Zombi PS4 Review
Publisher: Ubisoft Developer: Ubisoft Genre: Survival Horror Players: 1 Age Rating: 18+
Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One, Wii U
Zombi is the PS4 and Xbox One port of well-known Wii U title ZombiU, only sans the U. Released on August 18th 2015 after dwindling sales on the Wii U, does this PS4 version live up to its original Wii U standards?
Set in London in 2012 during the ‘Black Prophecy’, which has resulted in an outbreak of zombies, the story follows a lone survivor as they try to escape the onslaught of undead. The game was praised for having ‘an original twist on the genre’, with its horror survival elements harking back to the days when you had to think more strategically in order to survive.
Zombi certainly has an interesting concept and truly draws you as close to reality as possible in allowing you to experience what a proper zombie outbreak would entail. There is none of this ‘finding a cure’ nonsense, uncovering mysterious conspiracies involving shady governments, or teaming up with other survivors, and you have no special type of army training; it is all about the survival of the fittest – you are alone, a regular Joe, caught up in something bizarre and scraping together what you can to stay alive, all whilst following the guidance of the mysterious ‘Prepper’, who turns you into his errand boy. The game is unlike many zombie games that are around these days and truly does manage to take you back to the days when you played as a lone survivor fighting against the odds and the extraordinary. Equipment now needs to be managed carefully and should a survivor die, you take on the role of another survivor and can then kill the previous character in their now-zombified form and recollect the items you found, enhancing the sense of survival.
Whilst the game is certainly enjoyable to play, it isn’t without its hiccups. The PS4 does not have the advantage of the Wii U controls, and so using a PS4 controller can be somewhat confusing to learn at first, but it soon becomes second nature navigating from menu to menu, though there are a few mapping choices that are quite odd. For instance, you can only map two weapons to two of the buttons on the D-pad; this can make for some awkward gameplay moments as you have to double-press the D-pad buttons in order to use the secondary weapon, and as it is slow in switching weapons, you could be in the middle of being attacked, only to end up dying as you couldn’t switch quickly enough.
Another gripe is with the maps themselves. There is a map onscreen as you play, showing in detail your current surrounding area, but also a second map that you carry in your rucksack which shows the various locations you have been to and can fast travel to. This map is very basic, only showing the outline of the areas that you have explored, but the problem is that later in the game, the marker will be placed at a location not in your current vicinity, and when it comes to using the second map to find out where you need to go, it is difficult trying to work out where the exit points are that connect each area because the maps do not show each area in detail, and you cannot zoom in to get a bigger picture either; this causes quite a bit of backtracking as you wander around, trying to find the exit points to other areas. Also, at certain points the marker of your next location will be in a very inconvenient place, somewhere in the middle of the map that has not yet been explored and leaving you wondering how on earth you are supposed to get there.
The markers in the game are also a cause for confusion at times. The game starts by marking your next location very well, but later the marker will suddenly disappear, leaving you wondering where you are supposed to go next. At one point, forgetting to pick up an essential item left me wandering around aimlessly for longer than was necessary, and thinking that I needed to go back to the safe house for said item, that’s what I did. The marker did not point out the item that I needed, and even though I was initially in the items location, the marker suddenly changed to the next objective, even though I had not yet picked up the item which was crucial in helping to progress the story. The markers can be all over the place, sometimes showing you your next location, and then not showing up at all, leaving you in the lurch. With so many areas, the markers are necessary in helping you to find your way around, and when the marker does not show it causes lots of backtracking and it can also feel disorienting and overwhelming as you work out where you are supposed to go next.
The re-spawning mechanic can also be quite a double-edged sword – while it is unique in that you can only play as one survivor at a time, and once you die, you take on the role of another survivor, there were times when it felt annoying that having got so far into the game, collected a multitude of items, weapons and upgrades, you end up dying unexpectedly and then have to make your way back to the location where you had died, but with only very basic weaponry. The enemies do not respawn and so losing the weapons and other items isn’t much of a problem, though it is still frustrating that you have to trek all the way back to where you died, and this can be especially annoying if you die several times. Using the fast travel does not help much either as you can only travel to as close to where you died as possible, and sometimes that can be quite the distance away, and with the confusing maps, it makes it all the more frustrating getting yourself back on track.
Also, the extra Wii U screen gives you an added sense of alertness, which is taken away by the PS4 version. With everything you need being conveniently placed on the one screen, it means you do not need to keep looking away at your inventory and risk being snuck upon by an enemy. Looking away at the Wii U pad could mean the different between life and death; ZombiU is excellent at keeping you on guard as you switch from looking from screen to screen, though that sensation is lost without the extra screen, as you are able to view your surroundings whilst you navigate in your rucksack, on the same screen, which enables a quicker reaction time should a zombie be lurking nearby.
The graphics should also have been improved for the PS4 and Xbox One, and while the differences are noticeable in comparison videos, the graphics on the PS4 version look the same as the Wii U. Still, this is only a minor nit-pick and certainly doesn’t detract from the enjoyment that can be had. It is also unfortunate that the PS4 version does not come with multiplayer, as this would have added more to the game and give players a reason to come back to it upon completion.
Despite its flaws, the pros far outweigh the cons and Zombi on the PS4 is still very fun to play once you get the hang of the controls and maps etc, and does a good job of pulling you into the games dreary world. You eventually come to realise that this isn’t the type of game where you can run and gun and that you do need to use some strategy in order to keep your character alive; there is certainly a sense that you do not want your character to die and so you do find yourself being extra careful when confronting an enemy and thinking more tactically as to how to kill them.
Overall, there isn’t much difference in the game from the Wii U version, with only the menus and maps being added all on one screen instead of split between two, and with some added weaponry, such as the inclusion of a nail bat, among others. However, even without the advantage of the Wii U pad and the duel screens, Zombi is by no means your generic zombie-survivor game and is truly a learning curve for those willing to put in the effort to try and keep a character alive long enough. A fun zombie game harking back to the nostalgic days of real survival horror, this is a must for any true horror survival fan.
You can read our original ZombiU review here.