E3 2012: ZombiU hands-on preview, directing zombie hordes is a blast

To be honest with you, Ubisoft isn’t known for delivering quality products on Nintendo products at launch. Red Steel, perhaps because it didn’t have the help of the gyroscope, turned out some of the worst review scores of the Wii launch bunch. However, while I can’t comment on the final quality of ZombiU, after playing the multiplayer mode of it at E3, it ended up being one of the highlights for me.

I wasn’t able to play the first-person side of the multiplayer, but playing with the Wii U controller, I was prepared to direct my zombie horde to demolish my random E3 competitor in the “Survivors Vs Zombies” mode. The left stick on the Wii U controller moved around the map (on the Wii U screen), and placing zombies was as simple as tapping the type of zombie you wanted and then tapping where you would like them to appear in the world. There were four flags at a time (a total of 6 different possible flag points), and the objective was for the “survivor” and the zombie director to try to capture flags. The person playing in first person just had to stand near the flag and make sure there weren’t any zombies around, as any nearby would stop the flag’s capture bar from increasing. As for the zombie director, the objective was to spawn flag-capturing zombies, with the distraction and attack of the survivor being the best way to accomplish that.

Based on the E3 demo, there are four types of zombies that can be placed on the map to attack the survivor. Only a total of ten zombies can be spawned at one time, and each type of zombie has its own resource cost. Defender zombies cost 3 points, and while they’re fairly strong, they aren’t very mobile; they’re only effective if the survivor gets into a specific range. I used them at choke points. Regular zombies will walk across the map to attack the survivor, and they’re your go-to attack for surrounding or distracting. They cost four points. The fast zombies cost twelve points, and for good reason; they run very quickly, getting the survivors in a grab move and forcing them to use their limited melee attack. Lastly are the flag-capturing zombies. They’re essential because the only way you can win is to capture flags, and they won’t attack the survivor. They cost ten points.

I tried my best to use tactics against my competitor. While you can’t spawn zombies next to the survivor (that would be too cheap), you can spawn them nearby. You also have zombie resources (points) that slowly go up. I distracted the survivor, attacking him from the right first, then from the left, and when I felt he was busy enough, I spawned some flag-capturing zombies furthest away from him. At times when I saw him going towards a flag, I would place defender zombies at the choke points in front of him, then I would use regular zombies or fast zombies from behind. Playing as the zombie director is engaging, fast-paced, and a hell of a lot of fun. This style of gameplay lets you mess with the other player, and it’s okay, because that’s the whole point of it. Then after you’re done with that match, you can switch sides and find out who’s best.

ZombiU turned out to be the best asymmetric gameplay on offer for the Wii U at E3. Hopefully Ubisoft will put enough effort in to make sure that this product is great through and through. At the very least, it should end up as a great rental, if not one of the best launch titles to buy for your new Wii U.

Ryan Southard

Ryan Southard is a video game enthusiast, dissecting games down to their tiniest details. Whether it’s new or it’s old, as long as it’s awesome, he’ll play it. Follow him on Twitter at @Ryan_Southard

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