E3 2012: ‘ZombiU’ Multiplayer Preview

Much of Nintendo’s energy at this year’s E3 so far has been showing off their ‘asymmetrical gameplay,’ by taking advantage of the WiiU’s gamepad.  This was a large element of ‘Nintendo Land,’ which features many 4-on-1 games that pit four players against another who is using the gamepad.  Nintendo has also been placing a heavy emphasis on ‘hardcore gaming,’ by announcing games like ‘Assassin’s Creed III’ and ‘Mass Effect III,’ games that have little reliance on the gimmicks of the WiiU gamepad.  

However, the multiplayer for ZombiU, which I got a chance to play around with today, seemed to be a perfect balancing of these two extremes.  The mode I got to play was ‘Capture the Flag,’ in which one player controls the Survivor, for whom the game is a fairly typical FPS experience, while their opponent controls the zombies on the gamepad, placing various types of undead enemies in their path, in an attempt to capture the flags while also overwhelming the survivor with a horde of undead.

Both sides were a lot of fun, and played totally differently.  As the survivor, the emphasis is on survival, and basic run-and-gun zombie gameplay.  The zombies explode wonderfully when you shoot them, (although I wish that the animations had been a little bit more varied.  Shooting a zombie in the head with a crossbow looks very similar to shooting one with a shotgun) and the strategies are nice and varied.  It’s a perfectly viable option to just take the zombies out at the legs, since it’s easier than getting headshots, and it doesn’t matter if they’re dead, just that they can’t get to the flags.  In fact, since the zombie player has a limited number of zombies he can deploy, it actually hinders him more than killing the zombies with a quick headshot.  The other great thing is that if you get bitten even one time, you die and have to respawn, which is honestly how it should be.

As the Zombie Lord (not what it’s officially called), you have four different types of zombies to choose from (at least in the demo).  There’s your capture zombie (who goes after the flags), your hunter (who goes after the survivor), your guard (who stays in one zone and attacks the survivor if they come close), and your sprinter (who, well, sprints).  As the zombie lord, it’s all about balance, and choosing how to delegate your army of the undead.  It’s important to be aggressive and go after the survivor in order to prevent him from capturing flags, but it’s also important to capture them yourself, and since you can only have ten zombies at once, placement is really important.  For instance, you can place a group of zombies between the survivor and an ammo stash, just so he has a harder time clearing a flag of your capture-zombies.

I’m gonna be honest, I had a blast with this mode, and it was just one on one.  I don’t what the final version will be like, but hopefully there will be a slew of modes, and an option for 3-8 player matches, because I loved how different the gameplay experience of the two teams was, and think there’s a whole lot more that can be done with it.

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Eric Zipper is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles. When he’s not making you laugh, playing video games, or watching movies, he’s probably sleeping. Follow him on Twitter @erzip