ZombiU (known as Zombi on platforms other than the Wii U) is a first person survival horror video game developed by Ubisoft Montpellier and published by Ubisoft. It was released for the Wii U as one of its launch games in November 2012. In the game, the player assumes control of a human survivor amid a 2012 zombie apocalypse. Featuring a permadeath system, it uses the Wii U GamePad extensively to scan the environment and maintain the survivor’s inventory. ZombiU was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2015 as Zombi. The port, handled by Straight Right, adds new melee weapons and removes the multiplayer feature.
Ubisoft was approached by Nintendo to develop a mature game for its gaming console, Wii U. Originally envisioned as a spin-off of the Raving Rabbids franchise and a fast-paced first-person shooter, Killer Freaks from Outer Space (with small, agile monsters), the game was retooled as ZombiU after the development team realized that the Wii U GamePad was suitable for slower-paced games. Many of the game’s features, including the GamePad feature and the permadeath feature, went through several iterations. Among other video games, ZombiU was influenced by Resident Evil, Condemned: Criminal Origins and Peter Jackson’s King Kong. London was chosen as the game’s setting because of its blend of modern and medieval architecture and its rich history. Ubisoft Bucharest led development of the game’s multiplayer portion.
It received generally positive reviews from critics, with the game’s emphasis on survival horror, atmosphere, and the permadeath system praised. Critics had mixed opinions about gameplay, multiplayer, story and use of the GamePad. Technical problems, such as glitches and load times, were criticized. The game was unprofitable for Ubisoft, prompting it to turn another Wii U exclusive, Rayman Legends, into a multiplatform game. A prototype for a sequel was developed, but was canceled when the game failed financially.
In ZombiU, a first-person survival horror game set in London, the player is a survivor of a zombie apocalypse. They are contacted by the Prepper, a mysterious figure who tasks them to maintain his safe house in order to be properly prepared for survival in this new destroyed London, all while the survivor seeks out a cure for the infection at the behest of Dr. Knight, a scientist/doctor stationed at Buckingham Palace. The player has a number of ways to deal with enemies, and can confront the zombies with firearms, land mines, and Molotov cocktails. They can use an unbreakable cricket bat, which does less damage than other weapons. There are several types of zombies, including those which explode, are armored, or spill corrosive fluid. The zombies are sensitive to light, and are attracted to a player who is using a flashlight or flare. Sound produced by firearms will also attract nearby enemies to a player, who can push them away with their weapon. The player can also use stealth to avoid being noticed by enemies.
Exploration is encouraged in the game. By exploring the game’s world, players can find beds (which are save points) and routes leading them back to their safe houses. New weapons, ammunition, and scarce items can be collected by searching areas or dead bodies. These items include food and medkits (which restore health), plywood scraps (used to barricade doors), and weapon parts (which can be used in the safe house to upgrade weapons). As players discover new items during the game, previously-inaccessible areas can be entered. These items are stored in the player character’s inventory (known as a bug-out-bag) or a cache in the safe house. If the player’s character is killed by a zombie (which can occur with one bite), the character will permanently die and the player will then assume the role of another survivor. The previous character will become a zombie, whom the player must kill to reclaim their inventory. If Miiverse is enabled, other players’ characters may also appear as zombies carrying the items they collected. A player can also place symbolic clues and hints, visible to other players, on walls. In addition to the normal-difficulty mode, ZombiU has a “Chicken” mode, which lowers the game’s difficulty, for new and inexperienced players and a survival mode where the game ends when the player’s original character dies.
The game’s controls make extensive use of the Wii U GamePad. During normal play, the touchscreen manages player inventory and displays a mini-map of the immediate area (indicating the locations of the player and nearby enemies). The touchscreen is also used for context-sensitive actions such as executions, escaping from enemies, and hacking combination locks. The GamePad’s gyroscope, which allows the controller to sense its rotation and tilt in three-dimensional space, is also used. While viewing the touchscreen, a player can move the controller to scan different areas to find items. While performing these actions, the television’s perspective switches to a fixed third-person view of the player character and the surrounding area. The player is vulnerable to attack in this state, and must watch the GamePad’s touchscreen and the television screen in to avoid harm. The Wii U camera allows players to import a face, which will be “zombified”, into the game.
ZombiU has three multiplayer modes. In Time Attack mode, players must kill as many zombies as they can in a limited time. In survival mode, players stay alive as long as possible with a limited supply of resources. The results of these two modes will be posted on the game’s online leaderboard. The third mode, King of Zombies, is an offline asymmetrical multiplayer mode. A player, using the Wii U Pro Controller, plays a human survivor who must navigate a map to obtain all capture points. Another player, known as King Boris and using the Wii U GamePad with a top-down perspective, must deploy a maximum of 10 zombies to halt the players’ progress and capture a flag. A progression system is present, in which the Pro Controller player and the GamePad player unlock more-powerful weapons and different types of zombies.
Four hundred years ago, scientist John Dee made what was known as the Black Prophecy. The Prepper (an ex-army, no-nonsense man) prepares for the coming apocalypse, and a secret society known as the Ravens of Dee researches Dee’s predictions to stop them from taking place. In November 2012, the Black Prophecy begins to be realized in the form of an outbreak of zombies in London.
After the outbreak the player character is led to the Prepper’s bunker, where he receives weapons, a bug-out bag and the Prepper Pad, a device with a built-in scanner and radar. The Prepper, a Raven of Dee, left the organization due to a difference in interpreting Dee’s prophecy. According to the scientist, Black Angels would save the world; the Ravens thought that Dee was referring to their organization, but the Prepper believed that he was talking about something worse.
The player goes underground while scavenging at Buckingham Palace and is contacted by Dr. Knight, a physician for the Royal Family who is trying to find a cure. He orders the player to find diaries and notes left by Dee in exchange for scanner upgrades and a virucide, a chemical capable of killing the virus in those that are infected. This is done without the knowledge of the Prepper, who believes that a cure is impossible. After leaving the palace the player is led by Sondra to the remnants of the Ravens of Dee and tries to escape with the player in a helicopter on the Tower of London. A supernatural force drives a flock of ravens into the propeller, making the helicopter crash. The player returns to the Prepper’s bunker, and Sondra promises to save them.
In the bunker, the generator is running out of fuel and the Prepper tells the player to get petrol from a man named Vikram. The player finds Vikram, who has gone mad; he and his young child tell the player to go to a local nursery to get antibiotics for his wife. Despite the Prepper’s protests (who thinks the player should raid the petrol station), he goes to the nursery; the staff and children have been eaten by a nurse, who became a ghost-like monster capable of teleportation. The player returns with the antibiotics only to find that Vikram has become infected and eaten his family, forcing the player to kill him.
On the way back to the bunker with the petrol, the player receives a distress signal from a young girl that she and her family are barricaded in St. George’s Church. Although the Prepper correctly insists it is a trap, the player goes to rescue her. The player is kidnapped by Boris (the self-proclaimed King of Zombies) and his gang, who force survivors to fight off waves of zombies in the church’s courtyard. Boris’ lights, microphone, and music attract a horde of zombies, and he and his gang are eaten whilst the player escapes.
The player has enough upgrades to collect Dee’s remaining letters for Dr. Knight, who believes that he can now make a panacea. The player returns to the safe house, where Knight reveals that the panacea is not a cure but a vaccine. The Prepper expresses profound disappointment in the player as he returns to Buckingham Palace. Knight has left his bunker for the queen’s quarters to access data on a USB key. The player goes through the palace, only to discover that Knight has been killed and turned into a zombie himself, forcing the player to kill him. The player uses Knight’s eye to bypass a retinal scanner and collect the USB key.
They run back to the Tower of London as the RAF is about to firebomb London and Sondra tries to keep her promise to rescue the player. This enrages the Prepper, who orders the player to leave the safe house and vows to outlive the Ravens of Dee. After the player leaves, the Prepper (who has been using survivors to stock his food supplies) finds a new lackey to do his bidding. The player reaches Sondra and leaves London as the RAF (the prophecy’s Black Angels) destroy the city.