I’ve reported twice now on rumors surrounding the potential release of Ubisoft’s ZombiU on non-Nintendo current-gen consoles, with my most recent piece regarding a possible leak on a PS4 rendition. Today we raise our cups to the serfs toiling endlessly in the rumor mills as Ubisoft has officially confirmed that ZombiU will be seeing a release not only on Xbox One and PS4, but also on PC. Re-titled “Zombi,” we can expect it to hit digital shelves on the shockingly quick date of August 18th.
Check out the new trailer:
According to an official Ubisoft blog post, optimized graphics and performance isn’t all we are in store for. Several minor tweaks were implemented to make the game feel more natural on the non-WiiU consoles. Along with the field of view being slightly pulled back, producer Hélène Henry says, “It’s mostly small technical improvements on what was already there—the faster load times and the small changes to controls. In fact, a lot of time was spent getting the controls mapped as intuitively as possible to keep the original atmosphere.”
Players of the original will recognize that the control scheme comment is due to ZombiU relying heavily on the WiiU’s gamepad functionality. Managing your inventory required actually looking down into your bag/onto the gamepad screen, which didn’t pause the game. Several of the mini-games were gamepad mapped, requiring you to look up at the screen from time to time to see if a zombie was creeping up behind you. Even checking your map required you to look down. This break in vision led to some really tense moments, and for many was the most memorable part of the game. How they maintained that is a key concern.
“We kept the central idea that you’re always vulnerable,” Henry states, directly addressing these fears. “Rummaging in the backpack still doesn’t pause the game. We’ve added a dedicated button to access the backpack, which lets players see their full inventory and assign shortcut keys.” Furthermore, the minimap will “disappear when not required, giving the game a very lonely feeling.” That part leaves me a bit skeptical, as it can be difficult to automate when a player needs a minimap. It’s a lofty promise, and I’m interested to see how it is implemented.
Gameplay-wise, changes seem minimal, but there will be two new melee weapons. While the cricket bat was the only melee weapon in the original, a new shovel and nail bat will diversify your bludgeoning options. The shovel offers longer range and a sweeping attack, capable of hitting more than one zombie at a time. The nail bat also offers some sweep but focuses on dealing devastating critical hits. It isn’t too much change but will offer some fun new stuff for fans of the original.
The biggest letdown is that the local multiplayer component will be removed. It would have been almost impossible to implement without the gamepad (aside from a tablet app tie-in?), as the mode required one player to spawn the zombies using the gamepad while the other defended areas using a remote. It is always concerning to see a remake released with fewer features than the original. It must have been a hard call, and I do respect their decision to focus on the single-player experience.
All in all, I am interested to see how Zombi pans out. As much as I liked the title, you can’t deny that much of its appeal was a “gimmick” factor. The control scheme was unique, allowing for a gameplay style and elements impossible on more conventional consoles. As a game itself, many regarded it as mediocre, but as an experience it was quite memorable. Now the game must stand alone, stripped down to the conventions we have all become accustom to, and see if it can strut its stuff with the best of them. With options like Dying Light on the market, I really don’t know how well it will stack up.
No word yet on the price, but I’m sure it will be able to find moderate success as a budget digital title in the currently starved market. Check in when it comes out for our full treatment.