ZombiU – where to start? Well I suppose I’ll start by saying that I’ve only had a few hours to play, but that really doesn’t matter for the time being as the full review will be coming a little later. Right from the minute you take control of your first (all will be explained) character, you’re thrown into the streets of London surrounded by lifeless husks of former shop owners, mechanics and builders (and any other types of people that may have been zombiefied).
You are instructed by a disembodied voice that seems to be coming from nearby CCTV cameras to get to the station, away from the horde of undead dragging themselves towards you. It takes a matter of seconds for you to realise, ‘there’s no easing me in here, f*cking run!’ You make your way forward following whatever instructions the stranger gives you, avoiding as much contact with the plagued as you can.
When you hit the final stretch before reaching the ‘safe house’, you come across some wandering zombies. I decided to turn off my torch and try to sneak past them. As I got close, they spotted me, let out some horrific growls and rushed towards me. I panicked and started sprinting towards my objective marker, pushing some ‘play dead’ zombies aside. My heart was racing, and I was happy to breathe a sigh of relief as I entered the safe house.
You learn that the voice is a guy called ‘The Prepper’. He directs you to a device on a nearby table that he built himself - he calls it the ‘Prepper Pad’. It looks like an in-game version of the Wii U’s GamePad. As you pick up the prepper pad, a map is activated on your GamePad’s screen.
Now that you’ve acquired a map, you’re sent to find yourself a weapon. You come across a zombie that appears to be dead, trapped between some shutters. Coincidentally, there’s a cricket bat leant up against the wall. As you’ve probably guessed by now, the helpless zombie isn’t dead at all. As you take the cricket bat, he lunges at you. This is the first time you really get a look at the gore and a feel for the combat. It took a couple of hits to the head, and the lump of living dead meat was, well, dead again. It looked OK. I didn’t really find that ‘wow’ factor that I first experienced when I took a baseball bat to a zombies head in Dead Island
As I played further into the story mode, I came to realise that the combat was repetitive. There was only one was to swing the cricket bat – vertically. I don’t see why they couldn’t have added a few different types of melee attack. Oh, I almost forgot the way your character grunts as you swing the bat. It’s fine the first few times you swing, but it’s the same every time. If you find yourself hitting a zombie four or five times, you’ll also find yourself thinking more and more about reaching for the TV remote and turning down the volume.
Anyway, I’ve gone off track a little bit. Shortly after finding the cricket bat, you search through an abandoned suitcase and find yourself a pistol and a few bullets, and now you’re ready to venture a little bit further.
You head deeper into the station and realise that your map becomes static. You have to scan CCTV power boxes in order for The Prepper to update your prepper pad with an extension of the map.
Now, to scan the power boxes (and this is where it gets clever) you press and hold the L button. Your character on the TV screen is now shown in third person, he (or she) pulls out the prepper pad, and a bright torch lights the way in front of you. Your GamePad screen shows a first person view representing footage captured by your in-game prepper's camera. With the help of your Wii sensor bar, you move the GamePad as though you’re aiming the camera. If you aim it at a power box, The Prepper will hack it and update your map.
That isn’t the only use of motion in ZombiU
though. As you progress through the game, you’ll stumble across mounted turrets. You are able to man these turrets, and just as you would aim the camera, you can aim the turret. (You have the option to use the analogue stick for aiming purposes too, but, well, that’s no fun is it?). Sometimes you’ll jump on a turret and expect there to be a horde of uglies heading your way, then only find one or two strays aimlessly wandering around. Other times, you’ll get on a turret thinking, ooh, I wonder how much fun I can have shooting out this poor bastard’s kneecaps and find yourself overrun within seconds - which leads me on to my next point.
Up until about two hours into the game, you only come across one or two zombies at once. As you pass the two hour mark, you’ll find yourself in some much trickier positions...
Check back next week to find out what tricky positions Dan finds himself in with the undead. Uh-oh...