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[Interview] The last ZombiU interview you’ll see before launch

Posted on November 17, 2012 by (@NE_Austin) in Features, Interviews, Podcast Stories, Previews


Co-creative director Florent Sacré talks to me about ZombiU’s “Survival” mode, creating a tense atmosphere, and how “open world” the game is.


There are a lot of Wii U launch games coming out on Sunday, but none of them are quite as hotly anticipated as Ubisoft Montpellier’s ZombiU. This isn’t necessarily because we all think it looks incredible (which, admittedly many of us do), but there’s a certain excitement surrounding it that isn’t present when talking about New Super Mario Bros. U or Scribblenauts Unlimited. It’s a new IP, for one, but it’s also a return to the survival horror styles of yesteryear, and it uses the Gamepad more interestingly than any other launch title, bar none.

Even if you forget about all of that, though, the concept alone might be enough to call ZombiU the zombie game we’ve been dreaming about for years.



Wikipedia describes ZombiU as a “first-person shooter survival horror video game”, but judging by what we’ve seen so far it’s not so much about shooting as it is survival. Players go from one area to the next, exploring the nooks and crannies of post-apocalyptic London and trying to survive long enough to complete important objectives. Inevitably, everyone dies eventually and respawns as a new survivor, but most people are already familiar with this game mechanic. What they don’t know about, is the alternate mode: “Survival”.

“Survival mode [gives you] just one life to lose” says ZombiU co-creative director Florent Sacré, describing a lesser known feature of the game that does not allow you to load prior saves or start over as a new survivor when you die. “[It] means experimenting with true survival.”

“Your whole perception of the game is transfigured, and even banal situations become epic! When you have survived 10 hours of the game and find yourself cornered without ammo… you understand what survival feels like!” he said with a huge grin.

And it’s true– what we’ve heard about ‘Survival’ mode so far is intense. Like the main game, death means your character is gone for good, but the difference here is that there is no starting over as a new survivor. There is no re-loading previous saves. There is no continuing on. Death means game over for good here, and it’s a feature that players who love a massive challenge will latch onto very quickly.

I for one can honestly not wait to see how far I can get without dying compared to my friends.



A question a lot of people have been wondering is whether ZombiU is more of an open world, exploration game, or a purely linear experience. As Florent puts it, it’s a little of both:

“ZombiU is not open-world (in ‘Franglais’ we call it “open progressive”), but there is plenty of room (and need) for exploration,” he continued, “The maps are all different, each has its own special sauce. [You can also] revisit zones already explored to find new and better equipment,

“Revisiting maps offers an advantage: you can find gear and supplies in places you’re already familiar with, which is less dangerous than exploring a new environment.”

And avoiding– not fighting– danger is a key element to staying alive in ZombiU. A few false moves and your character ends up dead, respawning as the next and starting from scratch. It’s a harrowing experience to say the least. Of course, if you’re the type of player who likes to be as safe as possible, we’ve got you covered there as well.

“Players can consult the CCTV monitors in the Safe House to discover the list of objects he/she can recover in a map, so the exploration is not haphazard.”

Beyond that though, there’s not too much you can do to avoid death when it really wants to hand you a red card. One of the key things the art team at Ubisoft Montpellier did to keep it difficult was limit your field of vision and make things extremely dark at times. The reason for this is pretty obvious,

“Shadows help install a propitious climate for horror or quite simply, stress.”, he said.

“But don’t worry– there are maps playable by day as well!”



Now, of course, all of this sounds truly wonderful. After the 92% review score given out by the Official Nintendo Magazine, ZombiU is almost a shoe-in for being a pretty great launch title. That being said, I have even more reassurances for you: The developers of the game have worked on several critically acclaimed Ubisoft franchises in the past.

“There are two teams in Montpellier,” he said “the Rayman team and ZombiU team.”

“Some of us [who worked on ZombiU] worked on Beyond Good and Evil, King Kong, Rayman Raving Rabbids, Ghost Recon, From Dust…”

So a whole slew of franchises and experiences make their way into Sunday’s horror epic, and if I had to make an educated guess based on everything I know, I’d expect this one not to let too many people down. A 92% from ONM may not be the end-all be-all for review scores (especially given that they gave Red Steel a 91%), but it’s a good sign when considered in context of positive previews, a skilled development team, and a concept that will be hard to match in Wii U’s coming months.

NintendoEverything will have a ZombiU review for you shortly after launch, but in the meantime we suspect you will all be too busy playing it to care so much.


Bonus quote! The face-morphing zombie app from E3 is still there!

“Yes, this feature is on the disk but is not directly integrated into the game.”




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