Zombie U will release on November 18 as a launch title for the Wii U (Photo : Ubisoft)
*Correction: The Wii U will release on November 18 with two versions: a $299 white console, and a $349 black deluxe console that ships with the game Nintendo Land.*
After scouring the show floor at New York Comic-Con for hours, I stumbled upon the Nintendo Wii U booth. Having followed the console from its announcement during a 2011 E3 press conference, I remained skeptical about the advantages of a tablet-based controller, and was even more critical of third-party developers' ability to take advantage of the technology.
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Following a brief demo of Zombie U, it became clear that while the Wii U isn't as monumental of a step forward as the Wii was, Nintendo's new system remains an exciting departure from the norm.
First and foremost, the second screen on the Wii U Gamepad provides a practical and intuitive approach to inventory management. The Gamepad allows user interface elements to become an extension of fiction as opposed to arbitrary numbers and bars on the TV screen. For example, the Gamepad in Zombie U serves as both the player's survival pack and their firearm. In order to zoom-in with a long range gun, simply raise the Gamepad and face it towards the screen. The Gamepad screen will magnify the gun's scope as expected. If the player needs to manage their inventory or pick up loot, just interact with the touchpad as the action continues on screen, depicting a character rummaging around their pack. The Gamepad served as a changeable prop, and I'm excited to see how developers take advantage of the hardware.
Death Surrounds You
In Zombie U, you will die. As one of the few games to embrace permanent death, Zombie U plays with a sense of tension that other horror games only brush up against. The fear of monsters lurking in the dark fades as players become more familiar with their design, but the terror of losing rare supplies, guns, and ammunition is persistent. Each character carries around a survival pack filled with supplies. When the player dies, they take up the role of another survivor, and must hunt down the character that they previously occupied if they wish to reclaim the pack. Jump scares and looming silhouettes were prominent, but remained effective throughout the brief NYCC demo.
Strategic Zombie Killing?
While a fair portion of the experience involves bashing the undead over the head with a cricket bat, there are strategic elements that gamers can take advantage of to seize the upper hand on rabid zombies. At one point during the demo, a zombie spotted my character from across a shallow water crossing. The undead walker slowed as it moved deeper into the channel, allowing me to take my time for a precise headshot. This quirk piqued my interest, and I am more curious than ever to discover other small gameplay mechanics that elevate the experience above a run-and-gun/bash experience.
Overall, Zombie U left a lasting impression that rekindled my faith in the Wii U as an evolution of the Wii. Nintendo's new console has opened new avenues to developers, but it remains to be seen whether or not "hardcore" gamers should hold their breath for anyone other than Nintendo and the ever-reliable Ubisoft to take advantage of them. Zombie U will cost $59.99, the average price for Nintendo Wii high profile games.