Having finally deigned to experience Nintendo’s fledgling Wii U (via the exchange of a copious quantity of money and my mortal soul. Neither of which, frankly, were availing me of much anywhere else. I’m also rather better hung into the bargain. Thanks, Satan!), ZombiU was the first title to make that oh-so-pleasing sinuous slide into the disk slot. Being an ardent supporter of all things macabre and/or brain-meat leaking, I had been curious about the game since its inaugural appearance, at whichever Japanese businessmen-fest it was unveiled. But how did Ubisoft’s launch title fare?
As all graduates of Gameology class will attest, consoles has been largely bereft of survival horror for some time. Father and once proud advocate of the notion, Resident Evil (perhaps Alone in the Dark would fit the former position better. We shan’t be pernickety there, though, because Alone in the Dark sucks monkey nuts), is now rather more interested in displaying its Hollywood-infused ‘action’ cojones. If motor vehicles aren’t exploding, or Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t striding manfully-yet-middle-age-spread-ily across the screen, spraying bullets and humorous monotone one-liners with merry abandon as he does so, Resident Evil doesn’t care. The genre, like stopmotion animation at the movies, is becoming rather a dying art. A lamentable state of affairs that pre-launch PR ballyhooing suggested ZombiU was seeking to address.
Aficionados will also be aware of the great zombie castration of today’s gaming landscape (albeit not in a literal sense, illicit surgical procedures in these guys’ intimate areas would be hazardous indeed). ‘Survival horror’ and ‘zombie shooter’ have amalgamated into one bastardized entity, the zombies therein merely forming a semi-sentient shuffling shooting gallery. With maggots on its crotch. Far from being a ‘threat’ in any fathomable form, these half-wits now seemingly exist only to be mowed down en masse as a score multiplier ascends ever higher. Again, ZombiU says: Nuts to that.
In this title, then, survival is again the nucleus of the experience. Shuffling about darkened locales with a flashlight in the midst of a zombie apocalypse is as commonplace as one’s morning urination at this juncture, but not like this. You are not beset by vast hordes that you can dispatch with consumate ease, instead the opposite is true. The festering foes you encounter in the near-future London streets rarely venture out in large groups. Which is fortuitous, as ammunition is remarkably scarce. It’s more prudent to horde weaponry and the associated painful pain-bullets of pain for certain areas and setpieces. Much of your ZombiU time will be spent in the company of the cricket bat -how charmingly British!- that is bestowed upon you early on. Combat is rather ‘clunky,’ and emphasises deft timing (each swing must be ‘readied’ and positioning is key) should you not wish your buttocks to become a chewtoy for an elderly gentleman in a tweed blazer.
Which, alas, is an all-too-frequent sight. You have a health bar about as resilient as a one legged kitten with a limp in a fistfight with Superman, and are beset by unwieldy, shambling attacks. Most pertinently, though, your combat abilities are just as cumbersome. Players in today’s gaming-verse are intimately acquainted with the grotesquely outnumbered by, but ludicrously more powerful and agile than your festering foes zombie game protagonist. ZombiU, conversely, raises a merry middle finger at this concept, and performs a stunningly-choreographed nuts to that dance, a la the shamblers in Michael Jackson’s much-acclaimed Thriller video. These buggers run like moldy Usain Bolts, able to keep pace with the character with sickening ease. There’s a nigh-palpable peril in each encounter, which is refreshing indeed.
In summation, then, ZombiU is a revelation. The ponderous pace will be an ill fit for those players to whom the mantra I must shoot many, many people in the gonads! Right now! is paramount. Foraging for scant supplies of ammunition, healing items and suchlike will feel rather a novel notion. While it is not bereft of flaws (our enigmatic ‘guide,’ The Prepper, has a demented habit of continuing a conversation with a character that has just died -whereupon you will instantly respawn as another survivor in your Safe House- with somebody that wouldn’t, logic dictates, know what in the name of Satan’s sweaty scrotum he’s talking about), this is a fine adult introduction to the system, and hopefully a harbinger of more ‘core’-appealing creations for Wii U.
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