ZombiU as it was known in 2012 is a first-person survival horror game, a WiiU exclusive launch title from Ubisoft Montpellier that made extensive use of the gamepad for inventory management and scanning purposes as well as a multiplayer mode, the latter of which was cut for this renamed and retooled version “Zombi”.
So what has changed? As I said the Game Pad integration is gone instead pressing back on the controller makes the character kneel and open his back pack up so you can see if you’re being (or about to be) attacked by a zombie, the map is now displayed on the bottom right hand corner of the screen, holding left bumper brings up the prepper pad which scans environments, field of view increased, general movement and control improvements and finally two new mêlée weapons, a shovel which has a longer reach and a nail bat, both of which also do more damage than the standard cricket bat.
As a survival horror game one of the most important things to get right in the atmosphere, I recently played Resident Evil Remastered for the first time and I thought Zombi sits very well in that company to the point where I would say if you had told me it was a Resident Evil spin-off I wouldn’t have questioned it.
You rarely feel “safe” in this zombie filled London, the sense of isolation and impending doom are nicely executed, when you’re out scouting for supplies or doing story missions that sense of danger sticks around. With ammo and health packs not especially plentiful you have to be careful to make sure you don’t face too many zombies at one time, trying to take down two zombies with a mêlée weapon is fine but anymore than that and you’ve got serious problems, you’ll be fine with a gun but you should really focus on saving it for when you absolutely need it.
Back-tracking to scavenge for supplies is encouraged with your safe house giving you an idea of where you need to scout out these items, you can get access to all parts of the game again to pick up what you left.
Theres different ways you can play within reason too, there are many weapon choices (pistols, mêlée as mentioned, assault rifles, shot guns, crossbows) and flares and molotov cocktails, you need to choose careful what you assign to the d-pad for quick access, you can try to attack zombies with mêlée and isolate them or draw small groups together with the flare then molotov them.
It had a few moments that caused “scares” where things jumped out at me although that horror vibe comes across well as I’ve said in that isolated feeling and using your weapons efficiently and not having things jump out at you all the time which was the better way to do it for me.
What I did find somewhat disappointing was the lack of story development, you have the “Prepper” guiding you across the game, the main character and the only one you really connect with and even then its only over the radio. This is generally the same with the few other characters except one and you don’t even really actually meet them, I understand this is done to keep your sense of isolation I guess but ultimately it is a really disappointingly undeveloped part of the game.
Perma-death is another aspect of it which has its own sort of meta-game, when you die rather than going back to a checkpoint you start back at the safe house as a new survivor. The problem here again is that outside of quick glimpse of what they look like there’s no attempt made to develop any sort of attachment to these characters, with that only coming from the score you get for each one as you survive longer, kill more zombies and so on, when they die you get their total score and a few other stats and begin again as someone else. Its worth noting you start again with only flashlight, pistol and cricket bat, you need to go and find (and even kill if you got infected) your deceased survivor and get all your stuff back, should you die in the mean time all of that stuff is lost forever.
There are multiple difficulty settings to give people a choice, under the normal campaign you have “Chicken” and “Normal” difficulties and then the “Survivor” type, the latter of which you get one survivor and if you die that’s it, you are done and need to start from the beginning.
Something else I liked a lot was the setting, it is an intriguing one for a game like this and as a former resident of London its interesting to see how well they capture that feeling of the city, the cramped architectural design filters through incredibly well and its a good backdrop for what the developer is trying to do.
The remastered and retooled Zombi runs mostly well on Xbox One, the opening video leaves a bad impression with some skipping and slowdown but in-game outside of a few isolated incidences it ran well although the game isn’t a looker by any means. It has been up-ressed to 1080p and that’s about it, I’d even go so far as to say its even a bit ugly and does feel unpolished but for a $20 port of a 2012 WiiU launch title perhaps I’m being a bit harsh. I met little in the way of bugs though so that is a bonus.
Zombi is a really good horror game, a few rough edges and a lack of character and story development don’t take too much away from its great atmosphere and gameplay I thought that has transitioned well to the retooled release. It’s the Resident Evil sequel or spin-off we’ll probably never get and that’s a shame because it’s really good and surprised me a lot in how much I enjoyed it, I’d certainly recommend it if you enjoy that sort of game.