Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier, Straight Right (Port)
Release Date: August 18, 2015
Platform: PC [Reviewed], Xbox One, PlayStation 4
If you really think about it, the survival-horror genre is fairly diverse. You’ve got games like Silent Hill, Resident Evil, and more recently, The Last of Us, all tapping into the same vein–but with different intents. When ZombiU was introduced as a launch title for the Nintendo WiiU, I was both surprised and intrigued.
On one hand, Nintendo gamers had been begging for more mature titles, and on the other, it had the unsolicited expectation to fulfill the needs of the genre to some degree. With that being said, the game was visually impressive, and made great use of the WiiU GamePad by allowing to act as a scanning device, yet was also lacking in certain instances–like the multiplayer. Now, the game drops the “U” from the title and breaks onto the PC and other current-gen consoles.
At its core, Zombi is a astonishingly fair interpretation of true survival games. It has an overall feeling of finite life, in that you take the role of a survivor instead of a main character in the game. This does a few things to the “mindset” of the player. For starters, it drives a sense of “this could be me” any time you enter the game. The other part to that is a true sense of survivalism. You will die—or die trying—to simply survive. Then, you can always go back to your corpse and pillage all the goods that were being carted around each newly discovered area.
I think the biggest differing factor between ZombiU and Zombi is the graphical representation that it would receive on PC. To be honest, it is fairly underwhelming in regards to most games. For example, the most recent Tomb Raider runs impressively on full settings, even allowing for the TresFX option to be enacted. I do have an older graphics card (NVIDIA GTS 450), but it still does the job. However, when booting up Zombi, I noticed lagging encounters with rain weather effects, and action in the same sequence. And, there was a slight dip in the change from the WiiU version to the PC version. Yes, I can admit that.
For most PC players, the mouse and keyboard combination are the essential toolkit needed for first-person shooter games. The game held up extremely well in this regard. However, the WiiU version highlighted the use of the scanner as a unique tool for discovering new items, identifying enemies, or uncovering secret codes to enter locked locations. The feature is now tacked on as a shoulder button if using the Xbox One controller, leaving a lackluster watermark on the experience overall.
Other mappings, like the D-Pad for backpack items, are left to swap between single or double right/left taps. It would have been nice to simply map these to all buttons on the pad instead of adding non-needed clunkiness.
I also do have to admit that the Uplay option and Steam marketplace isn’t very intuitive in regards to launching a game. You first have to login to Steam, launch the game (or just go to the Uplay browser), and then launch Zombi. I mean, You just want to play the game, right? Graphics options cannot be changed on the fly, either. Which, speaking in terms of graphics, opens up a few more noticeable sores.
I noticed some hiccups in starting and restarting after sessions of having my PC logged on. I mean, it would have been nice if Ubisoft just forked over the necessities to have its IP run on the Steam platform and let bygones-be-bygones. But instead, logging into both left me to succumb to things like not launching from the prior save file, or multiple consecutive crashes and having to restart. This doesn’t even include the in-game mishaps now present in the port. And, in terms of animations and cut-scenes, I did notice that the lack of any advanced video settings only further highlighted the lack of detail at times.
I can admit that I actually liked Dead Island. The game offered a first-person survival experience that hadn’t really been delivered in quite the capacity it did. There was a workbench to alter weapons, craft, and upgrades to be had. Zombi takes some similar attributes, and does so in a more simplified fashion. This opens up options for upgrading weapons while still rewarding you for searching and looting for parts.
With all of the nonsense out of the way, you might have one question: Should I buy this game?
I can say, without a doubt, that Zombi should still be played. The game is a great example of survival-horror in a more true form than most Resident Evil entries have attempted to express. I mean that in story, gameplay, and inventory maintenance.
The Bottom Line
Zombi packages itself well on the PC. There are a few minor graphical hiccups, and a few instances where bugs were found in the final release. And I do have to admit, there is some gusto missing from Zombi that ZombiU executed more seamlessly. The GamePad is missing from the unique exploration portions of the game, which had you using the Nintendo hardware to scope out rooms by scanning the GamePad around physically.
If you are a fan of the survival-horror genre, Zombi showcases positives in areas such as scavenging for goods, and even the finality in the death it represents. Its pool for crafting is shallow, along with any sort of leveling system. But, it further drives the sense of isolation for individuals who are following commands from a stranger behind a microphone. A few cheap scares litter the post-apocalyptic landscape, and are welcomed if you love horror films. And, if you don’t, why are you playing in the survival-horror genre, anyhow?
There is no doubt that ZombiU was a must have for Nintendo WiiU owners. Zombi on the PC does a fair representation of the game, but lacks the forward thrust the launch title had on the WiiU system. Judged by itself, it does hold up fairly well through these last years. And it won’t break your wallet for a lengthy journey.