ZombiU has been at the center of debate the last couple of months. The reason is because of the wide range of review scores it has been receiving. Gamers are confounded as to which reviews to trust and which to shrug off. Let’s take a look at just a few review scores so you know exactly what I’m talking about:
The following scores are pulled from gamerankings.com
As you can see the scores range from very low to very high. What does this tell us? It says that really and truly it all boils down to the fact that it is personal opinion and preference that foretells what kind of experience you will have while playing this title. This is an “old school” survival horror game not an action survival horror such as Resident Evil and for a lot of people it isn’t necessarily the experience they were looking for as can be noted by some of the reviews. With that said let’s get down to the “nitty gritty”.
ZombiU the Good
If you like to be terrified, this game is for you. I started this game by turning off all the lights and as I don’t play these kinds of games in front of my kids, I was alone. Mix in a little ZombiU and you have a recipe for a great scare session! This game relies on sounds very heavily. From the anxiety filled breathing of your survivor to creepy chain rattles or the distant moaning of a zombie, the sounds do their job well. If you have a surround sound system, all the better.
By far however, ZombiU is the best Wii U title that seamlessly incorporates and makes the best use of the Wii U gamepad. You use it for everything from scanning the area, to activating cameras, going through your inventory in your bug-out-gear (backpack), to putting in codes on a keypad. The uses don’t end there. There are virtually tons of things you use it for. It has been a great experience playing a title in such a new way. If other companies made the effort to produce games that took advantage of the gamepad such as Ubisoft did, the possibilities for future Wii U titles could be endless.
The gameplay of ZombiU is slow paced. This is on purpose so that isn’t a bad thing. If things were fast paced one would hardly have the time to be scared, right? The setting is in London (which is very creepy after a zombie apocalypse) and you play as a random survivor. You wake up in your safe house to the sound of a guy who calls himself “The Prepper” talking to you from your pad. This is what you also use to scan the area. You are given missions from “The Prepper” to complete and in the meantime you have to defend your safe house if necessary. If your survivor falls victim to a horde of zombies, that is it. You don’t respawn as the same survivor in your safe house, you are a completely new survivor with a different name and occupation and if you want the stuff back that you had previously you have to go back and track down your now “zombified” survivor and get it back. This is why it is important for you to keep some of your more valuables in the storage in your safe house. When you wake up as a new survivor it will still be there. I find the gameplay of ZombiU to be the more realistic experience of the zombie game offerings out there if such a zombie apocalypse could ever happen. It can get really intense in some areas and this is one title that will get your adrenaline going especially when you have a horde after you and you don’t have very much ammo (ammunition is scarce in this game so conserve wisely).
ZombiU the Bad
The gameplay is slow. I know I said earlier that the slow gameplay was good but what I’m talking about here is the mechanics are slow. Your primary weapon in the game is a cricket bat. It is slow moving and a bit gory. When you have several of the “infected” roaming your way the bat just isn’t fast enough to take them all out and as stated before ammunition is scarce so you have to save it for the real emergencies. In a real life scenario I’m pretty confident that one could move much faster when swinging a bat.
The only other gripe I have (as far as gameplay goes) is that you can’t save your game any time you want. If you are out and about in London you have to backtrack all the way to your safe house to save. If there are zombies in the area around your safe house you get a message when trying to save that says “It is unsafe to sleep” (since your bed is the save location). Frequent moments like this require you to leave outside of your safe house, dispose of the undead, and go back to your safe house before you can save. This gets tedious at times, especially if you lose a survivor to defending your safe house and not on an actual mission.
There really isn’t much more negative qualities about the gameplay itself. It is overall a very fun and frightening experience. I can completely see George Romero sitting somewhere and playing this game (possibly even taking notes for his next zombie thriller).
ZombiU the Ugly
I’ve said that the gameplay was fun….now onto the content. This is where ZombiU bites the bullet in terms of moral content. Its received a rating of M 17+ from the ESRB for blood and gore, intense violence and strong language. ZombiU is extremely gory, let’s get that out of the way right now. Perhaps it is more gory than it should be. Games don’t need that kind of detail to be fun. A prime example of that is Halo. Its rated M but it doesn’t have all the gore that a lot of titles like Call of Duty and ZombiU have. Perhaps the reason Ubisoft thought to include this is that the horror genre has become definitively associated with gory visuals not just in the gaming world but in films as well (just look at the Saw series!). I can’t speak for you guys but I for one can be scared without being grossed out at the same time.
The language in the game isn’t as strong as the ESRB rating would suggest. You might hear a curse here and there but Ubisoft didn’t go crazy with it. Still, I know they are aiming for realism but seriously, its bad enough we hear it in our world, do we need to hear it in our games too? After all, it is a game and JUST a game.
A good solution to these problems would be for Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo (even Linux and Apple) to develop a firmware update that includes a content filter that would omit all the language and gore from certain titles so that they are more enjoyable to the gamers who don’t wish for that content in their games. Some games like Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 already have a filter on the game itself but more often it really doesn’t do much to take away from those negative elements. There are very few games circulating right now that can offer a great experience aimed for an older crowd that doesn’t have either sexuality, gore, or language in it. It is quite saddening.
ZombiU the Conclusion
Many people go into this game expecting something like Resident Evil or expecting a good first person shooter. These people are going to be highly disappointed. This game, really is in a genre all of its own. Most call this title a “first person survival horror”. The fact that people have a certain expectancy of first person games is really going to turn many away from ZombiU. My experience overall was a positive one and I found the title to be much more tame than most that are somewhat comparable. If you decide to pick up the title for your Wii U, I want to suggest that you do as I do. If you have kids, please, please, please only play M rated titles when they are away or asleep. I love family games but I enjoy playing a good title for my age group from time to time and I reserve those for later times when the eyes of the innocent aren’t present. Good parenting starts with what you make available to your children.
ZombiU is fun but based on content I can only give this title 3 stars. If there was a content filter established I would have no problem awarding 4 stars. This is something we really need to start hammering on the game studios about. I’m not asking to take it completely out of the game, just incorporate a really good filter. This should be an industry standard.