August 21, 2015

Zombi - Maxi-Geek Review

Zombi is the re-imagining of the 2012 Wii U launch title ZombiU and while the name is different there is one major change that happens to change how the game feels.

Zombi tells the story of a plague that has broken out in London and you are a survivor of it, except you are nothing special, you are not even the main character. That role is filled by the prepper, a voice on the end of a radio, who helps you out and explains what is going on. The prepper is an odd one, he claims to have known the plague was coming thanks to the writings of John Dee, who 400 years ago wrote about the Black Prophecy. The prophecy turns out to be true and starts in London where it turns people into the for mentioned zombies, but not all of the people of London are infected, there are other survivors and as you progress through the story, you will uncover more mystery than you might expect and everyone, even the Prepper is not who they appear to be at first glance.

From a gameplay point of view, you are a no frills kind of person, your gender, race and even job before the world went topsy-turvy is all random. As such you are not a one-man army, capable of carrying around infinite ammo for the arsenal of guns you have, you are not even very good at using guns, which is where the melee comes into its own. The first weapon you will acquire is a cricket bat, and upon collecting it, you will be given the first zombie to take down, the previous person the prepper tried to help. Using the bat is not as straight forward as it could have been, you need to prep your attack first, then you can hit, this does lead to some problems of pushing zombies away when you meant to kill them and it was the most common way I died early on, which is an issue.

In the initial version of the game, whenever you needed to get something from your bag, or when you were looting for supplies, you needed to look at the gamepad, which is where the action took place and then on the tv screen, you had to keep an eye out for zombies approaching from behind. It was the best use of the gamepad at the time of the Wii U launch and really built a sense of tension, with the looking between the screens, sadly here it’s not as ideally executed. When you enter your bag to swap your weapon, loot something or hack a door, a giant overlay appears on the screen, hiding most of the action and the camera moves to a new place. But as you can just keep your eyes on the space not being covered, the sense of tension is not as heightened as it was on Wii U, but that does not mean you won’t die, your just more likely not to see how.

Each time you die, you respawn as a new person, with the old you in the area you were killed in and now a zombie. You must make a decision at that point, do you go back and get your bag from the old you or do you start anew, this is something you will face each and every time that you die, so you will want to avoid it as much as possible. If you die on the way to collect your bag again, then it is gone, along with all its contents, so you really do need to avoid death if possible. As you progress through the game, the zombies become a little more challenging, with some even becoming something else, but there are also human enemies to watch out for and they can be even deadlier than the zombies.

The core of the game has been kept the same thankfully, which is where it shines the best, being a no name survivor, using the tools at hand and doing what you can to survive is what the original game did best. Here though some tweaks have been made to make things easier, in the original release, the cricket bat was the only melee weapon, now though you can use a long shovel or a nailed bat, to help give you more options in combat. The flashlight, a crucial device has also been tweaked, with a secondary mode that now shines a much brighter light that reaches further in front of you. These tweaks have not hurt the game at all thankfully, it does offer a nice meta game for those looking for a real challenge.

The way the game looks sadly is due to the Wii U limitations in power compared to the bigger consoles, Straight Right, the studio who worked on the port have done a great job, but there are only so many tricks you can do. The game still looks great, it just does not look as good as some of the recent games on the same consoles, the other space that is a problem is the mini map, on the Wii U this was on the gamepad screen, here it takes up a portion of the screen and there are times when it feels like it was dragged onto the main screen kicking and screaming. More than once I noticed load screens where the mini map sits, which is what happened on the Wii U gamepad, so seeing that on the big screen is weird.

The audio sounds about the same as the Wii U version, again with the tense atmosphere still intact, the initial audial vision still works, with the silence being scarier than noises at times. The music is limited to grander appearances and helps convey a sense of foreboding, even though it in itself is not. When it starts to play, you best get ready.

Zombi is a faithful port, while there were concessions made due to the lack of a second screen, the big problem is still the melee combat. If that had of been corrected, then this could have been the definitive version of the game, sadly that is not the case and thanks to the lack of the second screen it falls behind the original. 

Thanks to Ubisoft Australia for supplying the game for review

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