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Wii U Preview: Ubisoft Hands-On

by on June 26, 2012
 

Wii U Ubisoft PreviewLee’s in-depth Wii U preview coverage continues here on GodisaGeek, with a look at some of the support Ubisoft are offering the system.

If you’re releasing a new piece of hardware, then you can definitely rely on Ubisoft to support it. The Gallic outfit, who have become one of the biggest publishers over the past decade, saved E3 for many people , including Nintendo, with mature title ZombiU and the sequel to the excellent Rayman Origins.

Luckily, I’ve had plenty of time with both of these games and I’m hear to share my thoughts with you, the lovely GodisaGeek reader.

ZombiU

Wii U Ubisoft Preview - Zombi U

So, here’s the game that many of you have asked me about, and it’s incredibly clear that as one of the few Wii U “mature” titles announced so far, ZombiU has a lot of hope riding behind it.

As you may well know by now, ZombiU is set in good old London, as the capital city experiences a classic zombie infection. The demo requires you to enter a children’s nursery to find antibiotics for a chap named Vikram. Upon leaving the confines of a rundown Tube station, it is immediately clear that the City of London has gone to Hell, with burnt out ambulances and police cars all over the place; not to mention the undead hordes roaming the streets.

While ZombiU is a first-person shooter, from what I have played so far, you won’t be shooting everything that moves , ammo and other supplies are incredibly scarce. You’re primary source of obtaining weapons and medical supplies is by raiding crates and other storage boxes that are littered around the environment. Using the Wii U GamePad as a viewfinder, you can scan for these boxes, which is handy because it is incredibly easy to miss vital storage containers that could give you the items you need to survive. Although this wasn’t a feature of the demo I played, in the final game, if you loot a crate of it’s contents, it stays empty. No respawning of ammo or health items here. This is classic survival horror, brought up to the standards of the modern videogaming age.

The survival theme carries on with the game’s death concept. If you die (and believe me, you WILL die. A lot), that is the end of your character. Actually that’s not entirely true. Upon death, you will be placed back at your safehouse in the Tube station, but in someone else’s shoes. When entering the world again, you may well encounter your previous character, albeit in a “zombified” state. Put your previous character out of his/her misery and, upon looting their body, you can pick up any of the unused items they have collected on their travels. It’s a fantastic mechanic than is reminiscent of the masochistic gameplay design of Demon/Dark Souls.

Wii U Ubisoft Preview - ZombiU

Ubisoft Montpellier have done an amazing job with the game’s setting and accompanying atmosphere. It feels really does feel like you are in London, and both the interior and exterior locales are bloody scary; thanks to the constant fear of dying, I really did navigate each area as slowly and carefully as I could, a feeling of dread coming over me every time I walked around a corner. There’s nothing more tense than being faced with a horde of walkers and suddenly running out of ammo (headshots really are your friend here).

Another feature that can lead to some hairy moments, is your item management. While you have a set of user-configurable hotkeys on the GamePad touchscreen, for assigning weapons and items, if you want to manage these hotkeys (and use items not assigned), you need to delve into your backpack. But be warned, the game does not pause when doing so, and if you should be attacked you will be very vulnerable.

Moving away from the single-player campaign, the multiplayer mode also has a spark of creativity to it. The two-player mode available to play was set around a classic King of The Hill style of play. One player (using the new Wii U Pro Controller) plays in first-person mode, capturing flags by standing next to them for a set period of time. The other player is wielding the Wii U GamePad, but does not have a direct influence on the proceedings; they are merely a puppet master for the zombies, as they are given a birds-eye view of the play area. It is their job to place zombies wherever they choose, in order to stop the other player from capturing flags. The zombie master has different classes of undead at their disposal, with only a certain amount of zombies able to be spawned at any one time (plus, each class of zombie takes up a certain amount of resources to spawn, which gradually replenishes over time).

It’s a great idea of playing the game, but as the zombie master it can be a bit dull once you’ve spawned all the zombies you can, and have to wait for your minions to do your bidding. I also hope that the final game will allow for more than two players, as the multiplayer feels a little slow going. I would be surprised if online play was not a component of the final version as well.

ZombiU is shaping up really nicely, the game could use quite a bit of polish (graphically the game isn’t that impressive), but the fact that Ubisoft have got such a great concept on their hands, bodes well for the game’s eventual release. Definitely one of the more impressive Wii U titles, and it uses the system’s new features a lot better than most third party titles at the moment.

Rayman Legends

Wii U Ubisoft Preview - Rayman Legends

After the brilliance of Rayman Origins, following it up with a direct sequel is going to be a tough thing to do. From what I’ve seen of Rayman Legends so far, everyone will be relieved to know that Ubisoft Montpellier have not strayed from what made Origins such a fantastic platform game.

Legends plays exactly like Origins did, and I’m sure we can all agree that this is a good thing. The titular character controls and plays exactly the same as what he did before, meanwhile the focus is still on the collection of Lums and Electoons.

Obviously, what makes Legends different from its predecessor, is that all important Wii U GamePad integration.  While Player One uses the Wii U Pro Controller to control Rayman, Player Two uses the GamePad to control Murphy; a strange little creature that appears as a cursor on-screen, and is controlled using the touch screen. Murphy’s role is to act as a helper to Player One, cutting down foliage with a swipe of the finger, pulling foliage up for items and picking up enemies to make them easier to defeat. This indirect form of co-op is perfect for those who may not be as confident with the pixel-perfect jumps that Rayman Legends’ levels require.

Another ability of Murphy’s, is that the GamePad can be used in other ways than touch, to make a difference in-game. At one point in the demo, you come to a circular piece of landscape that Player One needs to run up, but stopping the player from doing so is a circular contraption with a spiky side to it  (See the image above). By tilting the GamePad, Murphy can rotate the obstacle so that the other player can safely traverse the level. Communication is key when rotating at the right speed for the player to run up the circular wall.

Wii U Ubisoft Preview - Rayman Legends

What’s great about this co-op mode, is that the person controlling Murphy is never sitting around, waiting for Player One to find something useful for them to do. Even when Murphy is not manipulating an item or obstacle, there are special Lums that only the GamePad user can collect (by dragging Murphy over them). In any co-op game, it’s a tough thing to ensure that Player Two always has something to do, and so far Rayman Legends seems to get the balance right. It’s almost as if playing with the Wii U Pro Controller, and the Wii U GamePad are two different games; which immediately shows that Ubisoft are in tune with what Nintendo calls “Asymmetrical Gameplay”.

Of course, Player One (or up to four players who are using Pro Controllers) has plenty to do as well. The speedrun-style levels that were used to obtain Treasure Chests in Origins are back, and they are just as tough. In this particular demo level, pixel-perfect jumps and superhuman timing are as essential as they were previously, but what is particularly noticeable in this level, is the surf-guitar soundtrack in the background, which actually follows your actions in the game itself. It’s almost like a rhythm game, as you need to jump in time with the music, and even traversing zip-lines result in a satisfying guitar riff.

While Rayman Legend’s audio is brilliantly creative, it’s the graphics that are once again the star of the show. Somehow, Ubisoft have improved the graphics of the previous game by adding more details and more lighting effects. It looks beautiful both on the television and the Wii U GamePad screen.

Needless to say, Rayman Legends is going to be a big hit. It could even be an early Wii U must-have title, especially for fans of Origins (which should really be all of you).

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