So, I finally figured out what’s been bothering me about this game.
I like a lot of things about it. I like the intentional, grounded environments. I like the low-budget grossness, that the game leans into like a good B-movie (I mean, the game’s hideous, but it does have a certain aesthetic quality.) I like how the game leaves you spaces and mechanics and choices. It’s linear, but in the right way giving the player agency and consequences in a game space. I love the tragedy of seeing a character you used to inhabit turned monstrous. I love how, as @WastelandHound describes, the game gives you just enough room to make your own stories.
But there was something, besides the shallow melee and the repetitive enemy design that was bothering me. It was a lack of humanity.
Dark Souls has a near-apocalyptic, grounded space with consequences for death and multitude of stories and play styles. But it also has Firelink Shrine. The moments of saving and redeeming others. It is a game world of both kindness and cruelty. The sublime and the hideous.
ZombiU has only ugliness and although its spaces feel lived in and real, it lacks that touch of the human. I want to see who these people were. Their dreams and their problems. Only then can the tragedy of zombies truly strike.
It’s a mess and there’s a lot to like in it. Ultimately, its tension is hollow, without a real human cost.
I’m looking forward to seeing what Waypoint thinks about it!