Super Meat Boy wasn't the first game to make instant death a central gameplay theme, but it's certainly one of the best examples of how to effectively employ that design. If the game had life meters and regenerating health, I doubt that it would be as exciting and potentially terrifying as it is. Though it's not a horror game by any stretch, there is no denying that Super Meat Boy has plenty of scary jumps, death machines, and bloody disasters. Yet, for all the game's intimidating lethality, it's hard as hell to put down.
ZombiU takes that philosophy towards in-game death and brings it to the FPS. Having finally played the campaign mode of the game for myself, I can say that the way the ZombiU handles dying and respawning does a lot to set it apart from the pack. It fills you with dread to know that you may suffer a one-hit kill at any moment, but at the same time, death doesn't feel like too harsh of a punishment.
When you quickly respawn into a new character, it's invigorating. After death, I was filled with motivation to prove that "the new me" is someone smarter and stronger than the morons that just got themselves killed seconds before. Going back to kill the zombie that had murdered my prior character, and the zombie that my old character had turned into (to get my old loot back) gave me the feeling that I could truly conquer death (at least for the moment).
It's clear that ZombiU isn't a big-budget affair like Left 4 Dead or Dead Rising. It doesn't pack the screen with enemies or otherwise work to overwhelm you with flash and bluster. Instead, the game supplies a Demon's/Dark Souls-inspired focus on sweet agony and will to overcome past failures. That's something I can get behind.