Zombies: They’re everywhere. Just days after completing Lee Everett’s heart rending adventures in TellTale Games The Walking Dead, I find myself deftly dispatching yet more Zombies. Although this time, they’re shambling around the familiar streets of London in Ubisofts WiiU launch title, ZombiU.
Midlife Gamer was invited to attend an event in Central London designed to showcase the new console, and in particular to demonstrate the uniqueness of Nintendos tablet gamepad and the advantages that this has over a conventional console/ TV/ controller set up. Participants were filmed whilst playing the game, and then interviewed on camera to talk about the experience. For better or worse, they sent me along.
Upon arrival I was plonked in a comfy chair by the nice Nintendo rep. Where she proceeded to boot up ZombiU and hand me the game pad. This was my first time with the console, having missed the opportunity to get any time with the WiiU at Eurogamer as the queues were massive and would have cut into my all-important drinking time.
After first choosing between ‘normal’ and ‘chicken’ mode – I went normal, it’s much harder than chicken and something I would probably later regret – the game began. As the opening sequence and introductory credits roll, the same appears on the gamepad and as such you’re not quite sure where to look.
The game starts with you in a safe room, and you are instructed to find a key card and are introduced to the basic controls. It’s not long before you have a device in your possession that is effectively the same as the gamepad you are holding. This is one of the games unique features. You can hold up the gamepad and use it look around the room, AR style, investigating the environment for clues to scan.
Another fairly unusual approach is that of your characters’ lives. You only have one life; and you’ll also die; A lot. You’ll start the game proper with your rucksack, gun, a few bullets and a cricket bat. The zombies will take a fair few direct hits to the head in order take them down, holding the left trigger to target and the right trigger to hit them. However you will be quickly overwhelmed by the zombies and it’s game over. Although not quite. You are resurrected back at the safe house as an entirely different character. You first task then, it is to find the now zombified version of your previous character, kill them, and get all your equipment back from the ruck sack they are still wearing. Fail to do so and die again, the next character that spawns will have to start without the kit you had previously amassed, forcing youto go and find more.
I have to say that the game is no looker. Muddy and blurring textures give it a look reminiscent of early current gen games. I don’t think it would be unfair to mention that the game really could do with a bit more polish, but was locked into an immovable launch date some time ago. You could consider it a tech demo in the same way that Assassins Creed 2 vastly improved what its predecessor had set out.
The controller is well designed with a responsive touchscreen and works brilliantly with this game, although initially it’s a little confusing as you switch your gaze between the screen in front of you and the one in your hands. Coming across a barricaded door, the on screen prompt tells me to look at the controller, which is now displaying a plank of wood with the word ‘tap’ written across; you tap the wooden plank and the door opens. There are better uses of the screen than that, but you get the idea. If I had any criticisms, the action ‘X’ button – same position as PS triangle or Xbox ‘Y’ – was nestled right below the right analog stick. It did take a little getting used to having the buttons placed there.
Whilst playing, the film crew wandered over and started setting up lights around me, a boom mic just about my eye line and a rather smart video camera trained on me as I tried to ignore it. I was then asked to hold the controller in certain ways so that they could get some angled shots, or close ups of me flicking the trigger buttons.
After my time with the game, came the interview itself, and so, bathed in a hue of red lights, I mumbled something about the immersive nature of the game. The film will end up as WiiU advertising on YouTube.
I also got to have a quick go a Super Mario Bros U and had a good look at Arkham City. Really you need to try this thing for yourself, and that was the purpose of the whole session; Nintendo needs to explain to its prospective audience what makes this uniquely different to every other console experience by examining the users interaction with the gamepad across a range of different games.
After my experience at the WiiU Community Day I definitely want one. Have I been good this year Santa?