Given that ZombiU is arguably the best launch game for the Wii U I thought it deserved its own thread. I just started playing it myself last week and was wondering if any other AVSers were giving it a go (besides TroyHD, whose shambling corpse I've had to murder twice now!).
My relationship with the game is somewhat...complicated. I think the game is exciting, inventive, intense, and very well made, but on the other hand, I find myself not wanting to play it much. It's not really addicting in the way that many of the best games are. To be clear, this is not a knock, it's just a statement on the nature of the game. This isn't a game I want to kick back and relax with at the end of a long day like Mario, or something I want to aimlessly play for hours on end like Xenoblade. Due to the level of focus and intensity of the game, I actually find it somewhat exhausting to play for more than an hour or two at a time. I find myself desperately hoping for the next save point to be around the next corner just so I can have an excuse to put the game back down for the day. What I'm saying is -- and admittedly at least part of this is due to my being kind of a wiener -- this game is stressful.
ZombiU feels to me like it was made by some sort of "Zombie Pride" activist group that is sick of how their people have come to be portrayed in more traditional videogames. Zombies in this game, for once, are both scary and threatening. This isn't RE6, where a whole horde of zombies are just a minor annoyance, easily obliterated with your 17 guns and arsenal of bicycle kicks and hurricanranas. Here, even a single zombie is a threat that must be taken seriously; three or more zombies is practically guaranteed annihilation. You're not some musclebound, boulder-punching action hero, you're just a weak, scared, fragile human that is just a single bite away from death. This takes a lot of getting used to when you first start playing, because it feels disconcerting to be so vulnerable in the face of an enemy that's become piddling cannon fodder over the years. It's like firing up a new Mario game and having the first Goomba ****ing murder you because suddenly they take a half-dozen well-timed hits to kill. It's frustrating at first, but forces you to approach the game in a whole different way. And from there, almost before you realize it, the gameplay transforms from frustrating to rewarding.
ZombiU requires that you play it smart. That you play it realistically. It forces you to really think in a way I haven't really experienced in games. When you enter unfamiliar territory -- or even familiar territory, because you never know -- you should almost have a mental checklist: You check your flashlight battery levels. You make sure your weapons are prepared. You ping your radar. You scan the area for enemies or items to loot, new entrances/exits to open, and corpses that might not be just corpses. And most importantly, you always have an exit route in mind in case things go south. (My first few encounters in the game are almost hilarious to me now, with my survivors' short lives inevitably ending in their running panicked and blind into a dark corner, fumbling for the door before turning and futilely trying to take out the horde with just a cricket bat.) A seemingly simple decision like unbarring a door takes on real weight: Am I opening up an avenue of escape for myself if I do this? Or am I just leaving myself open to another route of attack?
The one-bite, one-death mechanic really adds to this. In my first couple hours, I lost five survivors in quick succession, three of them within ten minutes. I grew extremely frustrated, and almost quit. But eventually, something clicked, and I realized I was playing the wrong way. My sixth survivor, Owen Hussain, a dumpy, middle-aged army deserter, has now been with me for 70% of my playtime, due to playing smart, and playing cautiously. I feel weirdly proud of him. But I also find myself equally weirdly concerned for him, knowing that no matter how smartly I play, easy death waits around potentially every corner.
There was one time when I really thought he was done for: Trying to open a hidden room, I accidentally set an alarm off, calling almost a half-dozen zombies to my area. I threw a flare to distract them, followed by a precious molotov. But half of them kept coming. I decided to run, to try to climb a ladder I spotted leading up to a high scaffolding where they'd have a tough time reaching me. Unfortunately one of them grabbed hold of me mid-climb, pulled me off the ladder, and went in for the fatal bite. Usually, this is certain death, but something surprising happened: The zombie couldn't bite me, because it was wearing a riot helmet and thus constraining its own teeth. After some struggle, I pushed him off and sprinted away, luring zombies to an area where they'd have to crawl single-file over a barricade, where I was able to methodically bash their heads in one by one. So that was it: Owen managed to survive a little bit more. I made my way back to the secret room, successfully opened it, only to find...nothing. Just a small, empty room. After all that, after a nearly 20-minute fight for survival, there was nothing to show for it but reduced supplies and health. At this point, I want to stop, to just power the game off and never play it again, knowing that every time I start up the game, Owen will likely die. But it can't ALL be for nothing. So oh well. It's on to the next room.
So that's the blessing and curse of ZombiU. I fully believe the developers succeeded in creating the game they wanted to create, and that is a game I in a way find myself wanting to play LESS than the practically objectively abysmal RE6. But it's the fact that I DON'T want to play it (but keep doing so regardless) that speaks to its true quality.