Zombi, a launch title for the Wii U, has finally made its way on to PC and current gen. Whilst the game maintains much of its originality and charm, some very glaring issues make the game a cautious buy. Technical issues and outdated mechanics really bring down such a potentially amazing game, which therefore struggles to compete with some of the last few years best horror games.
The player progresses through the game by taking control of a random character who must then act through a series of objectives given to you by radio. A very simple concept made special by the fact that these characters are very expendable. Once you die, you wake up in the body of a new character who must then continue to act out the objectives. This gives you a lot of motivation to carry on the campaign as it gives each of these characters their very own special storyline. My first character; a small, female, plumber lasted until getting eaten by soldiers in a military tent. Something completely unscripted but has stuck with me.
In fact, I remember just about every character that I have played and this surprises me. There really isn’t much to them, they aren’t voiced and you barely know what they look like. But their story remains with you as the game gives you so many strong and memorable experiences. The atmosphere that the game creates really is amazing, not unlike playing through Alan Wake or Dead Space (not 3). There is an almost tangible tension to passing through the world and even the most distant shriek will make you sit up in your chair.
However as time passes, the tenseness of the first few hours quickly passes. For some reason the game feels the need to ‘hide’ zombies in little spaces and holes which gets rid of the tension that every possible second could be your last. Instead your left walking scripted moment to scripted moment, which are surprisingly easy to point out. These cheap moments completely take you out of the experience. For example, your objective may be to get a key from a box, but you know that when you grab that key, five or six zombies will spawn. Therefore you prepare and place down mines etc. In many other games this wouldn’t be an issue, but in a game which tries so hard to be authentic and natural, its absurd. The game also features a radar system which pings zombies on your minimap, however this only serves to point out just how frequent these moments are with multiple zombies suddenly spawning out of no where.
The world also doesn’t feel consistent with multiple backtracking causing zombies to spawn in the same area over and over again. In the end, it doesn’t feel unlike running through a Call of Duty zombies map, with zombies magically spawning out of invisible walls and locked doors. The genuine feel of being in a zombie apocalypse quickly makes way to feeling like you’re in an arcade. This also seriously hinders the replayability, if you know where zombies spawn and when, there is no reason to be tense. The maps are also not too interesting with very few areas to actually explore and not much to find. The game also feels the need to put effects on the camera when in really dark areas which literally just look like vaseline on the screen.
The feeling of death around every corner and constant fear dies as quickly as your first character.
It also doesn’t help that the world isn’t very interesting. Most of the exposition comes from the burly man over the radio and there isn’t much to find to make the world any deeper. In fact there isn’t much of anything in the world. This is understandable as it is an apocalypse, but something is needed to distract you from the humdrum journey of A-to-B. One saving grace is that London is actually an amazing setting, the British zombies and locations are very well represented and nostalgic for an Englishman like me, albeit lacking variety. However if you’re looking for a good zombie survival story, look elsewhere.
The games age also shows. The models are ugly and animations poor and repetitive. The floaty strike of the bat will very quickly get old. The controls also feel sluggish and unresponsive. Many-a-time have I almost died due to the controls and I’ve had a few cheap deaths, often to just one zombie. Stuttering has also occurred and there have been many frame drops. Nothing game breaking, but it does show the lack of polish present in the game.
The sounds are also fairly unimpressive. With ambient sounds being fairly disappointing and zombies being very uninspired. The voice acting is decent and well-delivered but there isn’t much of it and you’ll quickly grow to hate having the radio be the main voice you hear.
Backtracking is also an issue which becomes irritating as once you die, you must then make your way to the death of your last character. This can take a couple of minutes and many swear words, eventually just leading you to turning of the console, after too much of it.
It is also worth to note the price, £14.99 for this game is more than fair for the content that you’re getting and does definitely offer value, even if only for a couple of play throughs. However there wouldn’t be any reason to purchase this game if you owned the Wii U version.
The positive praise of the original is not undeserved. It just feels outdated and stale on the current consoles. Technical issues are rife and many bad mechanics bring you out of the experience. Its hard to recommend this horror experience over something like Alien Isolation or Outlast but it is enjoyable and does bring some fresh ideas to the table. The reincarnation is particularly interesting and does help to break up the monotony of the tasks at hand and atmosphere it creates really is amazing. If the game does get a sequel (let’s hope it does), it would not surprise me to find these issues fixed, but they are noticeable.
Release date 18th August 2015. Xbox One, PS4 and PC.
**This game was reviewed on the Xbox One with the most recent patch as of writing. The author bought the copy of the game himself and no crashes or severe bugs were experienced. Issues have been reported on the PC version regarding Uplay but this is not something experienced on the Xbox One version.**