Previews

ZombiU preview: Is this going to be Wii U's best launch game?

We take a brutal last ride before release...

Maya didn't ask for this. Deep underneath the Tower of London, shadows dance across the wall at the end of a long, dark brickwork corridor. Our survivor stops, mid-stride, to assess her next move as shuffling steps indicate her would-be flesh diners number two or more.

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As yet they are unaware of Maya's presence. After some deliberation, she realises that the two bullets she's got left aren't worth considering. She lobs a flare to lure them out properly into her line of sight. Tossing a Molotov cocktail in, she preemptively smiles in the perceived knowledge of a job well done. That's three of ZombiU's unpredictably dangerous cadavers dealt with, we smirk, from behind the Wii U GamePad. We're proud of Maya.

The zombies in the game are a different beast from the shopping mall fare

But then two of the still-burning buggers start stumbling our way. We take one of them out with a double tap to the face, only for our next preciously-aimed shot to give out a blood-draining 'chink'. An undead Beefeater, still aflame, is in our face, spittle flying, but we shove him off, back pedalling.

Switching to our not-so-trusty but effectively brutal cricket slab, we deal out some crushing blows as Maya's chunderful breathing, permeated with screams, grows increasingly frantic. After about six weighty thwacks to the cranium, our attacker is finally put down. Maya survived her ordeal with those three zombies under the Tower of London. Sadly, she got her face chewed off in the very next room.

The zombies in Ubisoft's ambitious Wii U launch title are a different beast from the shopping mall fare we were getting bored of in horror games. Sure they can be scary and they look as gruesome as needs must. What really makes them stand out from the oncoming horde is the sheer danger they bring to the table.

Melee weapons are only really effective against one at a time, given their realistic lack of killing power. Pistol shots are pointless unless they hit the head, no easy task when Mister Dead is zippier than your average flesh-muncher. Like Velociraptors in a shiny metal kitchen, they can open doors. They can climb ladders and swim, constantly forcing you to question your perception of safety. Oh, and they're occasionally loaded with explosives rigged to go off should you misfire.

DANGEROUS WII-AISONS

It's not only the zombies that make this a brilliantly punishing ride. Your delectably shoddy torch runs out of battery juice fairly quickly, requiring precious seconds to recharge. Ammo is so scarce it should be featured on a David Attenborough documentary. You will die. Often. And you'll love it.

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In many ways ZombiU shares some similarities with From Software's infamously tough RPG Dark Souls. Not only does it boast a similar message-sharing mechanic between players online, but it measures player death with the same brutal yet rewarding yardstick.

Each death, however unfair it initially feels, teaches you a valuable lesson and will give you the vital knowledge to push a little further next time. It's fair to say we expect ZombiU to inject a hefty dose of hardcore viricide into the Wii U's fluffy launch line-up.

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