Now that Nintendo's Wii U is finally gaining some traction with killer software like Mario Kart 8, Bayonetta 2, Super Smash Bros and Splatoon, many new gamers now have a chance to sample many great titles that have flown under the radar. In the past, I've covered underrated Wii U games like the Wonderful 101 and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate - and now, I thought I would shed some light on one of the best zombie games in years: ZombiU.
Released at the Wii U's launch in 2012, ZombiU was a reimagining of Ubisoft's 1986 title Zombi, and was (well, still is) a highly intense title that brings the severity of death back into videogames.
Set during the 2012 apocalypse (as foretold by medieval alchemist John Dee), the player finds him/herself in the middle of London during an outbreak of the undead. The game begins with you taking the role of a generic survivor, and it's up to you to -well, survive. This is done by following the instructions of a mysterious individual known as The Prepper; a cockney, ex-military man who allows you solace within his fortified base. Basically, the game has you running errands for him via the radio (you never actually meet him in person), whilst learning more about Dee's prophecy and the secret society known as the Ravens of Dee.
It's a surprisingly interesting plot; one that is told through gameplay, rather than obnoxious cinema scenes. In a way, ZombiU's method of storytelling echoes that of the seminal Half-Life games which is incredibly refreshing in an industry that is obsessed with aping Hollywood.
However, it isn't the story that is the most striking thing about ZombiU but rather, it is the way mortality is handled.
You see, ZombiU is always a battle of survival virtually every moment has you frantically managing your supplies (which is handled brilliantly with the Game Pad), whilst on the constant lookout for zombies. There is no pausing here. There are no special abilities, nor regenerating health. One bite is enough to kill your character (unless you have a special syringe, which gives you a get-out-of-jail free card), and weapons have very limited ammo.
When you die (and you will die), you actually respawn as an entirely different person, and you are required to track down your former (now zombified) player character, kill him/her, and regain your items.
It's a unique system that genuinely brings an added level of dread to the game, as these tough conditions are ensured to keep you forever on your toes. Every corner. Every sound. You are always stopping. Looking. Thinking. Taking every factor into account.
Clearly, such stress-inducing circumstances are not for everyone but I was surprised at how much enjoyment I was actually getting from ZombiU. Honestly, I'm the last person who likes to associate stress with gaming, but I genuinely had a blast with ZombiU enough for me to try the hardcore mode, in which you cannot die at all!
When it first came out, ZombiU received a mixed reaction, and sold only a few units. It's a recurring theme with the Wii U games I cover here and one that really needs to end. If you just picked up Nintendo's latest console, than I highly recommend picking up a cheap copy of ZombiU, and dip in some truly hardcore gameplay!