Zombies have become a joke. Killing horde after horde is as easy as eating pie, or at least it was until now. Right out of the bat, ZOMBI deserves a huge credit for doing an excellent job in reminding us why we feared the undead in the first place. This little gem is what every horror survival fan likes: a perfect mix of challenge, fear and tension.
Set in a devastated post-zombie-apocalypse London, with some luck and quick reflexes your first character will be noticed by “The Prepper”, a man who communicates with you through CCTV cameras and the speaker on your smart pad. He leads you to a safe house and then has you do various tasks around London to better prepare for your long-term survival. This is how the game begins for –almost- every player.
What happens if you don’t get in one piece to the safe house? You die. That’s it. If you happen to often attach yourself to the characters you play, you are going to mourn for many of them.
So, you start again as a new character recruited by The Prepper. Everything is as it was, you are in the same mission as before and the progression is untouched but now you are empty handed. Do you need your guns back? Hurry and kill your previous –and now zombie- character. Fail to do so and all your stuff is lost forever. That’s right, the tension is similar to those precious souls you used to cry for in the Dark Souls series.
Even the tension in one on one combat is similar (although slightly easier). And I say one on one combat because trying to fight a crowd is a suicide. Your melee attacks need to be readied and then swung, and fire weapons take forever to reload. One lucky grab and the last thing you will be remember is being knocked to the ground and closing your eyes for good.
Combat is challenging, but it is fair. If you lose, it’s all on you. There are many tools to avoid mistakes, but you need to use them right. A zombie surprised you from the back? Well, if you didn’t hear him groan enough, you should have used your radar. You died on melee combat for being out of ammo? Aim better or run. You can get an idea of the tension the game builds the longer your current character survives doing varied missions for different factions.
The same tension persist while exploring and looting. You have a radar to easily spot containers and corpses with items, but there is a catch: you are unable to move while scanning. Found a corpse to loot? Good, but the game doesn’t pause while looting them. All you get is a screen with the possible items to obtain, and some minimal peripheral vision of your surroundings. A zombie surprised you again from the back? You may get your stuff back with your new survivor.
Is it scary? The graphics and sounds add to the tension. The environment is always moody and sad. The combats are visceral with blood splats everywhere. The zombies are always groaning and suffering. But you won’t get jump scares. The game is all about building tension while you try to do your best to avoid easy mistakes.
If there is anything to complain about, is that graphics are not from this generation. ZombiU was released almost 3 years ago, and you can notice the visual aspect of the game could have been remastered at least a bit. In the last 3 years we also got to play some really cool jewels like Dying Light, who really set the bar high. There is no parkour here, there isn’t any cool moves or fancy items to easily traverse the maps, but still you don’t get to miss them.
ZOMBI is a fun (in that horrific-fun way) and atmospheric gem you MUST play. The roughly 8 long hours that will take you to beat the game are way more than you can ask for in an almost perfect game full of content and for the really low price tag of $19.99.