"How would you like to control zombies," an ZombiU rep asked me as she handed me the Wii U controller. Aside from Chunsoft’s Loveable Zombie, I usually shoot zombies instead of controlling them so I took a chance at becoming a zombie overlord.
The goal of ZombiU’s multiplayer mode is to capture four flags. You can’t actually control zombies, but you can place them as if you were playing a real time strategy game. Grunts are the only zombies that can actually capture flags. Other zombies defend an area and a "sprinter" unit actively chases down a zombie hunter. I started by making one grunt and half a dozen guard zombies – clearly the wrong strategy since the grunt takes a really long time to capture a flag. Even though I was zombie overlord, I had a limit on how many zombies I could create on the screen and had to manage resources. Each grunt costs 10 units of zombie energy to raise and guards cost 4 or 5 units.
While I was tapping the tablet controller’s screen, another player used the Classic Controller and blasted my small undead army. As soon as the player entered the flag zone, the guard zombies lurched forward and the bewildered grunt zombie stopped capturing the flag. All of my zombies were shot down in less than a minute. I realized I used the wrong strategy and instead of fortifying one area I tried to capture two bases simultaneously. I started by summoning to grunts to capture flags and made a sprinter to distract the player. Then I added guards to both sides, but not too many. Sprinters, even though they took 12 resource points, were far more useful since they are active attackers.
My plan was more effective, but I wouldn’t say my strategy was sound because a couple of headshots later the zombie killing player won the match. Then we switched and I took on a more familiar role.
As a zombie killer, ZombiU plays like a standard first person shooter. The Bug-Out Bag where you use the Wii U controller to manage inventory and scan aren’t in the Survivors vs. Zombies mode. I roamed around the map and shot a few zombies with the gun my character was pre-equipped with. Zombies, for the most part, are slow and if you’re good at aiming you can pick them off from afar. Sprinters will catch you and you have to push them off by holding down a button. If a zombie bites you, the game doesn’t end. You respawn and Survivors vs. Zombies continues until either the last humans or zombies capture the flags.
After playing both rounds, I think because shooting zombies is more familiar it’s easier to get into, but ZombiU’s real time strategy elements are interesting since Ubisoft is using the Wii U’s controller to make a player vs. game master element. ZombiU is slated for a holiday 2012 release.