Don't Get Bitten in Zombi U's Multiplayer Mode - Preview

By Daniel Share-Strom, June 9, 2012
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Man, it’s a strange day in LA when you’re looking forward to a Nintendo console more for its third-party content than the games coming from the legendary development studio itself.  Nintendo showed off a handful of first-party Wii U titles at E3 this year.  However, I’d have to say that Ubisoft is providing the best case for buying the new console.  They have announced a whopping eight launch games for the fledgling platform, but the one that caught my eye the most was definitely the survival horror title, Zombi U.  Alex already shared his thoughts on the single-player campaign, but I got a chance to check out the game’s interesting multiplayer mode.

The asymmetrical multiplayer game is a new take on capture-the-flag.  The map I played on seemed to be an abandoned parking lot.  One player, using a Wii U Pro controller or Wii Remote, plays a standard first-person shooter on the TV.  Their goal is to take flags scattered at various points throughout the map by standing close to them for a period of time.  The problem?  The other player, on the GamePad tablet, is playing RTS-style, sending zombies to both kill him and take flags of their own.  This player, who is supposedly a sadistic game master, has an overhead view and can spawn one of the four zombie types anywhere that is outside of the survivor’s line of sight. 

The basic zombie pretty much just stands around until the survivor runs near him, but groups of them can quickly overwhelm your opponent, who dies in one hit unless he has a hypodermic needle with which to jab in the neck.  Other units include a tank-style one that chases the survivor and can take a lot of punishment, and a speedy guy that is good for surprise attacks and is difficult to avoid, among others.  To keep the game from getting unbalanced, only ten zombies can be in the game at once, and stronger ones take more from your stash of resources to summon.

On the survivor’s side, there’s a standard toolset.  The weapons on offer were a pistol, a shotgun, and a crossbow, and a weak shove attack could be used to push encroachers back.  You can also pick up a turret and place it at a strategic location.

That’s the gist of it, but how does it actually play?  Well, I tried both positions, and either way, it’s exhilarating.  As the game master, it was a good challenge to try to outwit the survivor and take flags.  To start, we each took a flag with relatively little action.  However, I soon got the hang of the game.  Once I started placing guards to protect my basic units while they took flags, and put tanks and speedsters at strategic locations around corners or behind the survivor, things got tactical really fast.  No sooner would I kill him off than he’d be back from a different angle with a strategy to take me out.  At the same time, whenever he would get close to a capture, I’d withdraw units from my own flags to launch a full-scale assault on his dignity.  I eventually won the match four to three, but it was a hard-fought victory indeed.

From the other perspective, playing as the survivor feels like playing Left 4 Dead with another player sending out zombies rather than an AI Director.  The other player kept me constantly on my toes with assaults from all directions, making me constantly turn to check my six and second-guess myself.  He sent about eight standards on me at once, and since you need to aim for the head to do much real damage, they kept me plenty busy while his other two took a flag.  However, I reciprocated in kind when I took the high ground, placed a turret at the top of one staircase and defended the other entrance with my shotgun until I easily captured a point.

The rest of the game… didn’t go so well.  He ambushed me relentlessly, taking another two flags quickly.  Once I got my groove back, I found it easier to defend the territories, but whenever I’d start taking one, he’d simply go for another.  One more point would win him the game, so I constantly had to stop taking a flag I was working on in an attempt to get him off another one.  I did this pretty well for about five minutes, but eventually he won out, demonstrating how much the TV screen player needs to strategize just as much as the guy on the touch screen.

Zombi U is an impressive technology demo for how to use the various input options for the Wii U to create new types of multiplayer experiences.  It’s also good to see that the system will be well-supported with the adult titles that Nintendo themselves don’t specialize in.  Like everything else shown for the Wii U so far, expect to play this game sometime within the system’s launch window.

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