ZombiU was an innovative and genuinely scary survival horror title which hit the Wii U at launch – one that made excellent use of Nintendo's second screen GamePad to enhance the terror to all new levels. Now, three years later, the title has been ported to the PlayStation 4, complete with a control overhaul to shift everything onto a single screen. But in the transition from ZombiU to Zombi, has the horror title lost what made it so compelling and unique?
The game throws you into a post zombie apocalypse London , unprepared and confused, before a disembodied voice, calling himself The Prepper, guides you to a safe area of the Underground and encourages you to fight and survive the hordes of corpses that now infest the streets. It's a vague introduction but a compelling one; you'll crave answers and follow The Prepper's advice without question, primarily because facing the unknown alone is such a terrifying prospect.
Indeed, Zombi creates a powerfully eerie atmosphere, and its zombie menace is aggressive, strong, and numerous. The dark, debris filled interiors and misty streets are home to dozens of threats, and with only a cricket bat and six bullets to defend yourself with initially, you'll find engaging just a couple of the undead a very risky and challenging endeavour.
Zombies will swarm around you, scratching, biting, and grabbing, rapidly consuming your health bar. In the early stages a cheap one-hit kill from a corpse's lunge is a common occurrence, although you do find a counter a few hours in. However, despite death being a constant companion, it seldom becomes frustrating. When you die you respawn back in the safe house as another survivor, with your previous self now a zombie skulking in the area that you died. Borrowing inspiration from Dark Souls, the title gives you the opportunity to reacquire any equipment from your undead self, but if you die before you collect everything then it's lost forever. It's a great risk/reward system; weapons and ammo are hard to come by, and losing a pump-action shotgun can be a devastating thing. Subsequently, this all adds to the tension marvellously.
Aiding you in survival is your tablet, which acts as your inventory screen, map, and sonar, and a method of interacting with the world. By scanning CCTV junction boxes you unlock a map viewable in the bottom right corner of the screen; additionally you can scan items and enemies which will then stick out due to a helpful circle. Changing weapons, using items, and looting is done through the tablet's screen, blocking your view as you rummage around, although there are a set of limited quick commands on the d-pad that you can assign items for swift switching.
Inventory management was the crux of the experience on the Wii U, forcing you to look away from the TV screen and down at your GamePad instead. Here the blocking of your view by the tablet works similarly, lending to the terrifying impact of returning to your first-person view and seeing a zombie moments away from taking a bite. It's not quite as fear-inducing as in the original, but it's close enough to produce some great scares.
Your sonar works similarly to the famed Aliens device, showing up red dots and beeping for every moving thing that the pulse finds; this ranges from birds and rats to the undead. The familiar and dreaded beep of a new, moving entity in your area forces your focus to your map, and while the Wii U's trick of shifting your attention between the TV and GamePad is far from mirrored here, it's still an effective way to build tension.
The lack of a second-screen doesn't compromise the experience too severely, then, and Zombi's atmosphere is still as strong as ever. Detailed textures, flickering lights, and areas of utter darkness do a great job of making you paranoid of every corner. Where there is lighting, its bloom effect is just a little too intense, but fumbling through the darker sections with your torch is hugely immersive and results is some terrifying moments. However, the cherry on the top of Zombi's atmosphere comes from its brilliant audio. The bloodcurdling cries of the infected will send a shiver down your spine as you explore and fight, while the up-tempo music that accompanies danger will get your heart racing. It all comes together to immerse you in the world and heighten the fear exceptionally.
Zombi has transitioned to the PS4 rather well: the fear-inducing aspects of the second screen are re-created well enough to achieve similar scares, the loading times are greatly improved, and – three years later – it's still a unique survival title that never compromises its horror for action. It's a bit of a shame that its multiplayer mode is absent – a casualty of losing the second screen. Still, there's enough of an intense experience here to consider rising from your grave for.