ZombiU Session 1

We got our Wii U on Tuesday night, but tonight was the first time I got a chance to sit down and play the one “real” game I got for it: ZombiU (we also got NintendoLand as a pack-in and Scribblenauts Unlimited for Angela, which I guess is a real game but not one I’ll be playing).

My first gaming experience on the Wii U went like this: after a few cut scenes a narrator (“The Prepper”) told me to enter a subway station to find a safe house. Suddenly I noticed zombies coming at me from three directions. I started to run but the Tablet Controller felt clumsy in my hands and I hadn’t inverted the Y axis yet. I stumbled around like a drunk. The Prepper told me to climb a ladder. I got to it and the screen prompted me to hit X to climb. WHERE IS X!!? I looked down at the controller but I was playing in the dark and couldn’t see the labels, but trial and error helped me find X. I got on the ladder just as a zombie grabbed my leg and pulled me down. I jumped up, spinning wildly, grabbed the ladder again just as another zombie leapt on me, dragging me to the ground to become a Zombie snack.

Fade to black, Game Over.

Or not! Suddenly I was another survivor, tucked snugly in the Safe House. After listening to more advice from The Prepper (who is your disembodied mentor/boss throughout the game), and adjusting some options, I crept out of the safe house. I scrounged around a bit, finding a few odds and ends that might come in handy. Then I found a machine gun turret! How fun is this? I used it, saw a zombie in the distance, sighted down the barrel and fired. The zombie dropped like a sack of potatoes. Then it got back up and started running at me, and not far behind him were a bunch more. They came surging up a flight of stairs and I strode forth to meet them, wielding my mighty Cricket Bat. I swung and hit! A zombie staggered back, then surged forward. I hit it again and again it was staggered, but by now 3 more were beside it. Seconds later there was another well-fed batch of zombies and I was waking up in the Safe House as a third survivor.

By this time I had the idea of the game. I snuck out of the safe house, crept up to where the previous survivor had died. And there she was, staggering around, moaning, with a backpack full of goodies. Taking her on 1 v 1 with the Cricket Bat wasn’t too much of a challenge. Whack her a couple times until she falls than smash her head in. I know how to do this from watching The Walking Dead on TV. Then I grab her pack and now I’m geared up and ready.

That survivor lasted a good amount of time until I opened a door that had an alarm set. As soon as it went off (and there was no way to know it was rigged) I was swarmed and quickly died.

Survivor 4 got back to the same location and found 3 or 4 cop zombies milling around with the undead version of Survivor 3 and all my gear. I found the safety of some scaffolding and used a pistol to thin the herd, then finished them off with the Cricket Bat when I was out of ammo. Got the backpack and pressed on. This guy died when he left a building (zoning in doing so) and found himself facing a punk zombie making a huge racket and drawing a horde from all over the area. Dead again.

And so on…and so on.

So far I really like ZombiU except for the ‘cheap’ deaths it throws at you, like alarms and zombies on the other side of zone lines.

It’s a relatively complicated game since there’s stuff you have to do on the tablet and other things you have to do on the TV screen, and you tend to want to keep half an eye on one screen while you’re focusing on the other. Looting stuff in particular can be really annoying. You loot on the tablet where you have to drag and drop each item from the container it is in, into your backpack. The Wii U tablet in general isn’t very responsive, so you have to drag and drop with INTENT. I keep mis-dragging things, believe it or not; I’m just not used to pushing that hard on a tablet screen. There are also annoyances like finding a few rounds of ammo but not being able to pick it up because your inventory is full. So you have to close the container, open your backpack, drop something, then loot the bullets, then equip your pistol and hit the Reload button (Y) to load the ammo into the gun, and then pick up the item you’d dropped. Remember that while you’re doing all this on the tablet, the game isn’t frozen and at any moment a zombie could jump you on the TV screen.

Your tablet also works as a scanner. You hold it up, press one of the shoulder keys and move it around to scan the environment around you (you can use an analog stick too, if you prefer). It’s a neat little mechanic that helps immerse you in the world a bit. You can also see messages from other players in a way similar to the system in Demons Souls and Dark Souls. One of the first messages you’ll find is from the Developers congratulating the people who’ve recently beat Survival Mode (where you only get 1 life). Pretty neat!

In order to like ZombiU you need to like that sort of Rogue-Like vibe of losing a lot of progress every so often. It’s a challenging game, at least for me. When a survivor dies the next one does pick up the same quest, so it isn’t like you’re starting the whole game over, but you are starting the ‘leveling’ of the character over (you get better with guns as you use them, for example).

I’ve only had one session but I think I’ll be chipping away at this game for a good amount of time. I had to quit after a couple of hours because it does get pretty intense and after a string of deaths the frustration level builds a little.

But yeah, I like it a lot. I’m looking forward to putting more time in it and I think it’ll get somewhat easier just as I become more used to using the Wii U tablet. I’m very happy with the purchase so far.