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ZombiU hands-on: the Dark Souls of zombie games

Tuesday, 18 September 2012 16:37 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Wii U was always going to get unwarranted flack among gamers for being a casual console. VG247′s Dave Cook plays the punishing ZombiU to find out why they’re dead wrong.

If you’re still not convinced that ZombiU is a ‘hardcore’ game for ‘hardcore’ people, then you should at least check the game out through a friend’s purchase. To all Dark Souls fans, you absolutely need to play this game. It’s that simple.

‘ZombiU is the Dark Souls of zombie games’. You’re going to hear a lot of people say that after the Wii U launches in November. It’s absolutely true, as the game is brutally difficult, and makes no attempt to coddle players as they wade miserably through post apocalyptic London.

One of the magic ingredients that makes a good survival horror game even better is making the player feel dangerously under-resourced, pathetically weak, and continually on the backfoot at all times. If this stresses you out, then ZombiU is not the game for you.

It has been absolutely engineered with hardcore gamers in mind, mixing the continuous dread of games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent with unforgiving trial and error format of Dark Souls. You will die a lot, but with each death you will learn what not to do next time.

Best of all, when you die, it’s entirely your fault and – sorry to put this bluntly readers – down to your own foolish haste and stupidity. It’s not that you’ aren’t smart enough to overcome Ubisoft Montpellier’s sadistic challenge, it just takes a lot of practice.

That’s part of the problem. Wii U does have casual players who may take a punt on ZombiU – because, zombies – and that could lead to a lot of copies being traded in shortly after launch.

Our hands-on session starts with a dreary slog through London’s sewer network, and up into the Tower of London’s hidden catacombs. We’ve got a cricket bat – the game’s default, unbreakable melee weapon – and a shotgun with only 30 bullets.

There’s also a flashlight that runs down mercilessly fast, and it takes ages to recharge. Once it’s off, the sewers are seriously pitch black, which is why the Wii U GamePad’s radar screen is helpful for spotting movement in the dark.

Slow movement is the key, as your cricket bat will only down a zombie in about six heavy hits. That’s a lot of attacking needed for just one enemy, so you have to avoid confronting packs of the buggers if you hope to survive long.

You could of course hit them with your firearms – but wouldn’t you know it – gunfire attracts the horde to your location with every single shot, so that’s not a dependable tactic either.

Drawing out zombies one by one using flares does help thin out groups if you have to kill a few of them, or you could lay mines in a tight bottleneck, fire a few shots, and stand back as they rush towards the sound and blow up in meaty, bloody chunks.

There are many ways to play ZombiU, but several truths remain throughout: never ignore your radar and make sure you’re alone before using your inventory. Opening your backpack is activated by simply swiping down on the touch screen, but it renders you immobilised.

You can then drag your favourite items to the hot bar and organise loot gathered from corpses. You only have so many slots, so resource management is yet another problem facing your survivor.

This is where both the respawn and safehouse mechanics come into play. Safehouses do exactly what they suggest – they are respawn zones that play home to crafting benches and lockers that can be used to stash precious loot.

Lockers are crucial, because when you die and respawn as a different survivor, you lose everything – save for your cricket bat, flashlight and a pistol with just six rounds. Back at your point of death, your previous survivor reanimates as a zombie carrying all of your gear.

ZombiU’s gamescom trailer.

They aren’t painted on the map either, so say they’re holding that super-upgraded firearm that you spent ages crafting, chances are you will never find them again and the weapon is lost.

This poses a tough choice when faced with an area swarming with the undead. Do you avoid potentially dying and losing your favourite gun – by trudging all the way back to your last safehouse in order to stash it away – or do you rush in hoping that you’ll make it through alive?

You have to constantly make these difficult decisions every step of the way. You’ll ask yourself, ‘Do I walk blindly through the dark undetected, or use my flashlight to see threats even if it leaves me exposed?’

There are times when you may even think, ‘Do I take the long, dangerous, but silent melee route, or do I risk detection by shooting those zombies to create an easy path?’ Everything must be considered. Even travelling through water is a risk.

When wading through water, your survivor lifts their backpack overhead to keep it dry, leaving you utterly defenceless and unable to attack. Rushing through the ravaged streets of London is a recipe for disaster and should be avoided at all cost.

Every inch of the game smacks of Dark Souls, and this comparison is highlighted further by ZombiU’s messaging system, which lets you walk up to walls and leave graffiti tag messages for other players online.

These aren’t actual words, but symbols. So you could select the ‘stairs’ icon and a ‘thumbs down’ – to basically say ‘don’t go downstairs’. There are many symbol combinations geared towards highlighting hazards or killer loot, so it will be interesting to see how these are used – or abused – once servers go live.

Finally – and this is a stroke of genius on Ubisoft Montpellier’s part – once one of your survivors dies and then reanimates as a zombie, there’s a chance they will also spawn into your friends’ game too.

So you can hop on Miiverse and say, ‘hey I died at this location holding a brilliant weapon. Go find me to claim it’, and vice-versa. It’s a neat way of sharing weapons and collaborating with other players to beat the game.

It’s hard to step back from comparing ZombiU to Dark Souls, but the parallels are blatant. This isn’t a bad thing however, because survival horror games are supposed to make surviving a struggle, and this is one of those rare games that actually delivers that feeling.

If you’re still not convinced that ZombiU is a ‘hardcore’ game for ‘hardcore’ people, then you should at least check the game out through a friend’s purchase. To all Dark Souls fans, you absolutely need to play this game. It’s that simple.

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19 Comments

  1. ManuOtaku

    To tell you the truth i wasnt sold on this game, but reading this will force me to increase the already long wiiU list of games to get at launch, although i wasnt good with dark souls or demons souls, i do love good zombie games with this description, i hope i can handle this game, better than i did with dark and demon souls.

    And i like the Miiverse interaction too, thanks for the hands on guys, keep the good work, while having fun of course.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Deacon

    I’ve read nothing about the overall aim of the game. Not sure if I’ve missed this somewhere. Wandering around trying to survive is cool and all, but there must be an overarching purpose to all this?

    It sounds fun, sure. But I take the Dark Souls stuff with a pinch of salt.

    And I wish they’d change the damn name.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. OlderGamer

    That sounds fantastic. Just wondering if I still have the gamer skills to get thru it. Guess I will find out.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. DrDamn

    I wasn’t particularly interested in this at first. I’m a bit Zombied out. Kept catching snippets of info which intrigued me though. Now I’m near sold on the idea and it’s included in one of my pre-orders. Roll on November!

    #4 3 years ago
  5. OlderGamer

    One of your preorders? Doc, you buying more then one?

    #5 3 years ago
  6. DrDamn

    @5
    Nah not exactly. I’ve got one banker early on with ShopTo – Premium with ZombiU for ~£320 once reward credit is taken into account. Then Expansys had the Premium by itself for £260 so I pre-ordered there too. I fully expect the Expansys one to be re-priced or cancelled. They stopped taking pre-orders pretty soon after I placed mine. Will only go through with one purchase – and Expansys will re-confirm once they have stock, so I can cancel or go with that closer to the date.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. quadfather

    After sinking tons of hours into Demon and Dark souls and generally love survival horror and zombies to death, I think I may like this a tad :-)

    #7 3 years ago
  8. YoungZer0

    Hm, i’ll wait until it hits the PS4/X720.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. kevinw729

    Sounds interesting.

    For me however, this could be the make-of-break game for the game media – if this title fails to deliver, and the underground rumors of serious hardware slowdown when testing the game are true, then the medias inability to report these issues could alienate a swath of the game community that will add a extra nail into the games media coffin.

    All that said, I wish the developers well with the game as on paper it sounds like it is the best example of the ethos of the Wii-U development environment.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. OlderGamer

    Was there any slow down when playing it Dave?

    #10 3 years ago
  11. manamana

    Sounds like a “real” survival game. Thank’s to Ubisoft they aren’t extinct. I look at you, RE6!

    #11 3 years ago
  12. monkeygourmet

    Sounds absolutely great!

    Def a launch title for me. I love Dark Souls and Zombie style games, so this sounds like a match made in hell! ;)

    #12 3 years ago
  13. Dave Cook

    @10 nope, none at all :)

    #13 3 years ago
  14. Dave Cook

    And yeah guys it really is brilliant. Really captures the essence of survival horror :D day one for me.

    Thanks for the kind words too. Been a long day, but thoroughly rewarding.

    #14 3 years ago
  15. MontpelGame

    #15 3 years ago
  16. Zao

    NOT Ubisoft Montreal,
    => Production from Ubisoft Montpellier/Bucarest

    #16 3 years ago
  17. Telepathic.Geometry

    Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiit! It’s looking more and more lke I have to get a Wii U. :/ Fuck it, my bank balance and my stubborn pride won’t be happy about this… Girlfriend may raise an eyebrow too.

    #17 3 years ago
  18. Hamster34

    http://uk.ign.com/articles/2012/11/18/zombiu-review

    Not everybody thinks it’s great… IGN are just one of a few I’ve read

    #18 2 years ago
  19. robertweise

    This game looks very intense, and I admit this is cool but not good for kids, that is why I only refer to http://www.izombiegames.com/zombie for my kids to play.

    #19 2 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    Steven Spielberg will direct the film adaption of the sci-fi, virtual world, video game themed novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Warner Bros. bought the rights to the film in June 2010 and hired screenwriter Zak Penn to rewrite the previous draft written by Eric Eason, according to Deadline. The book takes place in […]

  • Bloodborne players with PS4 headsets shouldn’t forget about the custom audio

    Here’s a friendly reminder for Bloodborne players with PS4 headsets: be sure to download the Headset Companion App from the PlayStation store if you haven’t already. As previously reported, the game supports a custom Bloodborne audio mode which can be uploaded. It contains custom audio created by developers specifically tuned to enhance the audio. This […]

  • EA explains why FIFA Ultimate Team transfer prices are now platform specific

    EA has posted a blog entry explaining its FIFA Ultimate Team transfer market price ranges which now include platform-specific pricing in order to best the coin sellers. EA said it has implemented the changes to FUT over the last several weeks because it should be “fair and fun for every player,” ultimately coming to the […]

  • Game of Thrones: Episode 3 – The Sword in the Darkness now available

    In case you forgot, Game of Thrones: Episode 3 – The Sword in the Darkness was released today. It is available on Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. The third episode releases on iOS devices and Android tomorrow, March 26. The Sword in the Darkness finds Asher Forrester heading to Mereen […]

  • Bloodborne players are already documenting their crazy antics

    Bloodborne has been available for almost two days now in North America, and already players are posting interesting clips and character customization choices for the game. Below are interesting takes on creating a character and videos of a frustrating death and another full of blood coming from a very painful place – monster or not. […]

  • FIFA Ultimate Team celebrates sixth year in existence with giveaways

    FIFA Ultimate Team is celebrating its sixth year in existence with special events running from today until March 29. According to EA, every FUT fan will be handed one free pack every day, and those who play at least one match in the FUT Birthday Cup will have a chance to win rare “tradable In-Forms” […]

  • Halo Online is a F2P PC game in development exclusively for Russia – video

    Halo Online is a free-to-play game which will launch this spring in Russia, and is in development with Saber Interactive. According the reveal event attended by IGN Russia, the game was designed to run well on lower-end PCs and runs on a modified Halo 3 engine. The game is set on a secret UNSC space […]

  • SteamWorld Dig Xbox One release expected in late May

    SteamWorld Dig is coming to Xbox One, developer Image & Form has announced. A firm release date hasn’t been announced, but the studio expects the title to arrive on the system in late May. “We’re preparing quite an elaborate Easter egg for the Xbox One version – a gaming thing that we really wanted to […]

  • SMITE celebrating first anniversary with a sale on skins, Ultimate God Pack

    Hi-Rez Studios is celebrating the first anniversary of SMITE with a sale. From today through Friday, March 27, the Ultimate God Pack, which includes all current and future Gods, will run you $19.99. Alll individual pre-launch skins are 50% off, and all Gem Packs will award bonus gems. In addition, from March 27-29, all SMITE […]

  • Borderlands 2 has sold around 12 million copies, says Gearbox

    Speaking with Microsoft’s Major Nelson in his podcast, Gearbox Software boss Randy Pitchford stated Borderlands 2 has sold somewhere around the 12 million mark. As of August 2014, it was announced by Take-Two in its financial report the 2012 game had sold-in 10 million units. Pitchford noted in the podcast he learned of the figures […]

  • Broken Age releasing on PS4 and Vita same day as Act 2 on PC

    Double Fine Productions has announced it will release Broken Age on the PlayStation Store next month. Act 2 will also be released on PC. The full Broken Age adventure will release on PlayStation 4 and Vita on April 28 in North America and April 29 in Europe. It features cross-buy and cross-save. Broken Age Act […]

  • Star Citizen earned another $1 million within two weeks – total hits $76 million

    Star Citizen continues its funding streak with backers pumping another $1 million into the game’s development in the last two weeks. The total earned for the space sim has now reached $76 million ($76,015,532 to be exact) with 851,395 backers contributing to the staggering figure. Star Citizen’s latest update was version 1.1 which included two […]

  • Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, Resident Evil Revelations 2 and Battlefield: Hardline top Media Create charts

    Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, Resident Evil Revelations 2 and Battlefield: Hardline were the big ticket debuts during the March 16-2 period in Japan, with each game claiming the top three slots on the Media Create charts, respectively. Final Fantasy Type-0 HD moved 92,094 on PlayStation 4, while Resident Evil Revelations 2 moved 73,373 units on […]

  • You can now learn English or Spanish on Xbox One with the Rosetta App

    Want to learn English or Spanish? Rosetta Stone has an App for that on Xbox One. According to the language teaching firm, Rosetta Stone’s Discover Languages, the new application teaches English and Spanish by way of immersive simulation. Users will virtually travel to learn vocabulary and grammar “necessary for real-world interactions.” Here’s how it works: […]

  • PayDay 2 and PayDay: The Heist have sold over 9 million units combined

    The PayDay franchise is a lucrative IP for Starbreeze and Overkill, as both games combined have sold over 9 million copies as of November 2014. The company has also sold over 8 million paid DLC packages since PayDay 2 was released in 2013 (via NeoGAF). In its Q2 half year report issued in February, net […]

  • Nintendo wants to “surprise” customers with NX, not expand upon existing hardware

    Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has firm wants to “surprise” players with its new NX system. Speaking in an interview with Nikkei, translated by Kotaku, Iwata wouldn’t go into details on the new system, but stated expanding on a current gaming system would be “dull.” “In the past few years, the idea of what [encompasses] a […]

  • Kojima Station show suspended

    In another episode in the the ongoing kerfuffle between Hideo Kojima and Konami, the publisher has suspended the Kojima Station web show. Recent tweets from the newly created Japanese Metal Gear Solid account confirm that Kojima Station will not be broadcast tomorrow, but would not provide a date for the next episode. The Tweets were […]

  • Watch Battle Royale for free this weekend on Xbox Live

    Square Enix is celebrating the launch of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD by offering Xbox Live members in the UK a free rental of Battle Royale. Starting Saturday, March 28 and through Sunday, March 29, Xbox Live members in the UK will be able to rent Battle Royale through the Xbox Video Store, for free. The […]

  • Bloodborne journal, part 1: managing anxiety on the path to the Cleric Beast

    Bloodborne is both like and unlike the Souls games. Brenna descends into Yharnam with reluctance and trepidation. Need help succeeding in Bloodborne? You need our Bloodborne walkthrough and boss guide. Bloodborne isn’t Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls. Let’s get that out of the way right off. I enjoyed both Dark Souls games, but it was […]

  • PS Store Easter sale discounts MGS: Ground Zeroes, Far Cry 4, more

    The Easter Sale is live on the EU PS Store, with Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes for less than £10, FIFA 15 Deluxe Edition for £30 and other savings. Some of the PlayStation 3, PS4 and Vita discounts are valid through April 8, other through April 15. PlayStation Plus members can also take an […]

  • Bloodborne video: how to unlock the first shortcut in Old Yharnam

    Here’s a video for Bloodborne players showing a quick way to unlock the first shortcut in Old Yharnam. It also provides a look at things you may have missed in Central Yharnam and The Sewers, courtesy of VaatiVidya. Don’t forget, we have guides posted for the game with more updates coming soon. Bloodborne released in […]

  • Bloodborne issue prevents summons at Vicar Amelia fight

    A Bloodborne bug has prevented players calling on help to take on one of the nasty early bosses. Bloodborne bosses are significantly easier to take down in co-op. Unfortunately, at least one of them is proving difficult to find help for – and not just because not many players have obtained the Small Resonant Bell […]

  • Mass Effect 3 on sale on EU PSN, but not free

    Mass Effect 3 is discounted on the European PSN, but it’s not free. Update 2: The option to add to cart now lets you choose between the free trial or full version. The full version is on sale for £6.49 or £5.84 for PlayStation Plus members. The free trial is of course is still available, […]

  • Elite: Dangerous Race to Elite winners announced, one player makes £10,000

    The winners of Elite: Dangerous’ Race To Elite competition have been announced, with one player receiving the grand prize of £10,000. Back when Elite: Dangerous launched, developer Frontier announced a competition that would award players to first reach Elite rank in trading, exploration, or combat, a prize of £1,000 each. The grand prize – £10,000 […]

  • GTA 5 Online Heists guide: How to make the most money with Special Bonuses and Elite Challenges

    You’re not hitting heists for the good of your health. Here’s how to max cash rewards. Money. GTA Online players love it. Greenbacks are the core of the entire experience, allowing you to buy the best weapons, vehicles and stupid haircuts. Heists, as promised, gives more opportunities than ever to earn serious cash, but once […]

  • PlayStation 4 firmware update 2.50 coming tomorrow

    PlayStation 4 firmware 2.50, codenamed Yukimura, is due for release tomorrow, March 26. Firmware update 2.50 for PlayStation 4 will be launching tomorrow, March 26, Sony has announced. Codenamed Yukimura, the system update is promised to bring suspend/resume feature, trophy sync improvements, accessibility options, and much more. 2.50 has been in beta testing a while […]

  • GTA 5 Online Heists guide: adversary modes, daily objectives, free roam challenges and more

    Heists aren’t the only addition in GTA Online’s latest DLC – there’s a lot of content that can earn you big RP and cash payouts. GTA 5 Online Heists guide: adversary modes, daily objectives, free roam challenges While heists are the talking point and big payoff after more than a year of waiting, there’s a […]

  • Battlefield Hardline: what’s the best Police sniper rifle?

    What’s the best bolt-action, Police sniper rifle for the Professional class in Battlefield Hardline? Let us help you answer that question. As you’re probably aware, Battlefield Hardline weapons are class specific and faction specific. This makes deciding on a good weapon and loadout much harder than it was in Battlefield 4. Which is where Westie […]

  • Evolve 1.3 patch nerfs Wraith, adjusts Kraken

    Evolve is receiving a new patch that aims to put an end to the Wraith’s dominance. Evolve developer Turtle Rock outlined a few of the changes coming in patch 1.3. The patch brings balance changes to the monsters – mainly the Wraith – as well as other various changes to Hunters’ tools based on player […]

  • Bloodborne: watch the opening 40 minutes

    The opening minutes of Bloodborne really do set the stage for what’s to come. They’ll also help you decide if this game is for you. Arekkz Gaming has captured the first 40 minutes of Bloodborne. Complete with the opening cutscene, and the first few obstacles you’ll face. The video is commentary free, so wear headphones […]

  • YouTube will relaunch livestreaming service with focus on eSports and gaming – report

    According to industry sources, Google is preparing to relaunch YouTube’s livestreaming service with a focus on eSports and gaming. According to anonymous sources speaking to TheDailyDot, Google is planning to bring back YouTube’s livestreaming service. The company is said to have started recruiting around 50 engineers with experience in the field, “a pretty big statement […]

  • I think I’m too old for Final Fantasy 15

    Final Fantasy 15 was nine years in the making – and counting. Are we the same people we were in 2006? Final Fantasy 15: Episode Duscae A demo available for PS4 and Xbox One. Offers a couple of hours of gameplay. More if you jump over the borders. Bundled with Final Fantasy 15 Type-0 and […]

  • New multiplayer mode for Splatoon announced

    Nintendo has sent over three screenshots for Splatoon along with information on the Wii U another of the title’s multiplayer modes. Called Ranked Battle, it keeps track of each player’s online ranking. Splat Zones is one of the additional ways to play online in this mode. It differs from Turf War, which is the main […]

  • 2015 WoW Arena World Championship has a $250,000 prize pool

    Blizzard has announced the WoW Arena World Championship will culminate at BlizzCon 2015. World of Warcraft 3v3 Arena teams from around the globe will compete for spot at the 2015 WoW Arena World Championship and for a share in the $250,000 prize pool. Online qualifiers will be held for North America, Southeast Asia, Australia, New […]