Ubisoft’s undead nightmare will feel a little more lifeless on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
When it launched alongside the Wii U in November of 2012, Ubisoft’s vision of London set against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse was a unique and exciting example of just what Nintendo’s GamePad technology could bring to the table. Equal parts a boon to your survival as well as a hindrance, ZombiU’s second screen functionality used multiple tricks and gimmicks to immerse the player into the game’s dark and deadly world, where one glance away from the screen could spell a chewed out trachea at the fetid hands of a shambling undead beefeater.
Recently confirmed for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One under the new “Zombi” monicker, we can’t help but feel dropping the “U” from the equation will make for a decidedly less interesting experience than the original.
While the game had its share of mechanical issues, ZombiU did a fantastic job of keeping the player on edge with its clever use of the Wii U’s hardware. With your survivor’s inventory only available on gamepad, players had to take their eyes off of the screen to rummage through their virtual rucksack for weapons and supplies. However, with undead horrors lurking around every corner, this intentional dose of digital sensory deprivation often forced players to pay attention to their surroundings and scamper off into a safe corner to manage their inventory – a welcome dose of realism that added to the game’s London fog-thick tension.
Another way in which the GamePad added to ZombiU’s immersion was done through its scanning feature. Anyone who has played Tecmo’s Fatal Frame titles is likely well aware just how much peering through the game’s iconic Camera Obscura’s viewfinder created for tense moments as you lose sight off your immediate surroundings. ZombiU’s scanner worked in a similar way as you focus on scanning corpses and other objects in your environment for valuable supplies, keys and other hidden details in the environment, ever cautious to keep glancing behind you for that ghoul you just know is primed to sneak up and dig his teeth into your tender cerebellum.
This same sense of delicious anxiety is found when using the game’s radar function. Tapping the GamePad’s screen created a sonar ping which would detect nearby zombies, animals, etc. You could also see just how much noise you were making in relation to nearby zombies, allowing you to cleverly make use of sound to distract your rotting foes, or plan your movements accordingly to take the often (much wiser) stealth route. Of course, doing this also required you to take your attention off of the ghouls who could potentially be breathing down your neck at any given moment.
Suffice to say, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, while much more powerful systems than Nintendo’s Wii U, are ill-equipped to offer the same kinds of tense moments Ubisoft delivered on Nintendo’s platform a few years back. Though the added horsepower of Sony and Microsoft’s latest shiny black boxes could make for a decidedly more visually engrossing game, the GamePad’s mechanics were the rotting heart of ZombiU’s horror experience, and Ubisoft will have to get creative to make up for their absence in Zombi.
Sadly, without the GamePad functionality, ZombiU would have ultimately been a pretty mediocre experience. Those looking for another grueling challenge akin to roguelikes like The Binding of Isaac or From Software’s punishing Dark Souls titles and Bloodborne may embrace the game’s unforgiving challenge, which features permadeath, and the very real prospect of losing a massive cache of items if one survivor falls in the game’s dingy streets and blood-soaked cathedrals. However, we worry that may not be enough to make Ubisoft’s original vision stand out when it finally shambles onto PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
So, do you think Zombi has a shot of living up to the original game’s promise? We’d love to hear what you think, so sound off in the comments section below.