December 16, 2012 at 08:57 (Misc)

I haven’t said anything about the WiiU yet; I think it’s a great machine with huge potential but let down by some stupid design decisions. I’ve spent most of my time playing ZombieU and again it’s all the things that are nearly great which make the game so annoying.

Firstly the writing is unapologetically awful. Not the actual words or story but the complete lack of structure or understanding of the games logic which takes you out of the game nearly every time somebody speaks. In ZombieU when you die you start again as a new survivor but all the voices carry on speaking to  you as if nothing has happened. This is completely unforgivable and may be the worst thing about the game. It would have been so easy to write around this and make the system mostly work.

Similarly there’s very little explanation in any of the story so you are often confused about what is happening and what you need to do next. This may be to add reality to the game but it seems lazy. Instead of wasting so much time trying to work out if you can decipher a code to a door (and the Miiverse shows many people have) why couldn’t the guiding voice just inform you that you’ll need to come back when you’ve upgraded the scanner. New Zombie types appear and do strange things but it isn’t clear what.

The greatest thing about ZombieU is also one of the biggest problems. When you die you are dead and I’m dying a lot. You start again as a new survivor and have to back track to retrieve your previous “survivor’s” backpack. The first problem is that this can be quite a  distance and apart from sometimes stumbling across a Zombie it’s mostly boring. The Nursery was highlighted as one of the difficult part of the games and it’s a wonderfully designed sequence but after dying it took ten minutes to make my way back across town to try again. It adds pressure to stay alive but you are already punished enough by dying without this. It’s not helped by awful loading times especially at it’s just to get you back you to where you were. In the Nursery example I found a short cut after I completed the section, I don’t think it could be opened beforehand and this is unforgivable. There was no reason why it couldn’t be closed off again for the escape sequence.

The other issue with retrieving your backpack is you often die when you are caught outnumbered and surrounded by Zombies so getting the backpack back can be hard. It would have made more sense to me if your recently deceased survivor moved away from the game action and met you somewhere along your long boring road back from the safe house. Also you only have one option to retrieve the backpack and then it vanishes (cleverly to other players) but why can’t it stick around. Further annoyance and broken game logic is that after the nursery you always have to retrieve the dropped mission critical item after each death even though other items magically stay with you. It makes no sense and ruins the game.

But for all the moaning I am enjoying the game a lot. It’s incredibly tense and  atmospheric and the London setting makes a change. It’s just so frustrating that these little things that would have been so easy to fix are really taking a lot away from the game. If I wasn’t so terrible at actually playing the game then maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.


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