Ubisoft are cashing in on the zombie craze with ZombiU, a frantic, and often frustrating, first-person shooter for the Wii U. It is important to note that the game is rated MA 15+ and not suitable for young children. A horror game, full of disturbing screams and bloodied corpses, on a Nintendo console seems a little out of place and begs the question: is this the right platform for this kind of title?
Single player puts you in the shoes of an English survivalist who must venture out of the subway and topside to the streets and beyond in search of better weaponry and answers to the infection conspiracy. Instead of having lives or a save file to reload from, when you bite the dust your former character joins the infected and you literally wake up in the subway and start a new life.
Fortunately, in the event of a premature death, the game continues. If you were in the middle of an objective you will not have to start from the beginning. The only drag is the walking corpse that used to be you probably has all of your sweet loot. Sometimes it is necessary to confront the poor deadite and take it all back with a baseball bat.
The GamePad is one of the selling points of the Wii U and has some interesting uses in ZombiU. Your handheld controller has a display which shows the items in your character's backpack. Whenever you need to swap items or change weapons you need to look down at the GamePad. The game does not pause while you do this so you are vulnerable. Another clever trick is an interactive feature where you may be required to look through the GamePad, holding it upright as though you are about to take a photo, and scan doors, pick locks or hack electronic equipment. After a while the novelty wears off and these GamePad features become mundane.
Things get a lot more interesting when you play multiplayer with a friend. There is a game mode where a player (human) uses a Wiimote and a nunchuk to capture flagged checkpoints while the undead horde are given orders by the other player (zombie boss) via the GamePad's bird's eye view of the map. The human player can choose from a range of weapon loadouts, like an assault rifle or a crossbow.
At first the Wiimote and nunchuk combination is ridiculous. There is nothing more frustrating than stumbling into a pack of brain-hungry fools and waving your shotgun harmlessly from one corner of the screen to the other before being mauled. These controls are very difficult to master but after a few humiliating rounds you will begin to get the hang of it. The zombie boss has the advantage as all they do is coordinate the mayhem by tapping the gamePad's touch screen.
Ultimately an Xbox 360 controller is better suited for a zombie frag-a-thon, which is why ZombiU is gamble that loses out to games like Black Ops 2 and Left 4 Dead.