ZombiU is a game that isn’t short on ambition, but stumbles in execution. It’s nothing short of an attempt by Ubisoft to solidify the Wii U as a console that can support “gritty” and “mature” titles like it’s competitors, and in this sense, ZombiU succeeds. It’s scary, violent, and filled with guns and exploding zombie heads. It fits right into the mold of the over saturated zombie apocalypse FPS we’ve all grown accustomed to. But as a gameplay experience, it feels clunky, unfinished, and worst of all, boring.
The player assumes the role of a survivor in the midst of a zombie outbreak. You are not armed to the brim with guns from the get-go, instead you have to track down weapons and items in a zombie-filled London. Should you manage to be killed by a zombie (which becomes an increasingly annoying habit), you will then take control of a new survivor, and you’ll have to find your zombified previous character, and kill them if you want to get your equipment back.
The setup is a nice twist on an increasingly stale genre. Making weapons and items more difficult to come across and the permanent deaths of your characters give the game a sense of urgency that has slowly disappeared from survival horror. But the tension and atmosphere can’t make up for the poorly-executed controls.
ZombiU makes some clever usage of the Wii U Gamepad, using its screen to manage your inventory and view mini-maps feels at home. But controlling your character is another story. Combat feels sloppy, with melee weapons in particular using an odd setup of multiple shoulder buttons, which makes for a slow and clunky execution. You’ll find more often than not that your survivor has died at zombie hands not because you were too slow to act, but because your character was too slow to react to your button presses.
Multiplayer is included, but feels a bit tacked on. A survivor versus zombie mode is fun for a few quick rounds, but soon becomes repetitious and shallow.
There are some nice little ideas at work here in ZombiU (it even takes a page from Dark Souls and allows players to write messages for other players during their play through of the game), but for all its promise it all ends up being a mediocre affair. The questionable control scheme and overall sluggish pace of the game make it feel like, well, a zombie.