The news that Nintendo and Microsoft wouldn’t be heading to Cologne for Gamescom this year wasn’t entirely surprising, but it was disappointing nonetheless. Gaming fans keen to get their hands on titles like Halo 4 or Forza Horizon would have to wait several more months for the chance to play them and those of us curious to try out Nintendo’s new console would have an equally agonizing wait. Or would we?
As it turns out, Ubisoft made as big an impact in Germany as they did during E3 earlier in the year with plenty of their top upcoming titles available to try out, if you could brave the queues of course! Another thing they also brought to the show however were plenty of Wii U demo units, set up to play ZombiU, Rayman Legends, Sports Connection, Rabbids Land and Just Dance 4.
It will not be of great surprise to you I’m sure that I passed on checking out several of these titles, but I was intent on trying out the Wii U for myself and so I made sure I got in line for ZombiU and Rayman Legends. As I stood waiting for my chance to check out these games I did have a good look at the other titles on offer which pretty much shaped up as you would have predicted. Sports Connection looked just like Kinect Sports, Rabbids Land looked like Ubisoft had taken a sneak peek at the Nintendo Land design document and Just Dance 4 looked like… Just Dance 3.
Anyway, you all want to know about zombie hunting, not Rihanna I’m sure. So on with the ZombiU discussion. Ubisoft had an enclosure fitted out with around 10 consoles playing ZombiU, each with a (multilingual – as all the staff at Gamescom were) representative there to help you through the game and to get to grips with the game controller. The weird thing was they had it all hooked up so that each player and rep wore a headset that only filtered through the game sound and allowed you to talk to each other, which was kind of cool but freaky at the same time.
The demo I played was exactly the same one shown at E3 in June. Effectively you take control of a zombie holocaust survivor whose task is simply to make it to safety. Set in the environs of Buckingham Palace, the location screams London, and the dreary weather and crashed ambulances etc also sell the idea that the end of the world is nigh.
I have to say that my first impressions of the Wii U were not fantastic. The game controller itself was functional but very bulky, and even the touch pad felt a little like old technology, being fairly basic on design. The graphics meanwhile although certainly serviceable did smack a lot of ‘early XBOX 360’ with a lack of detail and some fairly shoddy smoke effects. At one point I wasn’t sure which way to go until the rep indicated that I should walk through the smoke – it didn’t even look transparent enough to pass through.
I don’t want to be too hard on the game though, it was certainly fun thwacking some undead with a cricket bat. The control system has you readying your weapon with the L trigger, and bringing it down on a zombie skull with R. There was a gun in the game, though the ammo was severely limited. The main thing I took away was that the game was HARD, with me only being able to dispatch 3 or 4 monsters before being bitten myself.
The interesting part starts there however, as once you die you respawn back in the safe house as an entirely different character and have to fight your way back to the now freshly zombified corpse of your previous self, in order to get back your supplies. This was a nice move and could be the stroke of originality the game needs.
After trying out ZombiU I headed to the Rayman Legends stand. Again Ubisoft had plenty of consoles set up, and this time two players at one time were led through to experience the demo. One of you controls Rayman himself (or any of the other weird characters) using the XBOX 360-like pro controller, whilst the other guy (me in this case) takes control of the touch screen on the game controller and uses a fly character to assist the other player, masking bridges, cutting ropes, that sort of thing.
This demo worked really well and did look lush, like a cartoon on both the big and small screens. The asymmetric multiplayer worked really well, and it is clearly something that would prove very popular with families. I still however remain a little skeptical of what benefit the Wii U will have for gamers who prefer to play on their own or online in a more traditional manner.
Without testing out any of the Nintendo first party games like Pikmin 3 or New Super Mario Bros U, it is difficult and a little unfair to make an early judgement on the Wii U. I do have to say at this stage however, that personally I am really not that excited for the console’s launch. It does have a lot of potential and I did have fun playing both of the Ubisoft titles, so in a year’s time or so when a Metroid, Zelda and 3D Mario game are all in the works I think the console will be difficult to resist.