by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
EXCLUSIVE, NO LONGER
I'll say it here straight off the bat...I don't own one of the latest generation of consoles, so when games are released as exclusives on a particular piece of hardware it does upset me a little. I know that for the most part that if the game is successful, it will be ported to other systems eventually (still waiting for my PC version of Red Dead Redemption, though). ZombiU, released exclusively for the WiiU some time ago, has finally made its way to the PC as Zombi and joins the list of zombie infestation games.
WHO DOESN'T LOVE KILLING ZOMBIES?
Zombies are the ultimate video game 'bad guys'. Even the pacifists among us will have little issue about killing something that is already dead. It's not like a WW2 game where you shoot Nazis to the dismay of Germans, or a Cold War era game where you pick off Russians, but instead kill reanimated corpses of no particular nationality. Everybody wins.
Zombi has you doing just that..killing those infected with the zombie virus as you attempt to escape a post-apocalyptic London with the help of a man known only as 'The Prepper', a cricket bat and whatever weapons you can scrounge . He guides you through specific areas of London, including landmarks such as Buckingham Palace to complete various tasks. Apart from scavenging useful items such as food and medical supplies, 'The Prepper' will require you to complete certain tasks that will benefit you as well as him.
Items can be scavenged off dead zombies, from cases and lying around the landscape. The items are fairly scarce which is just as well, because your backpack doesn't fit an overabundance of goodies. You'll soon be looking through your inventory to determine which items are the most important, as you fill it up. I did find that although food and medkits can heal you, they were largely obsolete, as any zombie that did get hold of you would put an end to your days of the living. Yes, you can push them away before they fully take hold, but it only takes a slight delay in your move and they're onto your character and turning them into food.
Upon dying, your character then becomes infected and will become one of those that your next playable character will need to overcome. All the goods in the backpack are lost too, unless you return to the point of death and recover the items. If your new character dies before locating the backpack, the goodies inside become permanently lost. Since the storyline is fairly linear, you'll most likely pass by the items on your journey anyway. It's a mechanic that works really well.
I said that the storyline is fairly linear, but I'm actually doing the game a slight injustice. Although the mission goals have you heading towards a particular destination, there are often a number of ways in which you can reach that location. Ammunition is often scarce, and fighting off multiple attackers can be dangerous, but you have access to a tracking device that allows your character to locate nearby movement. This tracker allows gamers to plan their movements to try and minimize coming face to face with a horde of infected.
Sound effects are quite good. If you listen carefully, you can hear when zombies are close, and even each of your own characters (if you die, which I did quite a few times) seems to have their own personality and aren't mindless zombies (well, until they die anyway). From a visual standpoint, Zombi looks exactly like a WiiU game would look on a PC. Although the characters look great and the settings and landmarks look realistic, they definitely have a somewhat outdated look to them. The dark setting suits the mood of the game perfectly.
The controls clearly act like they've been ported from a console. The controller setup works reasonably well, but as primarily a PC gamer, I prefer to use the mouse and keyboard for first person shooters. And this is where Zombi has its main hiccup. Firstly, I found that the game defaulted to controller on-screen instructions and I couldn't find a way to alter the settings. On a restart, the keyboard controls were shown. Bingo, key mapping shows all the controls I need and I was fine. That was until my next session when the game resorts back to the controller default. Luckily, by then I had remembered what each of the corresponding keyboard controls were.
Managing your inventory and quick use slots is also more of an issue than it needs to be too. Rather than selecting an item and then assigning the usual number slot to it, Zombi requires the strange use of the WASD keys to navigate the backpack to assign the weapons. Sure, once you get accustomed to it, it works fine, but I don't really understand why the developers didn't just stick with the method that is so intuitive and used by most other shooters.
Combat is also a bit dicey. As mentioned previously, once a zombie gets hold of you, there is little to stop them from turning your character into one of the infected. This wouldn't be so bad, if the combat scheme wasn't so convoluted. Rather than the simple mechanic of pressing the left mouse button to swing with your cricket bat, you have to actually hold one button and then swing by then pressing the other. It generally works fine if it is a one-on-one battle, but when there are multiple enemies (especially when they're armoured), it can be a struggle to get the timing right.
TIME TO KILL SOME MORE ZOMBIES
Zombi is a decent port, and although I had some struggles early on coming to terms with the keyboard and mouse controls (especially in the inventory and during combat), I did enjoy running through (and below) the streets of London. Although the visuals look somewhat dated, they do an adequate job of showing London in a dreary, post zombie apocalypse setting. Even though Zombi is primarily a shooter, the fact that you can take your time and bypass zombies rather than go head to head with them, adds some depth to the gameplay. Zombi is definitely worth a look if you missed the WiiU exclusive and enjoy killing the undead.
Well designed maps, great use of fallen players
Keyboard controls are rather unintuitive, inventory can be cumbersome