This review has been partially updated. The update is in bold at the bottom.
Before I begin this review I should probably mention that I played a lot of ZombiU when it originally came out for the WiiU at launch, in fact it was one of the main reasons that I pre-ordered my deluxe edition (the black one) WiiU. I mention this only because reviews are already inherently biased so I want to make sure everyone knows I am already leaning towards a positive review before I have even played the port. Also a little back story for why I decided to write this review: I have wanted to try my hand at some form of games media for quite some time that does not involve my usual let’s plays, because I have honestly grown very bored of just trying to be a let’s player. This is shown by the absence of any substantial content whatsoever over the past year. Until now. Hopefully. I could still get bored halfway through this and say fuck it (See: All of my let’s plays).
Okay now that that’s out-of-the-way here’s the review part of the review.
The first thing I noticed upon starting the game was how terrible the melee combat system feels with a mouse. Now, this could be just because I have spent over 200 hours playing Dead Island and its sequel/spinoff (Its my favorite game, no h8 m8 games gr8 I r8 8/8), but this melee system is basically the exact opposite of that masterpiece. How melee in Zombi works is you right-click to raise the bat, then left click to hit with the bat, which honestly took a lot longer than it should have to get used to. This is a remnant from the original version, where you did the same thing but with the right and left trigger, but in my opinion they should have absolutely considered changing it. Or at least that’s how I felt in the beginning. I eventually got used to it and even began to love how visceral it makes the combat feel. This system gives every swing of your bat a certain weight that most games seem to lack, which makes it feel even farther away than that of Dead Island’s system which has always felt extremely fast and fluid to me, but lacking any sort of impact.
The game is very metroidvania-esque in that all the way through the game you see areas that require certain tools to reach like a hammer, a lock pick, C4, and so on. This means you will most likely want to do a lot of backtracking for loot which I quite enjoy the idea of because it being a SURVIVAL horror game you can always use more medkits and ammo. There are 4 major tools in the game used to get past such obstacles; the ones I mentioned before plus the Scanner which is one of the games key features. Originally you controlled the scanner with the gamepad, wobbling it about in front of your fat face to identify objects, which I always found kind of tedious since I am the kind of person who will check every single room to make sure I don’t miss anything. I rather like how they integrated it into the port and find it a much more friendly part of the game now. Over the course of the game you upgrade it several times, adding tools to hack open doors and solve puzzles, as well as to gain a sonar like effect that makes you no longer have to manually ping to find zombies.
This gamepad integration was the original selling point of the WiiU version, and I have seen a lot of people saying that without that “gimmick” the game is little more than a generic zombie shooter. What these people don’t seem to understand is that while this game does indeed include a hell of a lot of gunplay, it is far from what I would normally classify a Shooter. It has metroidvania components like I stated above, it has very frustrating death mechanics ala Dark Souls, and if you aren’t a big floppy chicken like me (don’t ask why the chicken is floppy, you don’t want to know, we did a thing) and play on the games harder difficulty level, you will die a LOT. Sure, the PC controls absolutely make the game easier than its console counterparts, boiling down mainly to how easy aiming is with a mouse, but it is still a fairly large challenge to not get your face gobbled off by every ghastly abomination that sets its decaying eyes on you. The worst part of this being if you die multiple times in a row you lose all of your shit, and you have to go back through the world to find your guns again.
Let’s talk about the guns for a bit shall we? The game has your standard fare of weapons to choose from: pistols, sniper rifles, shotguns, assault rifles, SMG’s, as well as a magnum (which yes is a pistol but it uses different ammo to the others) and a crossbow. The port also added upgraded melee weapons you can find throughout the game which were not present in the original. The main problem I find with the weapons, and this was also present in the U version, is that you can’t get rid of the starting gear. If you pick up a better pistol or melee weapon and would like to use those instead, you have to carry TWO melee weapons and pistols because the game will not under any circumstances allow you to drop the base set. Now, I understand why they did this, they didn’t want players to be able to drop the pistol in the storage box, kill themselves, then have twice as much ammo. I get that. But they could have just as easily made it so the far superior in every single way silenced pistol replaces the starter, or simply made it so that you can CHOOSE to drop those items once you have a replacement. Considering how extremely limited the storage you have is, I find this to be a very annoying oversight from a design perspective.
Once I made it past the tutorial I was immediately reminded of what made me enjoy the original so much: the atmosphere. Everything in this game is set up from the beginning to make you feel like this world is real, and terrifying, and some other words that sound good next to those ones to get the point across that this game fits the HORROR part of survival horror to a fucking T. There’s fog, there’s zombies, there’s disconcerting noises that make you feel like screaming “what the hell was that?” and above all else there is a real sense that this world was alive recently. That the shit JUST hit the fan. Hell, there’s still even running electricity in some areas. Unfortunately the immersion the game was going for was swiftly ruined for quite some time by the bugs that hit me pretty much right off the bat. Now, that’s not to say the game is a buggy mess by any stretch of the imagination, but it does have some GLARING problems.
The first bug I encountered was one that just kinda brought me out of the fun for a little bit, and it happens quite often actually. The game has a melee finishing system of sorts, in that you can 1 shot any zombie that is on the ground by smashing its face, this has its own animation. HOWEVER if you smash the face of an already dead zombie, the physics engine breaks on you, sending the corpse flying like a QWOP rag doll. Again, nothing major but it does ruin any sense of immersion when it happens. Now onto the major fucking joke of a bug that wasted about 2 hours of my life. About 1/2 of the way through the game you go into a daycare center to find some medicine, and I won’t spoil too much but there is a cutscene in there that crashed the game pretty much every time for me. The only fix I could find required me to lower the resolution on my game from 1080p to 720p, and I also set it to windowed mode just to be safe. I don’t think this has effected very many people, but if it does happen to you I just thought I would tell you how to get past it.
The last bug I found was more of a graphical oversight than a bug, but I thought it would be a good segway into my next paragraph so here we are. whenever you walk underneath any sort of flowing water in the game, you get a blurry effect on your screen to simulate the water being in your eyes, but the blur doesn’t cover your whole screen, it is in a rectangular box that takes up most of the center of your screen and it makes no sense what so ever. I am not the kind of person who cares a terrible amount about graphics unless the game is an extreme outlier on either side of the scale. But this is one thing I absolutely noticed. Other than that though the game looks fairly good. Absolutely not The Witcher 3 but for a 3-year-old game that was ported from the least powerful of the 3 current gen systems, and only costs $20, it is definitely passable. The game runs fantastic on my machine, which uses two (2) GTX 970s, a very old I5 2500k, and 10 gigs of ram. Average over 180 frames per second.
As for the game’s story, its… Okay I guess? The Prepper is a fairly interesting character and I enjoy his interaction as he guides you through the game, but there really aren’t any other notable people. At all. There’s a scientist you meet, an army woman you meet, and a crazy old man you meet. These are the four characters you interact with. None of them really have any depth to their personalities and you don’t interact with any of them (excluding the Prepper) for more than a few minutes total. Overall I felt the story was a bit lacking, boiling down to a generic “find the thing and then escape”. Would I want to hear more from this world and the people who live in it? Absolutely! Unfortunately unless this port sells a substantial amount of copies I highly doubt we will ever hear from this world again, since the original was a commercial failure.
Zombi took me just under 8 hours to beat according to the in-game timer, and I have come away feeling quite satisfied. The game was far too frightening for me to ever finish on the U because of the whole “lose all your shit” mechanic, but the easier controls made it a breeze this time around. I would have to say that I really enjoyed my time with Zombi and I am sort of sad to be done with it. Though it may have frustrated me from time to time with its bugs and odd design choices, it delivers exactly what I was needing from a zombie game. Visceral combat, an exciting and sometimes heart pounding atmosphere, and last but certainly not least the idea that death actually matters, which aside from games like dark souls is an aspect that is sorely missing from most games. I will sit here hoping that this port does well enough to get the idea out of the paper shredder because if they ever announced a sequel I would most definitely buy it.
The arbitrary meaningless number I assign to this game is a 7.8/10. Would, and probably will play again.
Know what? On second thought, after going back and trying to play some more of the game after I beat it, I found out that you can’t. The fucking game basically deletes your save file and forces you to start the game again once you beat it so you can’t explore the world or anything afterwards. Sadly going to have to reduce my score to 7.2 because of this. It may be harsh but that one thing disappointed me more than anything in a game I have seen in a very long time.