The zombies are back and this time they’re taking a lot more victims down with them. Ubisoft’s amazing zombie survival horror game Zombi U has now been fully ported to more than just one console. But, like with all other ports, is it worth your time?
It’s hard to find a zombie game that isn’t reduced to a shoot-fest and it’s even harder to find one that actually manages to frighten you. That was one of the things that appealed to me most about Zombi U when it first released a few years ago. Now you can experience the challenging and naval clenching game on any current gen console. Zombi, as it’s now called, is probably the best take on a zombie game in recent years (though I must admit that I’ve never played Day Z).
Most of the time this sub-section of the horror genre is used to death and has become a massive cliché in the gaming world. But Zombi definitely irons that out in a big way. No longer are you the strapping muscle-clad man running around blasting zom’s heads in while trying to save the planet. Now you’re just the ordinary pleb who’s managed to find themselves in a deadly situation. Zombies have completely overtaken London and possibly the whole of the UK with it and you’re stuck in the centre trying to survive. In comes “The Prepper” a man who’s been preparing for the outbreak for years. He helps you out by teaching you all the tricks of the survivalist trade and gives you a lot of direction, until the story starts to develop.
The story is a little odd, featuring concepts such as alchemy and conspiracy theories, but also involves a lot of English history and, specifically, a man called John Dee. Reading up on him may help you understand the lore of the game a little more.
Unlike most recent horror games, Zombi’s main focus is to make you uneasy and unsure about every move from the second you start playing. Enemies are tough as nuts to kill, ammo is scarce and death is one bite away. Even the layout is meticulous designed to keep you frightened at all times, especially on your first playthrough. The game will take you through ordinary places like a suburb in London, through the sewers and more famous places, like Buckingham palace and the Tower of London. Since this is not my first (or second… or third) playthrough, I lost most of my sense of fear, except for the Nursery section, which still scares me. Actually, I gave out a little yelp after a certain scene – and that’s saying a lot.
All the areas are dark and some are barely visible even with your trusty torch shining its light. Not knowing what lurks around the corner, behind a desk or inside a vent can be really unnerving for the uninitiated. And if the lack of sight doesn’t do you in, the music and creepy sound effects will give you goosebumps. The zoms are just as creepy and sound like rabid animals, growling and snarling as they chase after you. There’s also a nice balance of general dread and jump scares – which spooked me on many occasions.
The zombies themselves are also quite spread out. In most cases you won’t be dealing with hordes, but a handful here and there. This makes each encounter with a zombie very lifelike and creepy. Taking on more than one at a time, especially with a melee weapon, can be your downfall. They’re very tough to kill, even with a gun. Most take about two shots to the head to kill, or about 5 hits with the cricket bat. One wrong move and they can grapple onto you and bite you.
And once you die, you carry on as another survivor. When you start the game, and you’ll always start as “Lucas Mills”, you’ll need to collect a few important things: The Prepper Pad and your BOB (Bug out Bag). The prepper pad, which was originally used with gamepad, serves as your radar & item location device, and your BOB which serves as your inventory system. Because you no longer have the Gamepad, this is where one of the biggest changes had to be made.
You no longer have to look away from the screen to see the map and use the inventory – though I do think that made the game more tense – but I find that it’s rather distracting. The new inventory system is also a total ball ache. You have limited space, like in the original, but instead of quick selecting four weapons on the D-pad, you’re only allowed to allocate two weapons on the left or right buttons. How does that work? Press left once for one weapon, and twice for the other and vice versa for the right button. This stupid system cost me a few lives because I kept pressing the wrong button.
Inventory system aside, the next big issue were the bugs. I can deal with a few minor bugs, but there some doozies. The main one that affected me in a big way was when I searched for items. At any time you can use the prepper pad by pressing the L1 button. In this mode you can scan the environment for all sorts of things, like items, key items, infected, storage units, doors and puzzles. Sometimes, and this happened about three times, your prepper scans items that aren’t there. I’ve included an image below as proof.
Another part that was a little disappointing, is that very little was done to the game. Aside from the changes to the controls and adding in two more melee weapons, you’re basically getting the Wii U version without the extra bits, such as the multiplayer. Visually, it’s a bit dated by today’s standards and nothing was done to improve that. On the plus side, your character doesn’t feel nearly as sluggish as they were in the Wii U version, and that is a very good thing.
Zombi isn’t a perfect port, in fact, I actually prefer the Wii U version, but it’s still a great game for horror fanatics and it’s something that you should play if you don’t have the console. It is a digital download (at 22GB) and the low price point is an added bonus (R299 on PSN). It’s truly a remarkable horror game and in many cases a very underrated one.