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Ah, survival horror! Once a beautifully simplistic genre which has now been bastardized to death similar to the fighting game scene in the late 90’s. The latest entries of survival horror have emphasized more on action, dodging, a surplus of ammo, and of course coddling us gamers with a psychologically safe blanket as we mowed down creatures left and right effortlessly. In the past generation, and I say to the past generation because the Nintendo Wii U to be next-gen, survival horror has not been portrayed well except for the dead space series but even that franchise was not too challenging once the player stocked up on more ammo than Yosemite Sam. Other classics such as Silent Hill have strayed far from the original PSX gem which took everything Resident Evil had to offer and turned it upside down. And let's not forget Resident Evil…the game that sparked the genre that took a plunge with the sixth main entry of the franchise earlier this year. Hope, however, still remains because today, boys and ghouls, we are going to talk about Zombies and you, er ZombiU!
So let’s take out the checklist first to see if we should consider this to be a survival horror game as in surviving the horror around us.
1)Lack of Ammo, check!
2)Surrounded by endless enemies, check!
3)Protagonist is not a boulder smashing badass commando, check!
4)Lack of information on events creating survival horror situation, check!
5)Death lurks behind every dark corner, check!
Sweet Christmas! I am just going to press power right now and start playing.
Welcome to London after a zombie infestation. Now I have heard that the weather is quite gloomy over there but this is ridiculous. Zombies stalk the streets, alleys, and McDonalds for a happy meal, okay maybe not McDonalds but I assure you that they are craving for some flesh and chips and they don’t really care about the chips. See, you are on the menu and its din-din time people!
A random unarmed survivor, you have to make it to the safe house by following the instructions of a voice indentifying itself as the…Prepper! With your legs to your neck, you make it to the safe house where the foundations of the game will be laid out for you. I won’t spoil the rest but I will tell you this…you will die and then wake up in the same safe house as someone else who has to complete the last mission you died during while avoiding death again and again but you will be dying…a lot, and that’s just fine!
ZombiU does not really reinvent the wheel in terms of gameplay, meaning that it is a first-person game where you have both melee and ranged weapons. You also have a radar which detects the movements in your immediate area so that small dot could be a rat, a bird, hell even a newspaper blipping on your radar but chances are not a zombie who is standing still meditating on the meaning of life before being startled by your loud movements. Noise is something that attracts zombies to you which is why you should be brandishing your cricket bat more frequentlythan relying on your (sparse) ammo to handle the walking dead. What ZombiU adds to the gameplay, though, is the death system. When you die with a backpack full of ammo and Scooby snacks, the new guy you are playing as can go loot the fresh body that just died but that body is now a full grown zombie hungry for some fresh meat aka the new you! This, my friends, is a stellar concept because we all know that when a zombie kills you that it is over; science people! Some zombies spit acid, others can electrocute you while disrupting the map, and a few are covered in red mist making them deal more damage than the rest…needless to say variety is the spice of life er the dead, I mean…the unlife?
The graphics of ZombiU get the job done. It is a launch title for a new console and therefore you cannot expect the moon, well you can, but then you will be a bit disappointed. I didn’t pay much attention to the textures at first but trust me when I tell you that a dark room looks dark and that the streets of London are well rendered. The zombies are also well done; they look like rotten sacks of flesh with a bad case of the munchies. The characters themselves leave a bit more to be desired but since you will be mostly seeing their hands, it's not that much of an issue.
The soundtrack of ZombiU is mainly composed of noises which add to the ambiance, nothing that can be compared to a spaghetti western soundtrack but it's effective nonetheless. Zombies moan and grunt while you yell a war cry with EVERY swing you make with that good old reliable cricket bat. I might be making it sound like the soundtrack is lacking but that is not the case at all, it’s used for ambiance and its done pretty well. The gamepad is also used to convey the Prepper’s messages adding one more chill to the layer shivering down your back.
Speaking of the mighty gamepad, ZombiU shows how the gamepad can be used properly. Whenever you are struggling to open a door, looting a body, or searching for that important item in your backpack, the game never pauses so you have to keep an eye on both the gamepad, which is where you get all this important stuff down, and the good old television to make sure none of them zombies are sneaking up on you.
When you are done with the single player mode you will find that ZombiU also offers an interesting take on multiplayer. Again, Ubisoft is not reinventing the wheel but it’s a barrel full of zombie monkeys. The player with the gamepad spawns zombies on the map and the player with the Wii nunchuk & remote will be controlling a survivor either on a mission or simply trying to survive for as long as he or she can.
When it comes down to it, ZombiU is a great launch title but is lacking in the graphics department. This is normal for a new title on a new console but I am still going to point it out because we all live in the HD era. It can also be frustrating and hard for some players. I emjoy hard games but dying constantly might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Also that annoying scream behind every cricket bat swing did start to fill me with violent urges. Despite all these small issues I am going to praise ZombiU for bring back the yesteryear mentality of the survival horror genre and not just emphasizing on action. I am also praising ZombiU because it did what no other game has done before…it made my girlfriend, a walking dead fan, pick up the gamepad and play! So ZombiU, this biscuit is for you!