E3 2012 Hands-on Preview: ZombiU

Ubisoft was incredibly excited to show off ZombiU–their Wii U first-person shooter–at their press conference, so of course I’m going to give it a whirl and see how a FPS will work on the Wii U. The answer is, it’s not implemented well.

This is a typical launch product for something new and gimmicky, so it unfortunately feels like it has to show off the device’s capabilities instantly. It’s pretty blatant from the title, but I had some hopes that it wouldn’t be so inundated. Those were dashed to the ground.

Players use the GamePad for control. There are no options for using the Wii Remotes or the Wii U Pro controller, as the game greatly depends on the GamePad’s screen. You use the touchscreen to switch weapons, search through your backpackers, and for your enemy radar. One radar function allows you to search for hidden enemies and loot by physically moving the GamePad around you to get different views, like you would if you were physically turning your head to look around you. You also use the GamePad in this manner to aim sniping weapons like crossbows and sniper rifles. I can’t lie; using the GamePad like an iphone to aim weapons is awkward, cumbersome, and quite frankly, a pain. Forget accuracy.

Looking around, rifling through your backpack, and searching through boxes are all done in real time. There is no pausing ability, so you have to be on guard of zombies sneaking up on you. This is done to create and enhance the feeling of panic you would have if you were in the middle of a zombie attack. It’s done well on that end, but it doesn’t mean that it’s fun. Couple that with one bite and you’re dead, and you have a rather difficult zombie survival game. Survival enthusiasts may enjoy this gimmick, but I sure did not.

I applaud Ubisoft for trying to turn an extremely overdone genre into something unique, but it comes off as feeling as if it is trying way too hard to use all of the Wii U’s functions instead of creating a fun experience.

There is no official release date for ZombiU.