With or without U
When Nintendo’s Wii U launched in 2012, it was instantly hamstrung by a dearth of appealing games, and it took Nintendo an age to rectify that situation. However, there was one shining light among the dross: Ubisoft’s ZombiU. Which has now resurfaced, lightly remade, as Zombi for the PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Zombi is only available as a digital download, but we can be thankful for that, since it means that it luxuriates in a wallet-friendly price of £14.99. For that money, you get an awful lot of gameplay. It is, of course, a zombie game, set rather cutely in London, and, in the general spectrum of zombie games, it takes its place on the rigorous, first-principles wing.
So you start with just a cricket bat and a torch, and your first task is to head for a safe house in the Tube network. Once in there, you’re given instruction in how to survive by the disembodied voice of an ex-soldier – whose comments are generally wry and well-written. You’re tasked with running various errands, such as getting a network of CCTV cameras back online and repelling a zombie influx, and start accumulating useful items, such as ever-more-powerful guns, health-packs, zombie-distracting flares, Molotov cocktails and so on.
Then you’re sent to Buckingham Palace (since you start off in East London, the game plays fast and loose with geography, which will amuse London residents), in order to find some heavier weaponry, and become embroiled in a sub-plot involving the royal doctor, who has barricaded himself in a lab and is seeking an antidote to the zombie-inducing outbreak. From then on, the storyline becomes steadily more ludicrous – although enjoyably so – throwing increasingly exotic types of zombies at you, along with some fearsomely tricky boss-battles. Every time you die, you respawn as a new survivor which, again, is pretty cool – one minute, you can be a tramp, the next a policewoman.
Developer Straight Right has only lightly reheated the original. Zombi’s graphics are demonstrably sharper and cleaner than those of ZombiU – which is much appreciated, since most of the game takes place in very murky surroundings. And this time around, your torch has two levels of luminescence, which again lessens the need for you to squint through the darkness – although you’ll still find yourself jumped by zombies appearing seemingly from nowhere. It’s your fault if that happens, though, as you have a sort of radar which can detect them, and a scanner which picks out useful items and helps you solve puzzles, which also has an element of night-vision built in. Zombi’s rigour, admirably, dictates that zombies won’t refrain from attacking you just because you’re using your scanner (or, indeed, rummaging around in your rucksack for critical items).
The transition from the Wii U Gamepad to more conventional gamepads has been handled pretty well although, on the PlayStation 4, the crucial ability to assign objects to the D-Pad has, rather annoyingly, been restricted to just four slots, via single or double-tapping the horizontal buttons and ignoring the vertical ones. That is, at least, in keeping with the realistic nature of the game, in which ammunition is scarce and, even though you move in a fairly clunky manner, the cricket bat is the most useful all-round weapon. When beset by a clutch of zombies, you’re almost bound to die unless you have an area-weapon like a molotov cocktail or a hand-grenade. Running away, regrouping and taking a more tactical approach (by, say, distracting zombies with a flare and taking them out with a grenade) is de rigueur.
While Zombi doesn’t do anything that we haven’t already seen in a zombie-game, and in comparison with the likes of Dying Light feels a tad basic and less than cutting-edge in technological terms, it’s still a thoroughly entertaining effort which will delight zombie-game aficionados. If you like zombie-games and never invested in a Wii U, snapping it up for a paltry fifteen quid is an absolute no-brainer.