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ZombiU Anarchy in the U.K.

Submitted by on November 15, 2013 – 2:20 pmNo Comment

ZombiU Anarchy in the U.K. 3There’s no telling what kind of zombies are over there though. Run of the mill civilians? The Molotov would make quick work of them. But what if there are undead cops, decked out in bullet-proof, fire-resistant riot gear? I shuffle through my backpack, glancing away from the television and toward the Wii U’s gamepad in order to do so – they haven’t spotted me, so I feel relatively safe rooting through my supplies.

After some soul searching, I decide my aim – and certainly my nerves – just aren’t good enough. I’m betting on the Molotov. I take a deep breath, listening to it hiss through my teeth, and step through the door. This is moment to moment survival. This is ZombiU.

London has been overrun with the undead. Playing as a survivor, it’s your job to stock up on weapons and supplies and, eventually, to uncover the mystery surrounding the outbreak. ZombiU is unique in a number of ways, including its story, which mixes both the biblical and the historical. As ZombiU would have it, John Dee, 16th century alchemist and spy for Elizabeth I (who signed his letters to the Queen “007,” apparently), predicted that a “Blight” would strike London in the year 2012. As you may have guessed, he was right, and now our survivor will become key to solving Dee’s ancient quest for a cure. There are lots of letters and newspaper clippings to find within the game and, as Ubisoft’s own Assassin’s Creed has proven, injecting a little history into the framework of a game can be great fun.

The player’s survivor is guided by the disembodied voice of “the Prepper,” an ex-military man with eyes all over London and a handy safe house tucked away in one of the city’s tube stations. This acts as ZombiU’s central hub, and from here you will venture out into the city, scouring for equipment and clues to eradicating the Blight. The campaign will take your survivor to many places, ranging from simple suburbs to the Tower of London to Buckhingham Palace itself (the latter two complete with silly-hatted, zombified Beefeaters and Queen’s Guards).

What’s initially most striking about ZombiU is just how intimate its encounters are. With a few rare exceptions, you aren’t mowing down hordes of the infected. Instead, you’ll more often face one or two at a time and, believe me, that’s enough. With a very limited supply of ammunition, and only limited space in which to carry it, you’ll have to decide when and where it will be most useful. More often, I resorted to my trusty cricket bat.

Now, your survivor is just an everyday citizen. Your aim is poor, and taking out even a single zombie with the bat is an exhausting ordeal. It takes a moment to prepare and swing the bat, and missing your swing could mean a nasty scratch or even death if a zombie gets close enough. Guns offer more stopping power, but the undead move erratically, making those all important headshots difficult to land, even more so in the heat of the moment. You can always pump a body full of bullets – and you probably will at least once – but remember those bullets are hard to come by. Taken together, all of these elements conspire to remove almost any sense of empowerment, creating some of the most intimidating undead I’ve seen in quite a while. Even a pair of them is cause for concern, especially when the concussive, mind-rattling music kicks in. The atmosphere occasionally reminds me of Monolith’s often overlooked Condemned, which is definitely a good thing.

ZombiU is unforgiving, and it’s expected that you will die. You may have noticed that I haven’t given the player’s survivor a name, and there’s a reason for that. Should your survivor die, the player simply wakes up in the safe house as a new survivor, complete with their own name and ID. Naturally, since you’re now a completely different person, all the equipment you spent so much effort acquiring is gone. The twist, and it’s a good one, is that your full backpack is still out there – now it’s just attached to the undead back of your most recent survivor. If you want it back, you’ll have to return to where it was lost and, essentially, kill yourself. If you die without reacquiring your pack, that equipment is gone for good. That’s all assuming you’re playing on normal difficulty, of course. Play in “Survival” and you get one life. Period.

As much as ZombiU does with the Wii U GamePad, the best feature is easily the simplest. The GamePad acts as your map screen and a fabulously useful radar. Each radar wave will send back pings of anything in motion nearby. You can’t rely on it one hundred percent of the time though. For one, animals like crows or rats will send back pings. More than once I felt my heart pounding as I approached what I thought was a horde, only to wind up scaring off a murder of crows instead. Furthermore, motionless undead won’t set off the radar, so you can (and will) still be ambushed from time to time. You absolutely come to depend on your GamePad’s radar, and trust me when I say it enables some truly tense, unforgettable moments. They’re almost as tense as the moments when the game takes it away.

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