In "ZombiU" for the Wii U, the terror is real, unlike many other entries in the survival horror genre.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Fans of the survival horror genre really have it rough. We haven't seen a good title in years.
Oh sure, we have games like "Dead Space" that claim to be survival horror, but they're really just atmospheric shooters. It's hard to be terrified of aliens when there's a huge supply of ammo. It's just creepy set piece after creepy set piece. The horror is an illusion.
That's not the case with the Wii U's "ZombiU,"
a reboot of "Zombi," the first game ever published by Ubisoft. This is a game where ammo is scarce, terror is real and deaths are permanent. Well, in a sense.
See, "ZombiU" implements a death system akin to "Demon's Souls" or "Dark Souls." When you die, you re-spawn with a new character back at your safe house. Unfortunately, all of the loot you had on you is with your other character, who is now roaming your previous location as a zombie. You'll have to kill your old avatar if you want your loot back, but if you die before you do, then it's gone forever.
Luckily, you can hoard items in your safe house. Mine is so stocked I really feel like I deserve a spot on a TLC show.
The game takes place in London in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. You're led by a mysterious voice known as The Prepper, who has apparently known of this outbreak thanks to predictions by the astronomer John Dee.
"ZombiU" makes fantastic use of the Wii U Gamepad. The touchscreen constantly displays your map, and until you get an upgrade, you have to continually activate the radar function to see nearby enemies. The touchscreen is also used for breaking down barricades, picking locks and inputting codes into computerized locks.
The real fun comes from the fact that if you want to access your inventory or loot a dead body, you have to look at the touchscreen. This forces you to take your eyes off the television, which means your character is extremely vulnerable to an attack if you're not careful.
The game also includes a multiplayer mode, which I haven't yet been able to test. In it, one player is a survivor while the other plays as an infected, and they both try to capture as many flags as possible. While the survivor plays the game as normal, the infected gets to use the Gamepad to place a maximum of 10 zombies to attack the survivor. It's a neat twist on the common capture the flag multiplayer mode.
There's also some online capability. Players can show up in your game as zombies, and killing them can result in good loot. But that's it. No multiplayer, competitive or cooperative.
"ZombiU" is a great game because its horror comes from creating tense moments for the player rather than relying on cheap, jumpy scares. It deserves to be called survival horror. Be warned that this title is not for everyone, but if it interests you at all, I say it's definitely worth it. "ZombiU," $60, is rated M for blood and gore, intense violence and strong language.