ZombiU Review


It’s the dead of night, nothing but the faint glow of the Prepper Pad and my dying torch to light the way. I check my backpack, glancing up periodically to scout for potential threats. No flares, no ammo — just my cricket bat. I don’t fancy my chances against the three shambling creatures obstructing my path, especially in such an enclosed space. Hoping to manoeuvre around them, I make a run for it. Bad move. One of them manages to latch onto me, viciously slamming his teeth into my jugular. I’m dead. No respawn, no second chance, just a corpse slowly returning as one of that inhuman horde.

ZombiU is a survival horror game. I don’t mean that in the sense that Resident Evil 6 was a survival horror just because it had zombies in it, this game is about survival and it’s terrifying. If you die in ZombiU, which will likely happen pretty frequently, your character is dead for good. You continue the game as a new survivor, trek back to find the reanimated corpse of your former self and recover your supplies from them, and continue onwards. The game is tough, it is violent, and it is scary.

The Zombis (read Zombies) in ZombiU are tough to kill, the first time I came across one I learnt that the hard way. After taking my cricket bat to his skull three times in a row I began to walk away, before hearing a noise. I turned around and the Zombi was still moving despite the sizeable chunk missing from his skull. Zombis are resilient, they will keep getting up and keep coming for you, and a single bite from one is enough to kill you. Ammo is scarce in the game too, meaning that you’ll often have to get up close and personal to take down the gruesome beasts. More than two Zombis together is a dangerous situation to be in and I found myself often fleeing from encounters just because I felt outnumbered and too weak to take on large groups of the enemies.

The game’s story is fairly simple. You’re in London in the near future and there has been an outbreak of a disease that turns those infected into mindless killing machines. A group of survivors are trying to investigate a prophecy that predicted the outbreak hundreds of years in advance and there’s a man talking to you over a radio telling you what to do and where to go. You’ll explore London following the instructions given to you by “Prepper” and slowly unravel the situation that you’ve found yourself in. It’s fairly predictable in places, but the main draw of the game is the “tough as nails” combat and the terrifying scenarios you find yourself in.

The game does have a few aspects that will be hit or miss depending on how you view them. Firstly, the game doesn’t offer you much in the way of ammo, meaning that the majority of the game you’ll be fighting off Zombis with your cricket bat at close range. The second thing leads on from that, which is that the controls are not as fluid as they would be in a straight FPS. Swinging your cricket bat leaves you exposed, guns have a large amount of kickback, it’s tough to aim and you’ll struggle to manoeuvre with precision at high speed. While this will be a problem for some, for me it only added to the game’s charm. This game revels in being a believable zombie apocalypse and places you as a civilian survivor, meaning that you’re limited to the ability level of the average survivor of that kind of infectious outbreak. This may sound like a cop out to justify bad controls, but it really did help me maintain my immersion in the world.

One of the things I was less pleased about in the game was the introduction of non-standard Zombis. While it was a nice change of pace to see different enemy types introduced, some of the enemies have supernatural powers, can summon lightning or have gas tanks strapped to their backs. These Zombi’s really took me out of the well crafted reality of the world and reminded me that I was playing a game.

The game makes good use of your online friends list by bringing your friends into your game when they fail. If one of your friends dies in their game then their Zombi will appear in your game, allowing you to go kill them and retrieve their supplies, bringing more ammo into a game that otherwise is often shy on allowing you to use your gun. There is also an offline multiplayer mode in which the Gamepad player spawns Zombis for another player to shoot at, but it feels heavily skewed in favour of the Gamepad player and the mode quickly becomes boring for the player who isn’t using the Gamepad.

The single player game makes some very creative use of the Gamepad to help with immersion and reality in the world. The Gamepad is mirrored in game by a device called the Prepper Pad. It’s a device that Prepper communicates to you through (this is manifested in the form of you hearing him through the Gamepad speakers), it acts as your map and a radar, as well as being able to scan your environment. Whenever you loot a body, pick a lock or anything else of that nature, the game doesn’t pause. Instead you are to deal with the inventory management or the task at hand on the Gamepad while glancing up at the TV to check nothing is about to attack you. The fact that the game keeps going really adds to both the tension and believability, and works really well context.

ZombiU is not without its flaws. It’s far from the best looking game in the world, plus its clunky controls and focus on using a single melee weapon during most of the game may annoy some players, but for fans of truly punishing and scary survival horror this game is a must. It’s not perfect, but a lot of the things it’s doing currently can’t be found in any other game.

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