The original release of Zombi – titled ZombiU – was a game tailored to the Wii U’s features, with a heavy focus on dual-screen action between looking at the Gamepad to manage your equipment and the TV to focus on the action. This made for an abundance of tense moments, where you entered the second screen to swap out weapons or grab a health kit as you entered your backpack in-game, with all of the action continuing, and any nearby undead shambling ever closer towards you.
Despite that lack of second screen interaction in the new PS4, Xbox One and PC ports of Zombi, it still holds up as a tense, brilliant and downright scary survival game. Essentially, anything that might’ve previously been on the Wii U’s Gamepad now appears on the screen, though radio voices and comms naturally still come through the DualShock 4’s speaker on the PS4 version.
So, when you enter your backpack to grab an item, you’ll still be in danger – though that might be a bit more obvious now, with a simple overlay appearing rather than turning your focus elsewhere. It’s really not a big issue; the Gamepad roots may be obvious, but these mechanics are pulled off well enough in a more traditional way with this re-release.
Yet it’s the other elements that add up to keep Zombi a truly terrifying experience, with the zombies themselves being rather formidable foes, rather than one-shot-kill hordes. Three’s a crowd in this case, with any more than two enemies at once being quite the challenge to overcome, and each individual enemy taking several blunt melee weapon blows or a few shots in the right place before it falls.
And if they do manage to grab you? Expect them to take a good chunk of your health, and it’s back to square one if you die. You’ll wake up as a fresh face in the safe house hub of the open-area game, and have to seek out your corpse to reclaim your items – even if it’s still walking about.
The game feels cumbersome and clunky at points, but intentionally so. Walking through water will require you to hoist your backpack above your head, while guns are often slow to reload. It’s not one thing, but all of the above that makes Zombi one of the scarier games in recent years. Though it may not match titles such as Alien: Isolation in its stealth aspects, you’ll often find that sneaking past enemies – and losing out on loot – is at times a better option.
Given that it’s set in London, the lack of guns strewn about the world makes sense, but finding ammunition on zombie corpses doesn’t quite add up. Still, the setting makes for some rather unique areas – a block of flats, sewers, the underground etc. – which are just perfect for the grim tone of the title.
The plot therefore feels closer to home for us Brits than most games will, involving the Royal family and old-age prophecies. It’s decent, but soon becomes a series of fetch-quests rather than anything special, with the player’s changing identities going ignored and leading to some rather odd bits of dialogue.
In its transition to PS4, Zombi appears to have a higher frame rate – which drops back down in cutscenes – and looks as though it’s running at a higher resolution. Aside from that, the visuals are relatively unchanged, with some odd visual glitches carrying over, and the title overall looking relatively outdated, having released initially back in 2012.
It’s a scenario which, once you get into things, you’ll learn to forgive, and it won’t really put you off from the enjoyable and creepy experiences to be found. The zombies themselves are pretty run-of-the-mill, but due to their power seem much more indimidating and therefore quite spine-chilling at points. They might be an overused trope in video games, but here’s an example of a game where they work really well.
This is still a cut-down version of the original game, though, with the second screen dependent multiplayer mode sadly missing. Despite that, there are a couple of new melee weapons and a brighter flashlight mode which improve the experience, but don’t really add much new for those who’ve already played the Wii U version.
Zombi is releasing as a budget title for PS4 and Xbox One, which really makes sense, given that it’s based on a game which is now a few years old. If you missed it on Wii U, and are looking for a game to satiate your need to be terrified, then it’s definitely worth a look, though if you can get the older version on Nintendo’s console, you may find yourself with a slightly more enjoyable and immersive experience.