Dual screens of the living dead…
During our time in Los Angeles at E3 in June, we checked out one of the most highly anticipated Wii U titles in Zombie U. It’s safe to say that we were mightily impressed with what we saw and played. Fast forward two months and we were getting hands-on with the game again, this time at Gamescom. One thing that stood out for us during our time with the game at E3 was just how well the whole package was put together in conjunction with the Wii U control pad. Sitting down (or standing up in this case) to play the game in Cologne, it was quite clear to see that Ubisoft has spent a lot of time polishing the game since its reveal back at E3.
Even back at E3, the game looked fantastic and the experience was a very positive one indeed. It’s a testament to Ubisoft’s work then that the game looked and played even better at Gamescom. The difference was like night and day compared to what we played at E3. On the visual front, the game most definitely received a new lick of paint, as it looked a lot more polished. The improved lighting was very much noticeable, making the visuals feel like they were popping out from the screen, akin to an episode of The Walking Dead.
Set in a zombie-filled Buckingham Palace, the new code looked and felt amazing, with the Queen’s “second home” replicated brilliantly. We’re still not sure if a zombie Queen was in the building at the time, but our imaginations were running wild. Come on, how amazing would that be? Still, as you’d expect, he palace was filled with zombie palace guards that sneakily creeped up on you from time to time. This, of course, added to the tension and the drama, but with one equip of our trusty cricket bat, we somehow managed to shake them off. It must said that the Wii U control pad is used extremely well in ZombiU. During our time with the demo, we used it to scan the environment for clues and to help find anything that would help overall progression. By holding the Wii U control pad up to the screen, we located various secret hideouts and a few sneaky beefeaters (zombie ones, of course) that were trying to surprise us from the shadows.
The way the Wii U control pad works in conjunction with the screen really is brilliant. As great as its implementation was at E3, it has been improved so much, with the controls being tighter and noticeably more responsive. During the demo, we had to collect items like ammo and health, using our backpack to hold onto them. There are two brilliant reasons why ZombiU is so tense. It’s down to not only the zombie’s, but the way the game cheekily adds another layer of suspense to scare the hell out of you. First off, health and ammo is very sparse, so you have to pick up anything that you find. However, when you start to place items in your backpack, the camera on the Wii U control pad changes to show you crouched down performing the action. You have to be very careful here, as the game carries on without pausing. This, of course, means any zombies in your proximity can attack at you any given time.
This latest code also featured a brand new zombie type called the Splitter. To say this zombie is tough to deal with would be a slight understatement, as we quite literally found out. Equipped with a powerful rifle, we see a Splitter approaching and start to panic. A shot to the chest and one to the head doesn’t stop him coming for us, even though his head was completely obliterated. Thankfully, a few more rounds of the rifle finally stop him in his tracks, but it was a tough task to say least. The sheer panic created in that one moment was mighty impressive, and it’s something we hope ZombiU manages to replicate throughout its entire campaign.
After a second hands-on with ZombiU, it would be fair to say that it’s shaping up to be a must-buy title for the Wii U when it launches. It’s a fantastically designed game that is oozing with both suspense and tension. The only minor criticism right now relates to how repetitive the main campaign mode will be in the full game, but hopefully that won’t be an issue, as ZombiU is looking to be very promising indeed.