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'ZombiU' is proof Wii U's controls can be more than a gimmick

'ZombiU' is proof Wii U's controls can be more than a gimmick


ZombiU makes good use of Nintendo Wii U's novel control.

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ZombiU is the exclusive zombie-killing simulator for Wii U shown briefly at the Ubisoft and Nintendo press conferences. It is also one of the show's best surprises and one of the most promising games announced for the upcoming console.

Polygon had a chance to go hands-on with the first-person shooter at the Nintendo booth, and found it took full advantage of the Wii U GamePad without falling into the trap of novel, but cumbersome controls.

The GamePad is represented in-game by a tablet your character uses to scan the world, a dilapidated London. Scan bodies to see if they're infected or carrying loot, scan objects to see if they're ammo or health supplies. What the scanner is seeing is visualized on the GamePad's screen, so using it takes your focus off the television, leaving you prone to a zombie attack. It also acts like a cell phone, sending messages from human support over its tiny and tinny speakers. Your character has limited supplies and needs to snag any ammo when possible. Scanning is vital.

One bite from a zombie is fatal, so you will always need something — a pistol, a cricket bat, anything — to keep the brain-munchers at bay. When you die, your character is gone for good. The player inhabits a new character and has the option to loot their old body for its supplies, though the body maybe zombified by the time you reach it. The game is graphic: rooms are streaked with blood, heads collapse when struck by a close-range bullet. There's cursing and other trappings of an M-rated title.

The mission had us making our way through a nursery to find antibiotics. In a playroom, we found a child's voice recorder toy with a message recorded by a babysitter. Frightened and confused, she'd taken the children downstairs for safety.

The corridors were tight, littered with crayon drawings and dusty toys. The cricket bat became our go-to weapon. We'd enter a room, swing violently, and knock down zombies before they had a chance to grab on and gobble our brains. One brutish zombie caught us by surprise when our scanner and flashlight went dark. We pulled out a syringe and injected him with an anti-virus. These are limited saves in the ZombiU universe.

We made our way to a lower room, and used the GamePad to swap items from a first aid closet to our backpack.

After finding the antibiotics, we bolted for the exit and promptly fell through the floor into a basement filled with viscera. An enraged zombified woman, possibly the babysitter, cornered us into a room, pacing back and forth between a hole in the wall and the only door out.

We emptied a cartridge, burying a few bullets into her clavicle, neck and chest. They briefly knocked her back, but with a lunge she got her arms around us and bit into our neck.

10:04 seconds. That's how long we lasted. We only finished off four zombies.

This is typical, we were told. This game is closer to a real zombie apocalypse simulation. People die. Constantly.

After the demo, the Nintendo rep mentioned that multiplayer would feature human versus zombies scrimmages. Those were the only details he could share.

ZombiU's release date is unannounced.