Zombi U: Can The Cult Classic Truly Be Reborn?
For all the stick the Nintendo Wii U has suffered, at least when it comes to a lack of adult games, Zombi U always remained a firm favourite. The misunderstood Ubisoft effort was a genuine step forward for survival horror. Touch screen gimmicks were transformed into viable gameplay elements that provided some truly intense moments. The slow and sluggish nature of the gameplay, the way in which a single zombie posed a genuine threat, Zombi U was fantastic.
Unfortunately, Zombi U was met with a number of struggles. The Wii U’s initial launch was a troubled on. Slow sales aside, the Wii U inherited the Wii’s image of being a ‘family console’, resulting in a number of people simply not caring about the console. Nintendo’s name choice, and the Wii’s legacy, meant Zombi U found itself in a awkward position. Unsurprisingly the game’s sales figures failed to meet expectations.
Zombi U was met with mixed critical reviews, but garnered a cult following. Genuine fans of survival horror, and not the modern ‘BOO, BANG BANG – repeat’ horror of modern games, appreciated Zombi U. Miiverse hosted a interactive player base, with players trading tips and secrets, resulting the game feeling more alive than ever. The way in which Zombi U works, most notably it’s rogue like elements, allowed for players to craft their own stories, their own experiences. Player X often had a much different experience than Player Y when they both respectfully entered the streets of London.
The social elements of Zombi U have remained one of it’s most underrated features. Finding notes left by other players, Demon/Dark Souls style, lent the game a sense of life. Uncovering a secret stash of goodies, thanks to a note, always presented a bizarre sense of satisfaction and gratitude. Zombi U utilized friend lists in glorious double edged manner. Finding a note left by your friend, informing you of a crossbow stored in the next room enforced the bonds between the two players. Creeping into said room, looking for said crossbow, took a whole new twist when presented with the Zombified remains of your former friend.
It’s a novel concept, but it enhanced the game tenfold. Following a paper trail of notes left by a friend, aiding you in your quest for survival, only to be met by their shambling corpse, it had impact. Ubisoft are many things, but in the case of Zombi U, they’re overlooked. With the news of Zombi U, now renamed Zombi (odd choice given the film franchise sharing the name), coming to PS4 and Xbox One, Ubisoft may get the credit they are owed. This jump from Wii U to Xbox One and PS4 does bring up a few worries however.
The most obvious worry is how the game will look. Zombi U was fantastic, but a looker it was not. Muddy visuals, some basic textures, repeating assets, it’s visuals were adequate at best. People expect their Xbox One & PS4 games to look top notch, something Zombi could struggle to achieve. The main worry with the transition is that the game’s character could be lost in the process. The Wii U pad enchained Zombi U greatly, a vital part of the experience. While the PS4 does offer a touch pad that could partly recreate some of Zombi U’s joy, the Xbox one has nothing. Kinect and tablets are the only methods the Xbox One has to offer, and neither of those feel all that appealing.
Zombi U is still, and always was, relevant purely down to it’s character and soul. It’s hard to shake off the concerns over it’s jump to the current generation. The cynical side suggests that Zombi will be a cheap cash in on a hot sub-genre in which anything with zombies turns a profit. It all remains to be seen, but at the end of the day, Zombi U will always be remembered as the game that deserved so much more.