Zombi is a re-release of Ubisoft’s 2012 Nintendo WiiU launch title ‘ZombiU.’ This cockney apocalypse simulator sees the player jaunting around the desolate wasteland that is the undead-riddled streets of London, after it has been ravaged by a virus that turned the populace into a ravenous horde of shrieking corpses. This isn’t an unfamiliar premise. In recent years, zombies have gone from being a simple concept to an entire genre and I think I might be one of the few people out there who isn’t getting bored of the zombie-horror genre because… I don’t know… I’m morbidly obsessed with death or something. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that at this point in the evolution of zombie-horror, you have to innovate in terms of gameplay and/or visuals to really stand out amongst all of the chaff out there. So does Zombi sprint out of your TV screen, screaming and vomiting or does it shamble slowly like a Granny getting on a bus? Let’s find out.
There were moments of genuine panic and terror during Zombi’s 10 hour campaign. When the horde is bearing down on you as you desperately fumble in your backpack for anything with bullets left in it, your heart begins to pound and your fingers start mashing the wrong buttons on your gamepad. Fans of horror games will give me a knowing nod when I say that this is what it’s all about when it comes to survival-horror and Zombi manages to successfully create those moments, regularly and en masse. The fact that these moments take place against the backdrop of a filthy, dark, post-apocalyptic London, with all of its Victorian antiquity and Gothic charm makes for some truly compelling experiences and creeping through the looted remains of Buckingham Palace or the waterlogged walkways of the Tower of London was a unique experience which I shan’t soon forget. However, Zombi unfortunately suffers from a litany of faults that really drag down what could have been an excellent horror game.
Hello sir, would you like a game of cricket?
First of all the bloom….oh God the bloom! Every light source seems to carry a vast perimeter of impenetrable whiteness that only serves to blind and confuse the player. When combined with the generally murky textures I found myself struggling to see my surroundings. You could argue that this is a technique used to add to the panicked atmosphere of the game, but when I have to squint to see what’s going on around me, I’d argue that it’s fair to say that something has gone horribly wrong. This is perhaps part of the greater whole when it comes to this game’s graphical shortcomings because this was a WiiU game from 2012 and you can really tell. You’ll regularly find yourself fighting two or three identical Zombies, so either London has a disproportionate amount of twins, triplets and beefeaters or Zombi could do with having a few more zombie models produced for it. I played it on my PC, a platform upon which it is generally expected that we can configure the game to run with our hardware. Unfortunately, Zombi had options for changing the resolution and turning VSync on and off and that’s about it. No texture quality, no draw distance, no lighting, shaders, shadows. All of this and the above combined gives the feel of a lazy, rushed port that could have been so much more with just a little extra effort.
I’ll be the first to argue that graphics don’t necessarily make a great game and to Zombi’s credit, it does attempt to innovate with some fairly novel gameplay ideas. You begin the game as a lone survivor who is found and assisted by an observer who calls himself ‘the prepper.’ Monitoring you via London’s CCTV network, he acts as both a guide and a narrator, as a plot detailing the fall of London unfolds around you. Unfortunately, the story feels somewhat contrived and forced, with a silly romantic sub-plot taking place that really doesn’t sit well with the grim surroundings. A supernatural element is shoe-horned in involving Angelic languages as well as sci-fi gadgetry and it all begins to feel as though Zombi doesn’t really know what it wants to be. Interestingly, whenever you die you respawn at your safe house as a completely different person. The game leaves you to assume that this new survivor was picked up by the prepper sometime after your death and while I actually enjoyed the idea that you can then go back to your previous character’s now shambling corpse and re-acquire all of your gear, the amount of backtracking this sometimes required began to get tiring very quickly. Furthermore, the story then continues as though nothing happened. Why is a completely different person acting on the motivations of a dead guy who he/she has never met? This is never explained and it constantly bothered me.
Just a standard Friday night in London
When it comes to a game about killing zombies, the more cultured among you will be thinking that the only thing that really matters is whether or not the killing of zombies is fun. Well, it is. Some of the guns, particularly the pistol feel like you’re throwing wadded up spit-balls at a jeep, but grab yourself a shovel or a cricket bat and you’re in for some gruesome fun. This really is Zombi’s saving grace and smashing the mouldering brains out of a limping, rotting policeman was way more fun than it legally ought to be. But I’m afraid that’s about as far as the fun goes, especially when it comes to the menagerie of mini-games which I’m sure were really cool when played on a WiiU touch-screen remote, but just feel like pointless busy-work when played with any other game pad (I played this with my Xbox controller by the way.)
I could go on about how most of the items seemed useless and the inventory system was a pain in the ass but the truth is that I would be doing this game a disservice. If you’re a fan of the zombie-survival genre then there is a lot to like about Zombi and I would recommend picking it up and giving it a go because, despite its shortcomings, there’s still a lot to like here and perhaps most importantly, there’s enough to like to keep it fun during its relatively short running time. Having said that, if zombies aren’t your thing then there’ll be very little of interest to you in Zombi.