Wii U — First Impressions

Wii U — First Impressions

The first home 8th generation video game console is finally upon us and it’s Nintendo leading the charge with the release of the Wii U. I’ve got a hold of the Premium ZombiU edition, so if you’re stuck on the fence about buying one then hopefully this should help you out. Here are some first impressions:

Appearance

The Wii U and gamepad

After unboxing everything, the first thing that is noticeable is how long the console is. While it only stands at about 2 inches high and has a width of around 7″, it stretches way back over 10″. It’s a strange looking beast, but the sleek lines and rounded sides make it one of the better looking consoles despite its proportions. The black version is a real fingerprint magnet though, so look forward to wiping it down every time you touch it.

Gamepad

The gamepad is surprisingly light, and with the moulded grips on the back it can be held easily in one hand. With the wider button layout it does take some getting used to but the gamepad works effectively as a standard controller. The 6″ touch screen offers a different input method, which also works well — screen presses are registered accurately and with little lag. As a second screen the touch screen is impressive, the colours are vivid and again there is very little lag.

However, the gamepad isn’t without its faults. Its built-in speaker is lacklustre and when it plays the same sounds as the TV (which is surprisingly often) the brief lag becomes really noticeable, adding a small echo to the sound. Also, using the gyroscopic controls feels awkward for a reason I can’t quite explain; perhaps because it forces you to neglect the main screen.

In the ZombiU bundle there is also a pro controller included, which feels like a more lightweight version of the Xbox 360 controller. It seems to be slightly smaller than the 360 pad as well, but after comparing the two side by side they are the same size. In fact, apart from the battery case on the back of the Xbox controller and the alternate placement of the second joystick the two are almost identical. The Wii U pro controller does have a much better D-pad though, offering crisp and decisive presses.

The Wii U Pro Controller (left) and Xbox 360 controller (right).

Connecting the console

Setting up the Wii U is easy, it’s simply a case of connecting the power cable to the electricity and the HDMI to TV. Nintendo have even been kind enough to throw in a HDMI cable. It’s only 1 metre long though, so you might want to pick up a cheap one anyway. The Wii U also has a standard definition output for older TVs, this uses the same wire as the Wii did but it isn’t included. There’s a surprising lack of ports in the back of the console. In addition to those already mentioned, there are only another 2 USB slots and a slot for the Wii sensor bar, with a further 2 USBs and a SD card slot hidden under a flap at the front. It would have been nice to have an optical cable output for some high quality audio but sadly there isn’t one.

Another minor issue connecting everything up is that the power lead has a power-brick halfway down the wire that isn’t disconnectable like the 360 one is. This can be a nightmare for those who have a lot of wires cluttering up the place.

Set-Up

When everything is hooked up there is a surprisingly painless and intuitive set-up process that connects the gamepad, sets time and date and allows you to set up your internet connection. Already the gamepad shows some of its usefulness as typing in network details on the PS3 and 360 tend to be a pain, whereas on the Wii U you can just tap out the details with the stylus that is concealed in the back of the pad. If you do set up your internet then you’ll be rewarded with a system update that is needed to access online content, which for me took over an hour to download and install. Hopefully this is just a teething problem and not a sign of things to come.

You can also set up your Nintendo Network ID (the Wii U equivalent of a Gamertag or PSN ID) and configure the gamepad to function as a TV remote. I was unable to do the latter because I am using a PC monitor to play on. However, I did set up a Nintendo Network ID which required creating a Mii. The automatic Mii creator that was featured on the 3DS has been brought to the Wii U and it’s just as useless as the handheld version was. The theory is that, by using the front facing camera in the gamepad, the software captures your image and then converts it to a Mii. However, my Wii U’s approximation of myself was less accurate than a 4-year-old’s drawing.

Apps

The Miiverse allows users to talk to one another through short messages and pictures.

So far the only apps on show are for Netflix, LoveFilm and YouTube. NetFlix and LoveFilm both load very quickly, but since I don’t have an account for those services I can’t tell you much more about them. On the other hand YouTube app is slow to load but actually quite useful. The video is displayed on the main screen, while the description appears on the gamepad. Searching for videos is easy and the apps runs at a decent pace. There seems to be too few viewing options though, the main video and sound always appears on the main screen whereas I would like the option to choose between the TV and gamepad.

As well as these apps there is also a dedicated browser, which may be the best on any games console. It’s responsive, intuitive and easy to use; but doesn’t support flash and seems to only load mobile sites. So while its no replacement for browsing on a PC its a definite progression from previous console browsers.

Gameplay

Currently the only game I’ve played for the console is ZombiU. From a graphical point of view, ZombiU doesn’t look much better than PS3 or Xbox 360 games, but what it lacks in graphical impact it excels in terms of gameplay in ways nothing on those consoles can compete with. The gamepad is used in innovative ways that actually enhance the feel of the game. So often when new technology is introduced it is used in a gimmicky way that detracts from the game as a whole. This isn’t the case with ZombiU, but you’ll be able to hear more about that when we post the full review next week.

From my experience with the console, it’s clear to see the potential in the Wii U. It offers a play-style that hasn’t been seen in any other console and the possible uses for the gamepad seem almost limitless. ZombiU has merely scratched the surface of what’s possible on the Wii U and I can’t wait to see what’s to come.

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