Originally released on the Wii U, and fully utilizing the second screen function of the Gamepad, Ubisoft’s ZombiU was a killer app for the then recently launched system. Featuring a unique blend of survival horror, permadeath mechanics, and truly frightening first-person gameplay, the game was a solid horror title, despite its fair share of issues. But despite its warm reception, being a Wii U exclusive kept it from selling as well as it should have, and many wondered if the experience would even work without the second screen features.
Developed by Ubisoft Montpellier and Straight Right / Published by Ubisoft
Available on the PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Reviewed on the Xbox One.
*Review code provided by Ubisoft
With Zombi, Ubisoft has finally brought over the first-person horror to the PC, PS4 and Xbox One, bringing enhanced graphics and streamlining the second screen controls and features to work on one screen and standard controllers. But is the release on current-gen consoles and PC good enough with the second screen and three years too late?
Zombi is essentially the same game that released on the Wii U, which is both a good and bad thing. As before, players step into the shoes of a survivor of a London zombie outbreak, scavenging what little is left in the city to survive day by day, while searching for a way out of the whole mess.
The gameplay, just like the original, is tight, frightening and pretty fun, requiring players to fend off legions of deadly zombies while gathering items and weapons that will prolong their survival. As a loner who’s constantly outnumbered by the undead, players must carefully sneak about, scan the environment for collectable goodies, barricade doors with wood to prevent unwanted entry, and take out lone dead stragglers to proceed through areas without danger lurking about. Taking on large groups of the undead is never a good idea, as the playable character is pretty frail and ammunition for the infrequent firearms is scarce, meaning players will mostly be using melee weapons (now with two new weapons including the longer-ranged shovel and damaging nail bat) to defend themselves, which aren’t very good at taking on more than two or three at a time. Dying is also never a good idea, as death will permanently kill off your character and assign you a new one, and the only way to recover collected items is returning to the scene of the crime and taking it off your former and newly undead avatar. It’s a fun, thrilling and often nerve-wracking experience that places a big emphasis on survival, and makes for one of the more authentic zombies games available today.
Now, a big part of the original release was the Wii U gamepad, which served a number of functions as well as giving players themselves control of some of the actions with unique motion controls. Not only did the gamepad serve as a radio communicator in which NPCs contacted the player, a mini-map and an environmental scanner that highlighted collectable items as well as hidden undead, it also let players aim firearms using the internal gyroscope, remove planks and manage inventory with the touchpad, and more. Thankfully, Zombi does a fantastic job at including these features in the new release so that they can be easy enjoyed on a standard controller and a single screen, so much so that the differences are barely noticeable and it’s fairly comfortable to play. The mini-map is placed on a corner of the screen so it’s always available, the scanner can be brought up with a touch of a button and controlled with an analog stick, the inventory is a button tap away, etc. It all feels very natural and easy to use with a regular controller. Straight Right did a wonderful job at bringing these mechanics to current-gen consoles and the PC, and newcomers will feel right at home.
That doesn’t mean that all is well with Zombi however, as it seems that the game did bring back quite a few of the nasty bugs that plagued the original, which is a shame as Straight Right did have some time to iron these out before releasing it on current-gen consoles. Among the issues returning to haunt players are weird A.I. animations, enemies that clip through the environment, melee attacks that will often send zombies flying and bouncing comically upwards, freezing, and more, often pulling the player out of the experience. With a game that’s often terrifying and enjoyable, it’s terrible when you have to run into numerous issues through the course of the game.
Additionally, the game also comes lacking modes, which ultimately aren’t missed, but would have added some variety to the game, like the online components where players could share helpful messages, or the multiplayer where one player summoned zombies while another would slaughter them. Not having them isn’t really an issue though.
When it comes down to it, Zombi is a great port that does an admirable job at bringing a former Nintendo exclusive first-person survival horror game to the PC and current-gen consoles. Straight Right did fantastic work with getting the gamepad’s unique features to work on a single screen and a standard controller, and while the game itself does suffer from terrible and frequent bugs and glitches that have been around since early release, fans of the genre that missed out the first time around will definitively want to give this game a shot.