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    WiiU Preview - The Console. The Controller. The Games.

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    laughingjumpman

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    WiiU Preview - The Console. The Controller. The Games.

    Post  laughingjumpman on Tue Oct 30, 2012 6:14 am

    Nintendo recently visited the London MCM Expo with its current tour of its newest console, and having been lucky enough to go hands on with the controller while demoing games like ZombiU, NintendoLand and New Super Mario Bros, here are some first impressions and observations of what really is an impressive piece of kit.

    The Console

    Closed off in their own little glass cases, it was difficult to get a really good look at the console itself, which is often overlooked in favour of the Wii U's real selling point, the tablet-like Gamepad. However, what was interesting to note was its size, which is smaller than that of any of the other current-gen consoles, yet significantly larger than the Wii (clearly to house all the extra hi-tech gubbins. Otherwise, there's not a great deal more to say about it that can't already be gleaned from released photos and specifications online. It's like the Wii, but curvier. It's the SNES to the Wii's NES, essentially.

    The Gamepad

    Foiled by small children hogging Tekken demo units, a close look at the Wii U's other controller (aside from Wiimotes, but if you don't know about those then why are you reading this anyway?) the Pro pad was off limits, but the most important controller, the Gamepad was easier to get a hold of - even if it did mean braving long queues continually pestered by 'real' zombies occasionally wandering by and catching innocent bystanders unawares with a cheeky grope...

    Digressions aside, 'easy to get a hold of' is an apt description in more ways than one. The pad itself was lighter than expected, and also a bit smaller than it seems in photos, yet without feeling cheap and nasty. Much has been said bemoaning the placement of the analogue sticks in relation to the buttons, however even just a few minutes into the ZombiU demo the controller felt natural enough not to need to look down to check button placement every time a prompt appeared on screen. Overall it's very comfortable, and even tethered to the demo pod as it was, no more tiring to use than any other standard controller. Never did it feel as if any buttons were so far away you need to strain to hit them, nor so packed together that they caused fear of thumb-cramp from extended play (such as can be found with the 3DS D-pad). An addition that will be welcomed by those used to Xbox/PS3 gaming, and thus almost instinctive to use, is the ability to click the thumbsticks inwards (to sprint in ZombiU) for instance. Similarly familiar are two pairs of shoulder buttons - L, R, ZL and ZR - respectively, all of which are comfortably placed, but well spaced so as to prevent fumbling with them when the pressure's on. Really, the only fault is that the touchscreen as well as its general shiny-ness (the technical term) means that you will spend the rest of your Wii U-owning life cleaning away fingerprints and smudges with a cloth. Though it must be said that the screen itself was just as responsive as the standard buttons and sticks, even with the grime built up from the many sweaty-palmed punters that had come before.

    ZombiU

    ZombiU was the first game to try with the console, and was suitably impressive. It also allays any residuals fears that it isn't to be the WiiU's Red Steel: it's not just a great game on paper spoiled by disappointing, bland execution. Oh no. ZombiU, even in just this demo, proves to be a really solid game, which uses many familiar controls, but forces you to learn a few new tricks. First, the basic button and analogue stick controls will be familiar to anyone who has spent time with a modern shooter - such as CoD. Clicking the thumbsticks inwards adjusts your movement speed, and ZL readies your weapon, be it bludgeoning or ballistic, while ZR lets rip. Trying the right trigger without first taking aim will either use the butt of your firearm to swipe at assailants or simply push an enemy back with a melee weapon to give the player a few seconds to ready up for a proper swing or make room for a hasty retreat.

    As for new tricks? Making sure to pay attention to what's happening on the main screen while fiddling with menus or touch screen puzzles (mainly rifling through your rucksack and lockpicking) is something as easy to forget at first as it is deadly. Looking around using the gamepad scanner (using the L trigger) is also surprisingly impressive, its useful to find secret passageways and equipment, but on top of this it really gives a greater sense of place in the game world, as it's not only the stuff in front of you that you can see, as with most first person games. This is hard to describe, but it really helps immerse you in your virtual surroundings.
    The touch screen is easily laid out as well, making menu selections and weapon switching very quick and easy - all the better, as you won't want to spend too long rummaging as the undead creep ever closer.

    Weapons featured in the demo were a trusty, unbreakable cricket bat (staff on hand were not able to confirm if other close combat weapons you procure in the game would break over time, but as the cricket bat - in a nod to Shaun of the Dead - is the standard weapon that all survivors set out with, it's impervious to damage, no matter how many skulls it cracks), a 9mm handgun (resembling a Colt 1911), a double barreled 12 bore, a scoped crossbow and a sniper rifle for long distance kills. This is where ZombiU really reveals itself as a true survival horror rather than an action blockbuster. Ammo is scarce on a level which only someone who has played the Resident Evil remake back on the Gamecube will truly appreciate. You'll want to decapitate every corpse you come across, 'just in case', but you won't be able to afford to. Instead, you'll have to edge closer with the aforementioned cricket bat and get up close and personal. Not only because of the lack of ammunition - perhaps a very realistic touch, considering the British rather than typical US setting, where guns would be more plentiful - but because loosing off a few rounds will attract the attention of the horde, or at least that lone zombie you didn't see lying dormant in the shadows...

    This and some astounding attention to detail really ramp up the tension with clever little touches. You have a hip torch to light your way in the darkness, which saves on the annoyance of having to choose between fight or sight (something which really hampered enjoyment of games such as Dementium or Doom 3), but its battery is limited, and will have to be switched off to recharge from time to time. The game really makes you plan ahead for any future situation, and fear the possibility of the lights going out when you need them the most. Don't expect to have to sit twiddling your thumbs in the dark for ages while it charges, however: it's very quick.

    In the demo it was also necessary to get your feet wet, and trudge through a few flooded tunnels filled with debris and floating corpses which needed to be pushed past in order to get back to dry land. But in another nod to realism, going for a quick dip is not without its consequences - as such, you need to keep your survival gear dry. To do this, your survivor has to hold all their equipment above their head while they wade through any water that's above waist height. Of course, this leaves you utterly defenseless and means that each corpse you move past is like another hurdle to jump, for fear that it may not be as dead as it appears. Going for a paddle hasn't been this traumatic since Jaws was screened.

    The titular zombies are hard as nails, and any more than one in a confined space is no easy obstacle. Headshots, as Romero movie lore dictates, are the only way to put the undead to rest once more. Even then, small arms will require a few well placed shots to end it all. And often, a few shots are all you'll have. With melee weapons, you can keep swinging all day, but without moving in on a downed opponent for a final blow (executed by standing within thwacking-distance and holding down ZR) you'll never be able to finish them off for good. This makes melee combat fraught, as you have to time your swings well to avoid being clawed (which will whittle down your meager health bar) and it means the player has to make some space before they can pick their attackers off one by one. Combat is also very visceral, heads explode with a squelchy crack and blood splatters with each successful cricket swing. Even after you're done, your survivor will still, quite literally, have blood on his/her hands.

    Finally, something has to be said about the one-bite death system. As mentioned above, there are other ways to take damage - just grappling with zombies, getting clawed at, or falling will take considerable chunks from your health. Health which won't - as with many a modern FPS - recharge if you go and sit quietly in the corner for a bit. If you're badly injured, you'll have to try and scavenge some first aid supplies from amongst the London debris, or from defeated zombies themselves. If grabbed, your survivor has a syringe of anti-virus which will give them a second chance, but get caught again and they're dead. Forever.

    The next survivor, in this demo at least, will awake in a safehouse with just as cricket bat, pistol and a few rounds but will be able to jump to the same area your previous unlucky protagonist died in, via a quick montage of maps and silhouetted action poses which represent your new character's journey. This may disappoint those hoping the game would be more open-world, but just think of how annoying it would be to try and get back to a specific location late in the game if you had to traverse all of London manually to get there? The fact that the previous life you lost will still keep all of the weapons, ammo and supplies they held at the point of their zombification means not only will you have to plan ahead to survive, you'll have to plan for the worst and leave a few of the better weapons behind for another survivor to pick up on their play-through. Otherwise, it's quite easy for an under-equipped new survivor to fall prey to their unlucky predecessor before they can reclaim all those valuable goodies. When you return, anything picked up by the previous player will not magically reappear. On the plus side though, most of the zombies they vanquished won't respawn either (though it was noted this was subject to change in the final game, as only a few scripted events were guaranteed to only happen once). But that's most, not all. In the demo, one zombified scuba-diving enthusiast reappeared each time in the same area, as a potentially explosive threat.

    To sum up then: Ubisoft have put a lot more thought into this than Red Steel, and it really shows. There's a visible love for the zombie genre here, and its clear inspiration has been taken from the countless films and lessons learned from many games. But something which speaks more than these many (many) words, is that just a 40-50 minute demo leaves you wanting one more go. One more go that, painfully, will have to wait another month.


    Last edited by laughingjumpman on Wed Oct 31, 2012 8:20 am; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Typos-ago-go!)
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    laughingjumpman

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    Re: WiiU Preview - The Console. The Controller. The Games.

    Post  laughingjumpman on Tue Oct 30, 2012 6:17 am

    Tried to make this as in-depth as possible - will do my best to asnwer any other questions though.
    Should note: I've made no mention of the sound effects/music in the game as I nplayed without. headphones were available, but I opted to listen to the demo guy (as he shall now be known) walk me through features and ask him questions instead.
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    Kent Hammer
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    Re: WiiU Preview - The Console. The Controller. The Games.

    Post  Kent Hammer on Tue Oct 30, 2012 6:50 am

    Great work mate and a really enjoyable read!

    did you get any wind of possible achievement system or accomplishments?

    Anyway to show your friends which games you have completed?

    Any news on gamertags or Mii's

    Do you know if there is cross game talk or party chat like on 360?

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    laughingjumpman

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    Re: WiiU Preview - The Console. The Controller. The Games.

    Post  laughingjumpman on Tue Oct 30, 2012 7:02 am

    Nothing was mentioned or demoed of any online features, either for the games themselves or for the console itself. I asked about online, but they didn't know anything/weren't saying about much other than the game demos themselves.

    All the consoles were demoing games only, no demos of the hub screen for the console at all. Only non-game demo was for panorama view.

    Nothing appeared on screen which hinted at achievements, though I forgot to mention in the ZombiU bit that there were notificatiosn appearing to tell you your character had levelled up their weapon proficiency.

    As for Miis? There were Miis in Nintendoland, but we weren't able to create our own, they were just assigned - but the demo had many of the minigames themselves locked and the menus were obviously streamlined for demo purposes. Miis appeared much the same as they are on Wii/3DS, but obviously more detailed, smoother and better looking in HD. The Mii faces were pretty generic, so can't really say if there was any evidence of new facial features to choose from.
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    ChaosControl

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    Re: WiiU Preview - The Console. The Controller. The Games.

    Post  ChaosControl on Tue Oct 30, 2012 12:04 pm

    I imagine there would be more face features to choose from. The options on the 3DS keep expanding all the time.

    Great review by the way. Very detailed, but not rambling. Some of the features they brought in for ZombiU is fascinating. Like the fact that you can kill your predecessor. You actually get to roam the streets of London? That's pretty cool. I'm not even into Zombie games but this looks awesome! Did you get to use the Wii pad to unlock doors?

    I really like the way they're putting in so much detail when it comes to gadgets and stuff. Like with Arkham City. I'd be tempted to get it. But I already have Arkham City on PS3 so even with the awesome use of the Wii U's game pad I still don't know if it would be worth getting a second copy of the same game.

    The game pad screen doesn't phase me. I'm forever wiping my fingerprints off my 3DS! At times leading to my own demise if I'm playing Super Mario 3D Land....
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    laughingjumpman

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    Re: WiiU Preview - The Console. The Controller. The Games.

    Post  laughingjumpman on Wed Oct 31, 2012 8:19 am

    Oh yes, there was some door-unlocking though. Not using a numeric keypad, but lockpicking by rotating pins until the lock opened using the touch screen (maybe a Resident Evil reference?) which was just like using the rucksack in that it happens in real time and leaves you open to attack if you don't keep checking what's happening on the TV.
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    ChaosControl

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    Re: WiiU Preview - The Console. The Controller. The Games.

    Post  ChaosControl on Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:11 pm

    I'd panic too much and get eaten while trying to bash imaginary zombies with the Wii pad instead of actually selecting a weapon! Very Happy

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