The last few years have most definitely seen the undead rise once again, with zombies and shufflers appearing in a ton of newly released titles. What was once confined to the inner sanctuary of Nintendo, ZombiU has now been revamped by Ubisoft and upgraded to a big enough degree by Straight Right to warrant a release on Xbox One. But is this one zombie apocalypse too far?
If you’d asked me to review the ZombiU version of the game when it was first released back in 2012 on the WiiU, then chances are I’d be waxing lyrical about the scares, gore and full on jumps that it brings. But three years is a long time in video game terms and whilst the game has come to Xbox One with a fairly reasonable quality in tow, it doesn’t in any way match up against one of the best zombie filled releases of recent times.
Because whilst Zombi has has finally shown up, the timing of its release on Xbox couldn’t be much worse. There’s a new boy in town, and he comes covered in blood stained clothes with his brain hanging out of his skull. That kids name? Dying Light! The cool kid that all other zombie titles should live up to.
Set in the middle of London, a city caught in the midst of the Last Blight, the population has turned as the United Kingdoms capital has been covered in a fog of death. With mindless monsters feeding on the flesh of the last few survivors, it is up to you to survive on the streets and in the iconic underground as you attempt to battle on past the zombie outbreak. Your one real saving grace is that of your backpack, enabling you to store vast quantities of items, tools and weapons as you try to fight off the undead forces. But die, and the goodies you have saved up will need to be retrieved…normally from the back of the undead.
And if I’m being honest, it all works reasonably well. Although the control scheme really does need looking at, the sneaking around and general confrontations that you’ll experience in Zombi are of a fairly decent quality. Combat leaves a little to be desired though, and even though smashing them around the face with a cricket bat or lining up a headshot with a pistol all work, the slow cumbersome pace in which it is actioned wears thin real quick.
The controls are though fine, except that is for when you really want to get out of there in a hurry. A press and hold of the left stick isn’t the ideal way to escape the apocalypse and whenever there is the need for a long chase, you’ll constantly find yourself switching between a run and walk numerous times. It’s frustrating to see and when you’ve got a horde chasing you down, is the last thing you really want! There are times when all you need to do is run as fast as you can, and the action of trying to hold down the stick, whilst also using it to navigate your way around, becomes tricky.
And that’s a bad thing, because when you get caught, unless you can back yourself into a corner and just hope and pray that your bat has enough force in it to dispatch all oncomers, you’ll start getting attacked from all angles, eventually succumbing to too many zombie bites and seeing your life ebb away as the disease that has ridden London fills your veins. In no way do you ever feel completely overpowered like you sometimes do in Dying Light, but whenever you come up against three, four, five or more in one sitting, the chances of you getting out of there alive are pretty slim.
Thankfully, Ubisoft have decided it would be great fun if you could then re-emerge as a new character, picking up exactly from where you left off. Always awakening in the secure safe house, you then have a choice to make. Do you start out on your mission again, utlising the numerous shortcuts that have been found and hoping that you can overcome the force of the undead a second time round, or do you go out searching for your dead predeccessor, hoping to loot his lifeless body and grabbing the riches that you had previously uncovered.
Honestly, I never for one moment thought this was an essential piece of the gameplay and nearly always went for the former plan. Not that it ever worked mind you because it was never long before I’d be waking up again as a completely new character.
Rinse and repeat leaving the safehouse, going out to try to hit an objective before then dying again and you’ll find yourself on a vicious loop of death that is seemingly never ending. Yes, you may better your previous score, and yes you may find yourself overtaking your mates survival time and leaderboard tally as you do so, but there are only a certain amount of times you can bother waking yourself up in the comfort of the safehouse and preparing to visit all the same areas time after time.
Those with a penchant for all things sadistic will be pleased to know that the inclusion of a Survival mode will get rid of the ever increasing line of dead characters, but with it comes a big bad ‘game over’ sign as soon as you die. Which is more frustrating? I’m really not sure.
The visuals in Zombi aren’t exactly of the highest quality either, but thankfully the sounds of an infected London more than make up for them. Screams and moans fill the night air as you struggle to pick out where the next attack is going to come from, or as you attempt to sneak on by without being noticed. The audio is most definitely one of the high points of Zombi on Xbox One and will ensure that no matter how often you succumb, you’ll always get a decent zombified experience.
Overall then and Zombi struggles along at a pace that is just about bearable, but with no new ideas, poor visuals and little in the way of suspense, will only really be of purchase value to those who are in need of a cheap zombie hit.
It’s come to Xbox One a couple of years too late but maybe we’ve also been spoilt by Dying Light in the process.