Zombi Review – Empty Apocalypse (PS4)

ZombiU originally launched with the Nintendo Wii U, as one of its more “mature” games. The game received generally good scores, and now has been ported to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PCs almost three years later. We’ve played through this hellish vision of London, and have our take ready for your perusal.

Bug Out

Death is always a central topic in any zombie game. In Zombi, if your character dies, that’s it for them; there is no revival option. That character becomes a member of the walking dead. While you’re alive, you are carrying a special backpack, called the BOB (bug out bag). When you die, the new random character that you play as must hunt down your old character and kill them a second time in order to collect all the stuff you were carrying.

Combat is pretty typical for the survival first-person genre. You have in your BOB room for a handful of items, and ammo occupies at least one slot. New to Zombi are two additional melee weapons — a shovel, and a board with nails embedded in one end. With those weapons, you have to hold them up with L2, and strike with R2. Headshots with guns are relatively easy, though the controls are pretty clunky overall. While your guns can level up, there’s no real sense of progression; I would think that after some time your player would become more competent at holding a weapon. Also, reloading constantly takes forever and a half. It’s little things like that which end up getting on your nerves as you’re tasked with killing dozens of zombies at a time.

Dead and Gone

A divisive issue in the game may be the way it treats dead enemies. Once you clear an area of zombies, when you come back, the zombies’ bodies will have faded away, and no new enemies will appear unless you’re back in the area for a new portion of the story. Some people may like this, but I think it makes the game too easy. Even if you die, any zombies that have been cleared are not replaced. I don’t know how many times I walked through Buckingham Palace while it was empty, but it took a lot of the scare factor out of Zombi.

One portion that was especially weak in Zombi was the story. The core of the plot is okay, with elements drawing on history such as alchemist John Dee and a secret society attempting to save the world. However, you need to have a massive suspension of disbelief to look past a glaring issue — the characters you talk to treat each new protagonist that you play as the same as if you had never died. In one instance, a scientist had explained to me that he needed a book of John Dee’s. I went out and found the book, but died on the way back. Playing as an entirely new character, the scientist complained that I didn’t have the book yet, despite him having never met me before. Perhaps it’s implied that I’m joining each character well after they’ve met everyone, but this is never explained.

Undead Upgrade

Zombi has received some upgrades visually. It looks dark and moody, and you have a flashlight that now has a bright mode. The game’s lack of real graphical prowess ultimately reflect the fact that this is a budget game, so don’t expect to be wowed by the graphics. Audio work is acceptable, and porting developer Straight Right did at least make the smart decision of having the game’s radar and radio transmit out of the speaker on the DualShock 4. It’s always nice to see that utilized in a way that makes sense.

Zombi would be a tough sell at anything higher than its current asking price of $20. With a playtime of 6-8 hours including modest exploration, and three barely disparate endings that don’t feel like much of an emotional payoff, I can only recommend Zombi to hardcore zombie game fans. The Dead Island series provides for more challenge, a better story, and a whole lot more content at around the same price. So unless you’re bored with other zombie games, you can wait for a sale.

Review copy was provided by the publisher. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.

  • An interesting take on permadeath
  • Nice use of DualShock 4 features
  • Clunky controls
  • Terrible story, unsatisfying endings
  • Rough graphics