E3 2012: ZombiU single player hands-on
When E3 barely kicked off, Ubisoft provided gamers a quick glimpse at ZombiU, its upcoming first-person survival horror title. The game, which used to be Killer Freaks from Outer Space, has evolved into something new, and I had the opportunity to play it for myself. After spending a good chunk of time playing ZombiU, I have to say I was pretty impressed.
I started my demo session in a tutorial stage. There I was taught the ropes, and I was able to get accustomed to the Wii U Gamepad, which is really light and incredibly comfortable. Face and shoulder buttons were used for traditional shooter gameplay such as reloading, pushing enemies away, sprinting, and so on. But what really got my attention was how well the Gamepad's touchscreen was incorporated.
By holding up the Gamepad to the TV, I was able to scan objects, enemies, and the dead. One of the first things I scanned was a box filled with supplies. I went toward the box and opened it, and the Gamepad's touchscreen now showed my inventory and the contents of the box. Meanwhile on the TV the camera view switched, facing my character. This setup allowed me to see behind my character, because as I was told during my session, the game isn't paused during these moments — my character was still in danger of being attacked by zombies, so this camera angle gave me an over-the-shoulder view so that I could constantly watch my own back as I scavenged for supplies.
The actual mechanics of looting boxes and fallen enemies were simple and also relied on the touchscreen. I simply dragged and dropped what I needed using my index finger on the touchscreen. Input was super responsive, and I was surprised at the level of polish in the touchscreen features.
ZombiU utilizes the Gamepad's motion sensing tech, and I got to test that functionality out with a crossbow. By holding down the aim button and holding the Gamepad up to face the screen, I was able to aim while looking directly into the touchscreen. The motion control was responsive, and the sensitivity was spot on. Case in point: I suck at first-person games, yet I was still able to nail a few impressive headshots. Thank you very much.
I was wearing headphones during my time with ZombiU, and this allowed me to get a good listen at the game's incredible sound design. A beeping sound informed me of nearby enemies, and while this may not be a staple of first-person action games, it really added to the survival horror aspect of the game, because I knew an zombie was around, I just had no clue where. Suffice it to say, it added to the tension.
Adding even more tension were the actual zombie sounds. As I continued, I began hearing that familiar undead groan. In certain areas I heard multiple zombies, so I knew I was in for a fight. One truly memorable moment I had with the ZombiU demo was during a sequence where I was being pursued by a female zombie. She was one of the tougher enemies, but I eventually finished her off. Onscreen I was prompted to scan her lifeless remains. As I stared into the Gamepad's screen, she raised her head up one last time and delivered a shrill cry, effectively providing me with a jump scare and a truly pleasant "holy sh*t" moment.
I was eventually outnumbered and suffered my own demise at the hands of a pack of zombies. I was told that when your character dies, that's it for that person. Once that happens, you play as a new character and you continue where you left off. But that doesn't mean your old character and key items just vanish. No, you will encounter that character, who is now a zombie, where he or she died, and you can loot them for any keys and supplies that you may need to progress. After you kill them, of course. This certainly adds something new to the zombie genre, and it made me realize that everything I did with my previous character mattered, and that no one — not even a video game protagonist — is safe from the zombie apocalypse.
I think it goes without saying that I'm super excited to play the final version of ZombiU. Be sure to watch out for Ubisoft's take on the zombie apocalypse, which will launch on the Wii U.
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