It would be extremely ridiculous to claim that the Wii U has been anything other than a failure financially not only for hardware and software manufacture Nintendo, but also any third-party publisher and developer that tried to hitch their wagon to it. Ubisoft took a risk in developing a brand new survival-horror IP for the launch of the Wii U, and even though people seemed to grow attached to it, ZombiU failed to make the waves that Ubisoft was hoping for. But this fledging zombie franchise has been giving a second lease on life, rising from the grave on current-gen and PC systems, rebranded as Zombi.
But from the very beginning of this revelation, I was weary that the unique second-screen GamePad mechanics that gave ZombiU its identity on the Wii U would make it a subpar experience on more traditional consoles and PC. Not only is this confirmed with the release of Zombi, but what also becomes apparent is how miserable and lazy of a port job that Ubisoft farmed out to developer Straight Right. Not only does Zombi run miserably on the Xbox One, but game breaking bugs remain which have existed since the original launch of the game on the Wii U. If Zombi was strong enough mechanically and design-wise, that would help ease the pain of its poorly produced state, but that’s simply not the case. Zombi feels like an infuriating gigantic waste of time and money for all involved, especially for myself.
Zombi casts you in the role of a survivor who must survive the zombie apocalypse in London. You are assisted by a mysterious figure known only to you as The Prepper, who gives you some tools and a safe house to help weather the undead storm. The set-up is just about all the story you will get out of Zombi, apart from some ridiculous conspiracy theory and secret society babble revolving around famous British royal advisory John Dee and how he supposedly foretold this apocalypse far in advance, but it really all just serves as a springboard to throw you into different districts like the Buckingham Palace and Tower of London. Without any meaningful plot developments or real characters to interact with, Zombi is mostly just interested in you bashing zombies.
Zombi bills itself as a hardcore survival-horror game where the objective is to survive as long as you can, scoring you upon how long you live with any single character. When you die your character is dead for good, and you respawn at The Prepper’s safe house as a technically new character, who has the exact same skillset, so really whatever. Here Zombi’s aspirations to the Dark Souls franchise becomes apparent as when you die, your previous character will persist in the world as either a zombie or corpse which you can loot to recover your lost items. But if you die along the way, all of that gear is lost, except for weapons which are scattered throughout the world for you to rediscover. This is a slightly more hardcore iteration on this mechanic, as Dark Souls never steals away your hard-won gear and weapons, but this doesn’t mean Zombi’s interpretation is better. In fact, it’s far worse as backtracking to previous locations to hunt for your weapons again kills Zombi’s pacing and feels like a massively frustrating chore.
Unfortunately the rest of Zombi feels exactly like this as well. For a game that wants you to out-think the zombies and world around you, your toolset is incredibly limited and unsatisfying. Your starting melee weapon is the cricket weapon, which only has a single long wind-up attack and a finisher attack when the zombies are crippled on the ground. You can find two other melee weapons in the game, but they operate exactly the same way. And with a distinct lack of enemy variety in the game, combat in Zombi is extremely basic and repetitive. There are guns to mix-it up with, but they are incredibly ineffective and handle miserably. With ammo being so scarce, you would think it wouldn’t take 3 or more headshots from a handgun to take down a basic zombie enemy, but alas. Because of just how useless all but the most extreme late game weapons are, I mostly just repeatedly whacked enemies up to four to six items until they finally went down. Combat is Zombi is a mind-numbing, brain-dead affair.
What’s also important to address is how Zombi handles the second-screen mechanics that were a highlight from its experience on the Wii U GamePad. Your radar which previous only showed-up on the GamePad is now slapped onto your display and awkwardly large. Scanning the environment for enemies and items is now relegated to entering a Batman-like detective vision mode, which is inoffensive but largely feels unnecessary. Managing your inventory and the lock picking mini-game is thrown-up on your display. This is largely problematic as the point of them being on the Wii U GamePad’s display was that so you could look between that and your main screen to see in real-time if any zombies were sneaking up on you, intentionally gutting the entire point of these systems in the first place. The clumsy and slapdash implementation of the unique Wii U mechanics into the console and PC versions of the game really just gets in the way of things by the end, and takes away several of Zombi’s original standout hooks.
And for a game that runs now on much more powerful systems, Zombi runs terribly. Constant framerate issues got me killed more than getting outfought by a zombie, and long loading times between levels is frequently annoying, especially later on in the game when you need to return to most of its old levels quickly in a discouraging final fetch-quest mission in the game. What's also present are myriad of glitches like zombies attacking me through walls, zombies flying into the air when I hit them with a melee weapon, taking an inconsistent amount of damage from jumping down from similar height levels, and much more nonsense.
More insultingly though is that I encountered a late, late game-breaking bug with killed my 9-hour playthrough of Zombi which resulted in the game never triggering the final mission. After doing some research, I found that this has been a well-documented scenario since the original ZombiU on the Wii U, and it’s simply shameful that Ubisoft and porting developer Straight Right didn’t see fit to fix these before Zombi’s launch. This in conjunction with the generally buggy and messy state of Zombi, and this port feels like an insult to returning fans and newcomers alike.
Not to mention that the game looks ugly, clunky and very much like a last-generation game. Nothing meaningful has been done visually to try and update it to next-generation console or PC standards. Environments look flat and lifeless and zombie models lack detail and generally all look exactly the same. Lacking some of the more sophisticated lightning techniques that we now expect from a modern day survival-horror game, Zombi's bid for a more realistic and lifelike look comes off as amateurish. Not to mention a weak score and sound design makes Zombi very much not a scary game. Strong production values or a unique sense of style is important for any horror experience to be successful, and Zombi misses the mark quite handily.
Zombi had a lot of potential going into it being a more hardcore linear survival-horror game that took clear inspiration from Dark Souls to create a unique progression and identity from any other zombie game on the market. But with the awkward and clumsy implementation of the unique Wii U GamePad mechanics from its original release as ZombiU, and with the return of game breaking bugs and its miserable performance, Zombi is one of the worst ports that I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. But this doesn’t solve the chief problem that even if Zombi was working as intended, it would still be a frustratingly dull and lifeless game with ineffective combat and an annoying death mechanic that feels half-baked at best.
ONE OUT OF FIVE
(A terrible game whose positives aspects are practically nonexistent.)