PS4, Xbox One, PC, Wii U
I thought Alex Hussein was special. Thrown into the deep end of a zombie apocalypse where a single bite could bring death, the unassuming analyst fought almost halfway across London without receiving so much as a scratch. In fact, Hussein survived for so long that I began to wonder whether the fabled ferocity of Zombi - Ubisoft Montpellier's former Wii-U exclusive - had been overstated.
Then came the night Alex Hussein exploded. After wading through a treacherous quagmire at what was once Victoria Memorial, Alex was jumped from the shadows by a zombie wearing an oxygen tank. Instinctually, Alex swung his cricket bat at the creature, and everything ended in a flash of fire.
Alex's death happened so quickly, so suddenly, that I was completely shocked. Worse, Alex's death was like a levee breaking. Death would come calling for my plucky survivors eight more times before Zombi's credits rolled.
It's Zombi's approach to death and the undead that makes it stand out from the shambling crowd. This is a game in which the zombie hordes are considerably thinner than those seen in Dying Light or Dead Island 3, yet each Infected poses a greater threat than a street-full of the blighters in those other games. Death does not arrive with the slow gnawing of a hundred sets of teeth. Rather, it is instant and final, usually offering just enough time for you to think "I'm screwed", before that screw is turned for the last time.
The player respawns seeing through a different set of eyes, those of a new survivor who must run this deadly gauntlet again. Their first task is a grisly one, scavenge what they can off the corpse of the previous survivor, who depending on the manner of their demise, may have joined the madding crowd. It's a clever mechanic smartly delivered. Yet it is only a small part of what makes Ubisoft Montpelier's entry in this bloated genre special.
Zombi takes a standard zombie survival scenario and drops it into a smoggy London night, casting you as a random survivor whose path to salvation involves seeking out a cure for the undead plague cryptically devised by an Elizabethan doctor 400 years prior to the events of the game. Originally released in 2012 as a Wii U exclusive, we come to this newly U-less Zombi as Ubisoft gives it a budget release on PS4, Xbox One and PC.
As ports go it is functional, if a little no-frills. On PC the game runs splendidly and controls well with a keyboard and mouse, although the default layout feels a bit like it was translated using Babelfish, and display-wise the only visual changes you can make are to the resolution.
But the most important alteration between this version and the Wii U version is how the game's map and inventory are handled. On the Wii U, both of these were located on the console's controller screen, which required the player to look away from the main screen whenever they needed to shuffle their inventory or check their position. Hence, every check of the map or the contents of your backpack came with the added tension that something might creep up on you while you weren't looking.