ZombiU: Can a Wii U Game Resurrect & Redefine Survival Horror?

One of the most memorable Christmas gifts I’ve ever received was a Sony Playstation. Since then, video games have been a huge part of my life. I’m proud to call myself a gamer, yet I still get a handful of trolls in the internet who condescend me for never owning a Nintendo console or device. As a kid who was born in the mid-1990’s, I skipped most of the original consoles from Nintendo or Atari. Consequently, I’ve always stuck with the Playstation or the Xbox through the years. I never had the urge to buy a Nintendo console and when I first heard of the Wii U, I was skeptical. I felt that the Wii U didn’t really offer anything new to the table. For me, it was more of an addition developers had to work around with than an innovation itself. Yet, after spending a day at New York Comic Con, all my preconceived notions on the Wii U came into question.

I found a title that demonstrates how the Wii U can effectively redefine and immerse ourselves into playing video games, instead of it feeling like a mere addition. The video game is called ZombiU and it was developed and published by Ubisoft as a Wii U exclusive. The basic premise of the game is that you will take control of a group of survivors during a zombie apocalypse that occurs in November of 2012. I know it sounds pretty common at first, and I don’t blame you since that was one of the reasons I shrugged this game off before because I’ve heard this premise a thousand times. Yet, the premise might not be unique but what sets this game apart is how the Wii U enhances the survival horror for the player.

One of the memories I had playing survival horror games was the moments when my only escape from a horde of zombies or a terrifying ghost was to pause the game or enter ‘inventory’ mode. Sometimes, I would leave the game for an hour and do something else just to regain my composure. Surprisingly, ZombiU does not give you the luxury of a temporary escape. While you can pause the game, everything else in the game happens in real time. Gone are the days when you can take your time checking your inventory or picking a lock. With the use of the Wii U’s GamePad, players can check their inventory or do mini-games and be in danger simultaneously. I could already imagine myself glancing from the television screen to the GamePad as I try to equip weapons while trying to not get attacked by a zombie from behind in the process. This feature will certainly get your adrenaline pumping as it keeps the suspense going as much as possible. It also adds a sense of realism where you must be agile and always aware of your surroundings in a hostile environment.

Aside from the GamePad component, the gameplay mechanics of the game itself is quite intriguing. Not only does the inventory and mini-system run in real time, but Ubisoft story design designer Gabrielle Shrager also reveals that there will be no save/check points or game overs. Once your character dies, you’ll pretty much stay dead. Well, doesn’t that sound like game over? Shrager proudly explains that in ZombiU there is no one main character since you can play from a variety of survivors. In the E3 video (which I posted below), Shrager gives us a glimpse of the game using a male character. After a couple of minutes though, the male character dies and then we get a brief animation wherein we are introduced to another female character named Lucy.When you die, you will simply pick up where the last survivor you controlled left off by following a mysterious voice on a radio that guides you. So, play as a new survivor then die. Repeat.

Once you start as new survivor, you start with basic skills and equipment. So, if you found a really cool weapon with your last survivor… you’re basically back to a handgun when you die. However, there is a way to get all your items back. When you finally catch up where you last left off, you will encounter the last survivor you played but as a zombie. Kill them and you’ll get all your items back. Shrager emphasizes that skills won’t be transferred and you will start from scratch. She explains this by saying that in a zombie apocalypse, there’s no particular skill set for survival since and how you survive will heavily depend on the player’s instincts.

Now, I’m sure everyone is asking the question: “What happens if you suck at this game and you keep dying? Will the game ever run our of survivors?” That was one question that boggled my mind while I was watching the E3 video. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one since the IGN reporter eventually asked Shrager about it. She didn’t give a concrete answer since all she said was pretty much “No, you can die and respawn as a new survivor as many times as you want ” without explaining further how they’ve managed to accomplish this.


As a fan of survival horror games, it’s disappointing to see several classics lose their touch. Titles like Resident Evil have shifted emphasis into action and gore from simplistic yet spine tingling horror. ZombiU offers a feeling of nostalgia since there is emphasis on scaring the player instead of entertaining them with action. In the video, it is noted by the IGN reporter that ZombiU seems to differentiate from other titles since you’re not attacking a huge horde or a lumbering monstrosity. Instead, you fight the darkness and your own paranoia as you battle zombies that could surreptitiously creep up behind you.

I’m also impressed with Ubisoft since they’ve given the impression that they’ve utilized the Wii U GamePad well instead of making it appear as a forced addition just so they could release a Wii U game. I’m also looking forward to this whole “new survivor then die” cycle. It’s certainly a rarely done if not unique mechanic. I may not be a Nintendo lover, but this game might just be the title that will give me a new perspective. Here’s to wishing all the best for this game!

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  1. This sounds like the kind of mechanics I was expecting with the WiiU. You have to game play on the main screen while, mapping, mini-games, inventory, pokedex (hopefully), and that kind of stuff can be handled on the remote pad. I don’t expect Nintendo will ever try to compete performance wise with Sony/Microsoft but creating newer ways to interact will keep them relevant for a while. I would love to play a game like that.

  2. I can tell you this. I’ve played a few hours of this game 2 weeks ago during a Nintendo meeting/conference. This game is indeed the resurrection of survival horror. This is the Wii U title to have. I put off pre-ordering the wii U, but now I’m definitely buying when their second shipment becomes available.

    I regret not pre-ordering now. 🙁

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