It's hard to imagine a more dreary London than that of Ubisoft's Zombi (or ZombiU if you played it a while back on Wii U). Not quite fifty shades of grey makes up the colour palette and constant rain makes up a perfect backdrop to a post-apocalyptic tale of conspiracies and prophecies. The game takes us to familiar locales like Buckingham Palace and The Tower of London, and of course we're bludgeoning zombie beefeaters.
This game lost it's U elements in the shift from Wii U to PC, PS4, and Xbox One, but for the most part (we'll get to what's missing later) it remains the very same game. London has fallen victim to the zombie apocalypse and as a survivor (or a bunch of them depending on your fortunes), you're tasked by a mysterious voice to help in unravelling the conspiracy behind the outbreak. It's a fairly basic plot that fails to grip us, but it's serviceable... as is most of Zombi to be perfectly honest. It's enjoyable, yet ultimately forgettable.
The narrative is presented in a rather lacklustre manner that draws on inspiration from the likes Bioshock and Half-Life, but never achieves those heady heights. Instead you're left wondering why you're doing the biddings of these people sending you on errands, and why they're blaming you for choices you never made.
The narrative takes an obvious backseat to the gameplay as does the premise of perma-death (in the main mode when you die you start over with a new survivor at your safe house and your first order of business is typically to find and kill your previous survivor in order to regain the items in their backpack). There are places where if you return with a new character, rather than repeating a line, the NPC simply says "ahh, it's you again" when clearly it's not. It doesn't help immersion, and while the narrative makes this mistake you cannot map shortcuts (on your D-Pad) that carries over from survivor to survivor, so apart from a bit of backtracking you're also punished with excessive item management if you die.
However, there's little punishment in terms of actual difficulty - in fact, in some situations (scripted ones) you can simply opt to die as long as you've secured the quest item (as your next survivor will have it equipped as he or she wakes up). Of course, if you play the hardcore mode with true perma-death it's another story altogether and staying alive becomes a priority.
There are some nice jump-scares spread through the adventure (if you like that sort of thing), and if you happen to die it should be said these don't repeat. The atmosphere does a good job as well, and instructions though radio communications can be mapped to the speaker on your DualShock 4, which helps with immersion.
One of the more interesting features of ZombiU was the use of the GamePad to let players manage their equipment and backpack in real time. This feature is simulated in Zombi by the camera panning out as you canvass the contents of your backpack. It works well, and if were it not for the fact that we're aware of a better solution (in the Wii U version), we would likely have been more enthused by it. Other features that have been stripped away in this port are the multiplayer (which was a bit lacking on Wii U to be perfectly honest) and the feature that let you leave messages for other players. None of these missing features are vital, but two and a half years on it feels a bit odd to play a stripped down version of the Wii U launch title offering on more powerful consoles.
The visuals in Zombi leave a lot to be desired. We experienced some imperfections (playing on PS4) such as clipping, the occasional dip in frame rate. On the whole this game looks the part of a mediocre old-gen title.
Recently there has been an unhealthy amount HD remasters. By that we're not saying there's anything wrong with them, but we'd rather see them limited to games that we actually have fond memories of - not the ones we've already forgotten about. While ZombiU isn't particularly memorable it does offer some nice concepts and deserves a shot at a bigger audience than Wii U offers.
It should be noted from the offset that Zombi is not really a survival game. It's more of a traditional survival horror title with some light survival features thrown in for good measure. If you're expecting sandbox environments and lots of tools to play around with you'll be disappointed. The gameplay is very reminiscent of say The Evil Within, but more repetitive. It's a game where you're asked to make the most of your resources and try to avoid getting overwhelmed by isolating enemies and taking out packs from afar.
The gunplay and melee combat is okay without standing out. One thing that bothered us a little was the fact that a lot of the combat situations (even when facing packs) could be handled simply by swinging the cricket bat repeatedly with decent timing. As a result we didn't feel as empowered as we would have liked when we finally got access to a shotgun, an assault rifle and a crossbow.
There's little doubt that ZombiU was a bit rushed to meet its deadline of the Wii U launch, and as such it's disappointing that Zombi doesn't build on the concept and take advantage of the time that's have come to pass since its initial release. Instead we're left with an (admittedly) affordable (£15) and underwhelming port of a game that never fully lived up to its full potential on Wii U.
If you were interested in ZombiU back when it launched but never got around to playing it on Wii U you may want to pick this up as it does offer some neat ideas, just don't expect to be blown away.
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