Returning to the Zombie-filled streets of London. It hasn’t changed much…
Ubisoft’s ZombiU was one of the stand out games from the launch of Nintendo’s Wii U console, offering not only mature excitement that stepped away from the usual family-friendly fare, but also making great use of Nintendo’s new-fangled GamePad. Still, that was nearly three years ago and much has changed since then. For starters, Microsoft and Sony have both since launched their new generation consoles, the Xbox One and PS4. The sudden announcement from Ubisoft that they were releasing a port of their Wii U launch game for these two new consoles, and the PC, in a digital only format was quite the surprise. However, once I started playing the game on Xbox One, it all came flooding back.
In case you were not around for the Wii U launch, or just were not interested at the time, let’s run through what Zombi is all about. It may not surprise you to hear that Zombi places the player into the shoes of a survivor of a Zombie apocalypse. Set in London, frequent visitors to the city will find a lot that feels familiar, but all with a more derelict and threatening atmosphere. There will be a lot of gathering supplies, fighting Zombies and quite likely dying.
Zombi is not an easy game, and it is where the game deals with death that things get really interesting. When the player dies in the game, their corpse will rise as a Zombie and continue on its brain munching way. The player will respawn back in the safety of their safe house as a new survivor, without any of the hard-earned supplies their previous character had gathered. That may seem a bit harsh, but all is not lost, as their supplies are still out there, in the backpack attached to the Zombie corpse of their previous character. All you have to do is trace your steps and get them back. Of course, if you die before retrieving them, they are gone for good.
There are plenty of other ways that the game raises the tension and the sense of urgency. Using the inventory, which is something that players will find themselves spending a lot of time doing, doesn’t pause the game, so players have to be really quick or really lucky. Also, the use of darkness and shadows, countered only by the players torch and very useful radar which pings anything moving in the vicinity, mean that there is an ever present fear of what is hiding in the dark.
Combat in the game is tense and thoughtful. Starting out with just a cricket bat (in a typically British fashion) and a pistol, players will be able to come across other weapons during their searches. However, as is always the case in survival horror games, ammunition is scarce and players will have to be very careful with their aiming to make every bullet count. The melee involves lining up a swing and letting it rip at just the right moment, all the while being aware that the more Zombies that show up, the lower the chance of survival. This is especially true when new types of Zombies are introduced, such as the riot police Zombies which can take a real battering thanks to their riot armour.
Playing Zombi on the Xbox One is a very similar experience for anyone who played the game on the Wii U. This is a straight forward port with very little that has changed. There are some obvious changes, mostly in the form of the GamePad functions which have been remapped elsewhere, such as the radar now appearing on the screen. These all work very well and, while not as innovative as the game on the Wii U, ensure that the game plays as good as it did on the Wii U.
The downside of such a straight forward port is that Zombi has not aged especially well. In only three years, players have already come to expect more and the level design in Zombi just doesn’t cut it. The game is not short of minor glitches and frame rate drops either, although there is nothing that will spoil the overall game that I have found.
Zombi U was an innovative game with little competition. Three years later and Zombi on Xbox One is an enjoyable survival horror game with the added threat of permadeath. Some of the things that made Zombi U great are absent in this port, but that doesn’t mean the game isn’t worth a punt. With the low price, Zombi is well worth a look for any survival horror fans that didn’t get to play the game on Wii U.