ZombiU was a launch title that released with the WiiU back in 2012. I was late to the WiiU party, but ZombiU was one of the first games I picked up and played when I bought the system in late 2013. It’s tense environments, shambling zombies, and intuitive touchpad design made it a flawed, but heavily enjoyable game that I still find myself going back to every now and then. When I first heard news that Ubisoft were releasing ZombiU on the major next gen consoles and PC as Zombi, I was skeptical. How could this game work without the touchpad, that made the game for me! Well, turns out Ubisoft found a way and the game is now available to download digitally on all major platforms. We took the PC version for a test run and and as we soon found out, Zombi is just as nerve racking on the newer consoles as it was on the WiiU.
Zombi is a zombie (duh) survival game where you play a random character who is trying to escape from the zombie infected streets of London. As you begin, a strange voice calling himself the Prepper will direct you to a safehouse where you’ll be spending time in between missions. Prepper will keep tabs on you throughout your journey via the CCTVs all over metropolitan London. Prepper will give you crazy tasks to complete that send you out into the zombie infested streets of London to complete objectives to further your (and most likely his) goals. Your first task upon entering this safehouse is to track down the previous survivor, who the strange voice helped, and take his backpack. Only catch is that he is now a zombie and really has no need for it anymore. This is the first introduction to this games main mechanic – death. When your character dies in Zombi, the game isn’t over. You just become another survivor who takes up the task the previous survivor was undertaking. You will then track down your previous character and kill them (they are a zombie now afterall) and take the items they were carrying as your own. But be careful, because you only have one shot at getting your former self and if you fail, you’ll lost those items, just like a Souls game has you losing all of your souls. This brilliant mechanic is one of the best features of Zombi and really makes it feel like you are truly surviving in a world suffering under the constant threat of zombies.
The best part about Zombi is your ability to scavenge a destroyed world. You really feel like you’re walking through a city that was once alive and well but is now devoid of life. The zombie inhabitants give a the world a constant state of dread and you’ll always be looking around corners and over your shoulder for the next jump scare or shambling zombie. You’ll stumble into apartment buildings, scavenging supplies and finding weapons while experiencing the final moments of the world’s undead residents. While Zombi does have guns in it, you’re going to find that your main source of protection is going to be from melee weapons. The cricket bat was always my go to weapon in the original on the WiiU, but this port has introduced some new weapons like the spiked baseball bat and the shovel. Inventory management, as you can imagine, becomes critical when exploring the streets of London. You can only hold so many items and you need to balance weapons with aid items. As you find stuff in the world, you’re pack will inevitably fill up and you’ll have to make difficult decision of what to keep and what to trash or stash back at your safehouse. The system works fine on it’s own, but it does bring up my first gripe about the game – the peripheral lost in translation.
On the WiiU, Zombi was an inventive game that I had a ton of fun playing. It was clunky, but it had a certain charm to it. That’s because you had to constantly hold up your WiiU gamepad to scan the area, look down at it to handle inventory, and other such activities, all made possible by this device. On the PS4, Xbox One, and PC – this item doesn’t exist. Instead it’s all done on the main screen and a bit of the charm is lost. It may have been a shtick on the WiiU, but it was clever and added to the gameplay. On the PC version I played, it just felt lacking. It’s serviceable, but it’s nothing special. With this lost, you’re left with a zombie game that is good, but not great. There is fun to be had without the gameplay, but a little of the tension is lost and the overall feel is that it’s missing something it should have.
ZombiU wasn’t a top notch game when it came out, but it earned a strong following for it’s unique gameplay and clever use of the gamepad. When translated to other consoles though, a bit of that magic is lost in translation. It helps that the price is only $20 and Ubisoft has given a way for non Nintendo console owners to enjoy a game that was a lot of fun to play a couple years ago. With that said, if you own a WiiU, that is absolutely the console you should be playing this on. If you don’t, you need to ask yourself how much you enjoy zombie games. There are plenty of better zombie games out there like Dying Light and Dead Rising. But, if you just can’t get enough of zombies and want to enjoy a solid game that doesn’t have much added from it’s previous incarnation, then you could do a lot worse than spending 20 bucks on Zombi.
PC review copy provided by UbiSoft