSRulesO.K Thursday 29th Nov 2012 at 17:46

    While everyone's entitled to their opinion, the lower review scores tend to focus on the combat being clunky and there being too many enemies. My instinct tells me that these people aren't playing it as a true, old-school survival horror.

    Thing is, if you're suggesting that clunky combat is what makes it fit into the genre better because the classic survival horrors were like that, it's really not a point in the game's favor. The genre shouldn't be relying on tank controls or every enemy taking 6 hits of the same weapon to die every single time.

    The amount of enemies too is a legit complaint. One of the major factors that contributed to Resident Evil 6's suckiness was there was a never-ending swarm of enemies. It was nothing but combat. There's a difference between tension and tedium, and it reflects poorly on the game's design if it's leaving all these frustrating gameplay elements in and calling them features. It shows very little ambition to progress the genre, which betrays what ZombiU is said to be trying by bringing the features of this next generation system to survival horror.


    Have you at all played ZombiU? Because if you haven't then you cant hate on it too much just by looking at the footage. the reviews have been mostly positive, so don't just focus on bad reviews!

    You trust ONM to give a good review, right? I would guess so if you joined the forum.

  12. alexjones94 Thursday 29th Nov 2012 at 20:55

    Thing is, if you're suggesting that clunky combat is what makes it fit into the genre better because the classic survival horrors were like that, it's really not a point in the game's favor. The genre shouldn't be relying on tank controls or every enemy taking 6 hits of the same weapon to die every single time.

    My point was that the combat will probably seem a bit repetitive and frustrating, if you try and bash every enemy you see, rather than avoiding them as much as you can and only fighting where it's absolutely necessary, which is how a true survival horror should be.


    The amount of enemies too is a legit complaint. One of the major factors that contributed to Resident Evil 6's suckiness was there was a never-ending swarm of enemies. It was nothing but combat. There's a difference between tension and tedium, and it reflects poorly on the game's design if it's leaving all these frustrating gameplay elements in and calling them features. It shows very little ambition to progress the genre, which betrays what ZombiU is said to be trying by bringing the features of this next generation system to survival horror.

    Again, it seems to me that there's too many enemies to kill them all, but it's not pitched to be like that - it's designed that there's enough enemies to mean that you can't avoid combat all of the time, but you should wherever you can. I totally agree that using difficulty/frustration as game lengthen-ers/features is lazy development, but I don't think that's the case here.

  13. Brawlftw Friday 30th Nov 2012 at 20:17

    92% is a bold score... I hope this isn't the WiiU's Red Steel! Will pick it up anyway, the ZombiU bundle is easily the best value for money.

    I get the feeling, based on what I've heard from others, what I've seen of the game and the fact that it's a launch title, that it could well be the console's Red Steel (though to be fair I never thought Red Steel was bad); 92% does seem a little high. I suppose you need to remember that launch titles are entitled to a higher score because they're testing very new ground, but still.

    All the same, it definitely looks worthy of a purchase, and I'll be picking it up in the bundle deal as soon as :)

  14. starmie68 Saturday 29th Dec 2012 at 16:39

    I have to say i was disaponited with this game it is fun but i think using the game pad makes it quite difficult to manage your inventory.

    I dont hate this game and am glad to see something like this coming out on a Nintendo console i just hope the next one they make has a co op mode and some online functions.

  15. olrodlegacy Sunday 30th Dec 2012 at 17:16

    I got ZombiU for Christmas and have given it a good fifteen hour playtest now. I have to say I'm really impressed. It works great as a survival horror game, the atmosphere is superb and the realism in the London setting only improves things. I love the way a character who has been killed must be killed as a zombie by the next player, a touch of genius from Ubisoft there. One of my favourite features is the MiiVerse integration - the writing on the walls, with things like daily high scores and the hint in the safe room of their own MiiVerse name being hidden on a wall somewhere in the game. These little details simultaneously make it seem as you're immersed in the game and also sharing it with the outside world.

    I'd give this 95%. You won't find any better horror games, it's up there with Resi 4 and Revelations.

  16. MetsuHadoken1995 Thursday 24th Oct 2013 at 09:21

    This game was a huge disappointment. It was only hard due to the very limited combat. All you can do is smack downwards which can really screw you over and it's also really slow so most of the time, deaths aren't really your fault.

  17. OmegaBear Friday 7th Feb 2014 at 01:40

    I've been playing Zombi U for the better part of a month since I got it for Christmas, and I must say I'm really not sure I'm playing the same game as many of you here in this forum, or the critics for that matter.

    To begin, I am willing to give any game a chance, despite it's difficulties and shortcomings. To be fair, Zombi U has an entertaining premise, great atmosphere including the music and sound design, and a compelling story with the prepper being one of the best good guys you love to hate. BUT THIS GAME IS BROKEN!

    Never in my almost 40 years of electronic gaming have I experienced such a glaring collection of poor mechanics and programming. I'm not the best gamer but I'm persistent, and when I decide I'm going to conquer a game, I usually do, but Zombi U is too fractured to mend no matter how many times you start over. Poor positioning of controls, lack of configurability and a host of other issues is totally unforgivable.

    Anyone who has raged over this game must be thinking the same thing; "Is Ubisoft trying to punish gamers or give them a memorable challenge?" I'm starting to wonder, and keep in mind as you read this I'm not even playing in survivor mode yet!

    It's not easy to accept one's destiny to reincarnate over and over (at least your primary firearm retains it's upgrades), however I did, and was enjoying it for a little while, till it's shortcomings revealed themselves. I am quick to believe this game was just not ready for release, or they simply did not care in the end. Updates should have fixed some of the issues, but well into the game's second year of it's life cycle, the fact these issues are still finding their way into the experience is truly sad.

    Some of the more frustrating problems for me include the run button being L3. This works for other controllers but not the game pad, as L and LZ are right underneath it. If we had the option of switching to the Pro Controller it might be a different story, but this is a gamepad only game. To effectively run you have to remember to hold your index finger just underneath L so you don't accidentally hit LZ. And how about some kind of stamina meter? You can't run forever but it might be nice to know if you can run at all after you've exhausted yourself from a wave of undead.

    Another big problem I have is the timing required for Melee attacks with the stick. It's all about getting LZ and LR in sync and when you've just wasted precious seconds to switch from your depleted firearm, often you end up being Zombi food if you're being overwhelmed. This makes interaction with the game pad and actually PLAYING the game, glaringly counterproductive. This doesn't even include the fact that you cannot invert axis on the gamepad view as well. Some might not find this important considering targeting is done with the gamepad's gyroscope, but I think it should have been implemented to make switching between the two views less uncomfortable. In other words, not everybody is going to hold up the game pad to look around every time! I am one of those idiots from the old flight simulator days that believes when you pull back on a stick, you should look up, not down.

    Anyway, so you're dead, no big deal, right? WRONG. Because if you're in the final chapter of the game, and you happen to cash in one too many times, Zombi U has this wonderful way of setting you back by way of removing your shortcuts! This was what happened on my first play through, and why I decided to start completely over. I'm sorry however that I gave this game another chance because of what happened next: the game glitched out in one of the safe rooms in Buckingham Palace.

    Just before you get to the flaming scaffolds there is a small door in the wall with the key code written in blood. I had no problems with this room on my first play through, but on the second, once I got in there I literally could do nothing but move the outside camera around, or quit! Of course once you quit, all your progress is lost, so for the next 10 minutes I tried EVERYTHING! I moved the game pad every possible direction, I pushed every button, I went to the option screen, I switched over to Miiverse for help, I prayed to Baby Jesus Fetus, BUT I GOT NOWHERE! All I got was that stupid camera staring blindly at the door in which my current game was hidden on the other side. So I quit Zombi U.... for good.

    I've read many reviews of this game, and most gave it positive marks, which is why I'm wondering if I'm playing the same game they did? First assumptions would be that the poor quality of this game indicates that it was rushed to launch and they have no desire to fix it because people aren't buying it. Something else tells me that they just tightened up the game to make it challenging in lieu of content. That worked in the old 8 bit days when storage and memory limitations were part of the reason why games were so hard. But at least they didn't leave you at a dead end.

    Because of Zombi U, Ubisoft has lost me as a consumer of their products. Any future releases from them will be avoided, and I'm tempted to take note of the creators of this game as well, so as to know who's making the games I might be spending my hard earned money on, or not.

    Ultimately I really wanted to like this game, yet I can't say I've hated any other game as much as I do Zombi U.

    :cry:

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