Recently I’ve stepped back into Dying Light’s Harran, and boy do I have the hunger for Zombie flesh – have I turned already? Luckily for me, there’s a new zombie game to satisfy my undead needs. Zombi has arrived on Xbox One, originally releasing on the Amstrad way back in 1986 and more recently as a launch title on the Wii U.
The zombie apocalypse has hit London; an outbreak has engulfed the population turning them into creatures of the undead, but we were warned that this might happen. John Dee predicted the plague, and tried to find a cure, although it has become a mere myth and the Prepper, a mysterious voice who guides survivors through CCTV and radio comms, maintains it doesn’t exist. The Prepper did believe the prophecy, and has prepared safe houses and shortcuts, but are his intentions pure?
You follow his commands blindly, like any good sheep would its shepherd, being herded from one level to another. Unlike recent zombie titles, the world of Zombi is rather confined and linear in its level design – not too dissimilar to many FPS titles – corridors lead to large areas where you must negotiate a problem or set piece, all the while you must tread carefully, even a lone zombie can be a deadly threat and if you’re killed, that’s it! There are no restarts.
Instead you start back at the safe house in control of a new survivor, with your trusty cricket bat in hand and a pistol with limited ammo. Now you must start from scratch, scavenging for more precious supplies. There is a locker in the safe house that you can leave items for new survivors so they aren’t completely under equipped, and your previous character is out there, one of the undead, shuffling the streets with all the equipment you gathered still strapped to their back. Now you must decide if it’s worth the effort to find them, bash their skull in and retrieve what you previously collected – die en route and you lose the items forever. It’s a great “game over” mechanic, and it feels strange killing old you with new you.
Looking through your inventory poses its own problems. The backpack menu fills the screen and the game doesn’t pause, adding an extra level of tension if you’re low on health – you can’t just whip off your backpack to retrieve a medipack. Zombi also demands you manage your limited inventory space carefully and you won’t easily find replacements for your stash, meaning you need to give careful consideration as to whether you use your precious bullets, Molotovs or landmines.
Unlike recent titles in the genre, the zombies are actually a threat. Sure a lone shuffling corpse isn’t too difficult to handle, but three or more can be quite challenging. The key to surviving is to take a steady approach, scout the area, plan your route as best you can and have an escape plan. If you go into Zombi expecting to beat down the undead like in Dead Rising, then think again. You are at a severe disadvantage. You aren’t a hardened military man, or have prior combat experience – you are a normal survivor – pure and simple.
You do have some additional tools at your disposal to increase your chances of survival – the scanner reveals hidden items and passages, and your mini map can send out a ping to reveal nearby movement, although it could just be rats or crows, the ping won’t tell you what is moving. Lifeless bodies that are limp on the floor will have a habit of getting up without warning and won’t show up as a ping, so approach with your bat raised or just knock their heads in to be sure they won’t be making a surprise appearance.
Divide and conquer is a very sensible tactic to employ and the zombies will respond to light and sound, which you can use to your advantage by distracting them with flares or by luring one or two away from a large group with your torch so you can dispose of them easily. The torch also has a high beam so you can peer into the distance, but by using this you will burn the batteries out quicker. Unlike Outlast, you needn’t worry about collecting replacements – the torch recharges in around 30 seconds, although that’s all it could take to be grabbed by a zombie so make sure you don’t lose power when you’re in a dark corner.
While the comical shuffle and groans of the zombies are hardly scary, I did feel rather panic-stricken due to being under equipped and knowing I could easily end up a zombie myself. With this in the back of my mind, chills ran up my spine with every encounter, particularly when I was in dark confined spaces.
There are a handful of firearms and explosives at your disposal, but they are short in supply so you will be relying heavily on your trusty cricket bat, which suffers no degrading, feels weighty and is satisfying to swing at the legions of the undead, who will mostly go down with a few hits. There are some zombies that take quite a battering, especially those with body armour – guns are no good here – exploding zombies and spitters can also be particularly troublesome and should be dropped from distance, so make sure you save some ammo just for their pretty little faces.
Zombi’s XP system is restricted to increasing weapon handling skills, which means losing a character is merely annoying if you’re carrying decent loot rather than a frustration at losing someone you’ve invested heavily in – this is a complete contrast to State of Decay where every death can be painful if you lose someone you’ve poured hours into developing.
Graphically, Zombi is a bit rough around the edges, and I suffered a tiny bit of slow down in places. Shadows have some amusing effects too; in one occasion they were absent with nothing but the shadow of a floating cricket bat! It’s also quite gruesome, with plenty of blood and heads that can be removed or caved in.
Zombi may have some heavy competition, but if you missed out on ZombiU and are a fan of zombie games, then it’s well worth picking up, and at £14.99/$19.99 it’s excellent value. Its atmospheric edge of your seat moments makes it a worthy entry into the Xbox One’s zombie collection, it manages to claw at my love for these games, especially as this time around the undead are actually a threat instead of meat bags for you wade through.
Thanks to Ubisoft for their support
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