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ZombiU: A survival horror epic in the making?

Death isn't necessarily the end in Ubisoft's Wii U exclusive shooter...

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Once you've located a weapon, you're presented with another quite unique dilemma to ponder: do you actually take it with you, or not? It takes conkers of steel to turn your nose up at a brand spanking new shotgun, particularly if you're about to venture into a zombie lair for the first time ever, but due to the unusual way ZombiU 'does' death, it may actually turn out to be the wisest move you can make.

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That's because when your character croaks it, he's gone forever, along with all the items he once possessed. Actually not quite forever - there's time for an encore - but alas, only as a zombie. As the next survivor in line, you've got the option of hunting down your undead former self and re-killing him to recapture your gear. At the same time though, Wii U's social media functions will alert your friends to your death, and invite them into your world to beat you to the punch and loot your swag. And that's why, sometimes, it's best to leave that shotgun where you found it.

DECLINES OF SYMMETRY

The dual-screen dynamic is so essential to the experience that the single-player campaign can only be played with the GamePad, but Pro Controller junkies can get their ZombiU fill with the (yes!) asymmetrical multiplayer, which sees two players wrestle for control of three points on a map. It's a lop-sided twist on the age-old Domination format, if you will. While the player with the Pro Controller battles on the ground in traditional FPS fashion, the GamePad-wielder wages war from above in what for them becomes something akin to a real-time strategy game.

The Zombi Master (for that is the GamePad-holder's job title) can magic into existence up to ten zombies at a time. There are several different 'flavours' to choose from - some are aggressive types that are best deployed to inconvenience the player on the ground, while others offer little resistance but are capable of taking the control point at a much faster rate - consider the scout class in Team Fortress 2.

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While it's great fun to be the Zombi Master (we've even had our business cards reprinted to show our new title) we're concerned that as things stand, it's a tad unbalanced - the Zombi Master won almost every round we played. Mind you, we were playing with our aforementioned aureate friend from Edge, so maybe he was distracted by a booth babe dressed as a thesaurus, or something.

While ZombiU isn't destined to disappoint like Red Steel ultimately did, we can't shake the feeling that ZombiU is unlikely to go down as a classic. While the ideas behind it are crisp, the game design seems restricted by the insta-death mechanic. It's rare to encounter more than three zombies at a time, so you never get the sense of being overwhelmed or the sense of scale you get in, say, Dead Rising or Left 4 Dead. Furthermore, the melee attacks and guns feel slightly limp, but there's still time for Ubisoft Monpellier to give that a shot in the arm before release.

For now we'll have to wait and see if the final result is strong like Romero's own Zombi Master "Big Daddy", or ends up as just another pile of decaying undead flesh.

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