Want a zombie horde at your fingertips? You’ve got it. Nintendo just took the lid off the multiplayer mode for Ubisoft’s third-person zompocalypse shooter ZombiU, and like the majority of the Wii U’s best offerings, it takes advantage of the one thing no other console can do: asymmetrical gameplay.
As yet, the mode itself doesn’t have a name, and the demo only offers one-on-one versus play — no word yet if additional survivors will be able to join in for the retail release. As-is, ZombiU runs a fairly well-balanced Capture the Flag mode, with one lone survivor up against the “Zombie Master” on the GamePad.
Like in many of the demos seen this year and last, the GamePad shows a top-down view of the map. From here, tap to select one of five zombie types: a Beefeater guard who attempts to capture the nearest flag, a stationary “guard” zombie who doesn’t move around, and two attack zombies, slow and fast. Tapping on the map spawns them in, but zones in red are locked out, including a fairly large halo protecting the survivor. Both undead ghouls and shotgun-wielding humans race around the Buckingham rooftops to capture flags first.
Making this particularly challenging for the survivor: ZombiU’s zombies kill you in one bite, both in single and multiplayer. You might find a few syringes of Virucide, which can fend off anything that gets a good hold of you, but once your get-out-of-death-free cards are gone, you better not let them get too close. In large groups, even your shotgun won’t save you. Fortunately, the game limits the Zombie Master to ten zombies at a time.
And when I say balanced, I mean it. A good zombie master can harass and down a survivor fairly well while grabbing flags on the other side of the map — you can spawn in Beefeaters right next to uncaptured flags (captured flags lock; you can’t recapture them). A good survivor can wipe out guards, build up a capture, then run to a threatened flag. Since zombies can’t spawn in the survivor’s vicinity, if you walk into a flag zone, the Zombie Master can’t build up defenses there. He’ll just spawn attackers outside the zone and send them your way. Or else he’ll turn to one of the other flags.
But it’s that variation of tactics that really shows off what the Wii U’s GamePad can do and makes you think differently about the game and what’s going on in it. Playing as a Zombie Master, I occasionally looked up to see what my undead minions were actually doing, bringing real depth to my otherwise top-down experience. Then I switched roles, trying to fight against the same tactics I’d employed to demolish my previous opponent.
ZombiU will release exclusively for the Wii U this holiday.