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Zombi review: Shambles

Good ol’ London

London is a novel setting for an apocalypse, and comes complete with zombies ranging from tracksuited hoodlums and sad-looking businesswomen, to swish Beefeaters and the Queen’s card. Throw in some crumpets and a pot of tea and it’s a veritable portrait of everyday life in Blighty.

What’s more, the cricket bat stubbornly refuses to leave your inventory, wallowing about and taking up a precious slot that could be better populated with a molotov, flare, or medpack once you upgrade to a stronger weapon. Both the shovel and spiked bat boast of their superior status in their item descriptions, but you’ll most likely stow them reluctantly away in the safehouse to free up space in your pack, rather than drag two melee weapons around. The same goes for the first pistol you pick up. You can’t get rid of the bloody thing even after you find a silenced alternative, although this was the case in the Wii U version too, and it was a nonsensical stipulation even then. An opportunity to improve the mechanics has inexplicably resulted in doubling down on the more dubious ones.

Disappointingly, the frame rate is still mired in 30fps and it very much looks like a straight port from the Wii U, with seemingly nothing in the way of a visual spit and polish for its debut on present gen consoles. I also came across my fair share of bugs. Some of them are fairly innocuous, like a zombie catching alight in a strategically planned trap, and then pottering around like a portable bonfire rather than crumpling into a crispy heap – nothing a sound thumping couldn’t resolve. Others are more grating, like pieces of loot whose locations were identified by the in-game scanner, but were apparently inhabiting a parallel plane of existence, because there was nothing there. The biggest annoyance is missing dialogue (and accompanying subtitles), and documents that can’t be interacted with, so you miss out on chunks of the story – which just so happens to be relayed through dialogue and documents that need to be interacted with.

The controls are slightly less sluggish than they are on the Wii U, although the simple act of sprinting is a bit hit-and-miss. In a game where a swift retreat is often called for, you can imagine how infuriating that becomes. This is largely due to the fact that you have to hold L3 rather than toggle it to run. You’ll need the upper body strength of a Gorilla and thumbs the size of bratwursts if you expect to be able to maintain a brisk jog.

The theme of dodgy controls continues throughout. Whether I’ve stumbled across more bugs or it’s a deliberate and questionable design choice as a means to create tension is anyone’s guess due to the sporadic nature of some of them. The in-game radar is a prime example; designed to highlight zombies on your HUD within a certain range, it mysteriously fails to work at intervals. Zombies hidden mere inches away fail to flag up on the radar, springing out on you as you walk through a doorway. The lack of a crouch button, on the other hand, serves only to infuriate. Crawl spaces and holes in walls result in context sensitive knees that only fold to allow you to crouch as you pass through. Considering that avoiding combat is often encouraged, not having the ability to crouch or sneak at will feels too limiting. Whether or not these difficulties are part of the deliberate design is irrelevant when they fail to bring anything to the table in terms of creating an uneasy atmosphere, and instead leave you feeling frustrated.

Meanwhile, the absence of a dedicated peripheral with the transition from the Wii U leaves a palpable void. An innovative approach to mirror the in-game device on the Wii U gamepad has morphed into a clumsy system of inventory management that is more bothersome, rather than serving to enhance the atmosphere. Inventory items can’t be rearranged, and it’s practically impossible to get eyes on your survivor while you’re rummaging through your backpack. And while the HUD fades away for a more involved experience, the minimap has to be displayed constantly, what with no second screen for it to live on.

Ultimately, this was a wasted opportunity to polish and refine a solid Wii U title that brought a fresh perspective to the genre on release, but is showing its age now. It looks and feels like a last-gen game shoehorned onto new platforms in a lazy port. It’s a poor survival horror game when the erratic control scheme is the most terrifying thing about it.

This game was reviewed on PS4.

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About Ryan

I'm a true gamer. I'm not a pro gamer but ill never stop playing games. My choice of console is PlayStation, but each to their own. I unfortunately do not get as much time as i would like to still play games, but when i do, i love it!

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