In pop-culture, it seems as though the theme of zombies has been done to death (excuse the pun). But just like zombies themselves, the theme keeps coming back from the dead in new and interesting ways. 2012 saw the release of Zombi U, a survival horror game from Ubisoft that sought to give the Wii U some more adult-centric gameplay. Now three years after its initial release, Zombi (drop the U) has been ported to PS4 and Xbox One. But how does it fare?
London is gone. A zombie apocalypse known as the “Black Prophecy” has come to pass, after being foretold of by John Dee over 400 years prior. You are under the watch and guidance of ‘The Prepper’, a mysterious man who only communicates via radio but has set up a safe house and ‘bug-out bag’ to keep you alive. The Prepper guides you through the destroyed streets of London in search of supplies to stay alive and keep track of the undead menace; however there is more at play – along the journey the Player meets Dr Knight, who is seeking to find a cure and whose plans with the player lead to disappointment from The Prepper.
Throughout the journey The Player will come into contact with the Ravens of Dee (of whom the Prepper is an ex-member) as well as other survivors, struggling to make their way through the chaos that is London and the zombie apocalypse.
The most obvious, and annoying thing about Zombi is that being a port of a game from a graphically weaker console, little has been done to improve the quality of the appearance. The game is meant to appear gritty and dim, amplifying the whole idea of the zombie apocalypse and the end of London, however this is soured by the fact that it feels like last-gen graphics on the new consoles. Let nothing take away from the gameplay itself, it just feels like a little more time could have been spent to give it a decent polish before release.Putting this aside, the game still holds up relatively well; the gritty, smoky and foggy atmosphere causes fear at every turn, and the narrow side streets of London add a sense of claustrophobia and panic when exploring. Lighting is scarce above-ground and even darker below-ground, and the torch you are given only lasts so long. The colour palette for most environments is very dark and grey, or fluorescent and white, and the only flashes of vibrant colour are from explosions or flares. This adds to the overall gloomy feel of the game.
Sound plays a massive role in the game too – with distant zombie groans and movements keeping the player on their toes. Objects can also be knocked around the player, leading for care to be taken when moving around the undead. The only company the player has is from The Prepper, whose voice emanates from the speaker on the PS4 controller.
Zombi takes the traditional FPS and adds survival elements to make it one of the fresher gameplay styles of recent times. With limited space in the ‘bug-out bag’, players must decide what items they wish to take and use, and what gets left behind. Certain items such as bullets will stack, others such as planks will not, leading the player to some choices that could benefit or ruin their survival chances.
Ammunition is scarce even though weapons are relatively easy to find, so most of the time the player will rely on a trusty cricket bat as their prime weapon. Sometimes the combat mechanics can get quite annoying – wielding the cricket bat can be slow and cumbersome even for an item that should be fairly light and brutal, and aiming weapons can also often be fairly slow and lead to players being killed.The player is given a map on screen of the area, which can be scanned for movement and to see where doors and points of interest are. The scanner helps identify certain items within an area, such as undead, animals, items and objectives, making it slightly safer for the player to explore (however the scanner cannot register an active or inactive undead person, making it harder to decide what to check). The Prepper acts as a narrator and a guide, helping the player through the level and giving objectives as the game goes along.
One of the coolest features of the game is the ‘perma-death’ initiative. What happens is each time a player begins as a character, they play as that specific character for as long as they can until they are attacked by zombies. If the character dies, they become a zombie and the player restarts from the shelter as a new character, losing all of the collected items. The previously-killed character can then be found out and about as an undead, walking the streets. Often the bag will still contain some items lost to the player previously.
Where Zombi falters in terms of appearance, it makes up for it with innovative gameplay and some pretty scary moments. Fans of survival horror games should definitely check this out, and also those who really love their gore and apocalyptic scenarios. A value game for the price it is at.