I was thrilled when the first person zombie game ZombiU, originally released exclusively for the Wii U, was ported to Playstation 4. Aside from Dead Rising 3, I’ve so far been able to play every horror game I’ve wanted to play on this generation of consoles without having to buy anything other than a PS4 (if I ever get a new, faster computer, I’ll definitely play Dead Rising 3 on that).
After hurriedly buying Zombi, I was immediately discouraged to learn that the original Nintendo version was riddled with game breaking glitches…that were all ported over to the PS4 version without being fixed! Ugh.
For that reason, it took me a while to commit to playing the game. I researched and printed out all the glitch moments I could find in hopes of avoiding them. Unfortunately, the general rule for every spot in the game that glitches is this: if you die in this part, when you load your last save you will not have the item you just picked up, which is required to move forward in the game, and it will not be where you originally got it, so you have to start the game over.
This is exactly why this generation of autosave that saves over the previous save is total bullshit. The online breakdown of possible game glitches in Zombi extends all the way through the final mission. Can you imagine getting to the end of the game and hitting a glitch snag that would force you to start all over again in order to finish?
I went through this whole game in a state of fear—fear that I was going to have to start all over again. It had nothing to do with the game being scary. I was too distracted to enjoy actual scares. I fumbled with printouts as I played, trying to figure out when I was nearing a moment on the glitch list.
And wouldn’t you know it? My game never glitched. Not once. And I died pretty much every time I was warned not to simply due to panic that my game would be over if I died. Man, I suck under pressure. Either I got lucky, or a patch was released at some point for PS4.
So with that issue/warning out of the way, let me focus on the game. I had read that this game is super hard, and all I can say to that is, it’s totally not. Here’s way (aside from the fact that I played on easy). You essentially have unlimited lives. UNLIMITED. You start at this safe house in a train station. You go out to different parts of the city doing your thing, but if you die, you immediately wake up back in the safe house as a different character, picking up the game from right where you left off. The catch is, you have to work your way back to where you died in the city and mission, and then loot the dead version of you (which is just laying there) for all your stuff, but that’s it. You die, you regenerate but just look different. Of course since this is a first person game, you mostly never see yourself, so you don’t even notice that you’re different. Seriously, you can die right in the middle of a major battle with a swarm of zombies, and when you regenerate, you go back to the area, rush to your dead body since it has all your weapons, and then just continue the fight. Say there were ten zombies swarming you and you killed four of them before dying. When you return to the area as the new you, there are only six zombies waiting for you. Now that’s my kind of game.
As far as game play goes, this really isn’t unlike your usual classic third person survival horror game played first person. You are tasked with various missions including finding key items, completing tasks for other characters, and very rarely saving someone. You are in communication with a guy who knows the lay of the land and gives you helpful hints, plus you’re equipped with a scanner that you can use to identify all items and objects in an area, mark doors you reach on your map, and reveal secret codes on walls to open doors. Later on it can even open doors and acquires a radar that tells you where enemies are as you approach. The only downside to this scanner is that it’s sort of like night vision goggles when you bring it up (I’m not sure how it worked with the Wii U controller), and you can only move the camera perspective while using it. You can’t walk and use it at the same time. Considering you have a flashlight that needs time to recharge after some use, it would be helpful if you could use the scanner to see and move through dark areas when your flashlight is temporarily dead.
As for weapons, you begin with a plank of wood that, other than eventually upgrading to a spiked bat, is the major weapon you will use throughout the game. Guns attract more zombies, are clumsy to aim, and are generally empty because ammo is scarce. Even so, you get a shitload of guns by the end of the game, and each one can be made more powerful at a workbench in the safe house with upgrades you find along the way. It’s also a pain in the ass to switch through every gun in your cycling buttons (d-pad on PS4 controller) and hard to determine if you’ve just selected a gun with bullets in it when you’re in the midst of a heated battle. There are also Molotov cocktails, which rule, and mines, which so don’t rule. I simply never used them right. You’re supposed to put them down and let the zombies step over them, but every single time I put one down, I would step backwards to avoid stepping on it myself (since you can’t actually see it in first person view) and I’d fucking blow up. EVERY TIME.
If you’d rather just sneak around zombies, you can throw a flare, but I really never needed to use them (I think there may have been one spot where it was basically required). You can also find stacks of planks that you can use to blockade a door, but if you are actually running from zombies, you don’t have the time to first close the door behind you and then put them up before the zombies are already through. Not to mention, the zombies eventually break through them anyway. Just kill the damn zombies.
There are different types of health, some more powerful than others. But here’s a nice bonus. If you’re low on health you can shortcut warp back to the safe house (more on how to do so below) and “save” by going to sleep (yes, it saves over your previous autosave). When you wake up from sleep, your health is fully recovered. Also in the safe house is an item box (holy Resident Evil) in which you can dump items, but I rarely needed to use it other than to dump off shit I never used (like flares). After all, key items you need for a mission are not taken up in the item slots you have available in your supply bag (which gets upgraded to more slots later), so the only things you carry with you are weapons, ammo, and health. And conveniently, you can drop items you don’t want. Just note…going into your inventory doesn’t halt the game, so zombies can still attack you while you’re in there. Also of note is that there are a few “safe” rooms in other areas of the city, but they are limited in usage. You can sleep/save/heal in them and once in a while there’s a workbench, but there is never an item box. That’s only in the main safe house.
Zombies aren’t all that unique. There are the typical dumb slow zombies, pain in the ass zombies that spit at you from afar to fuck up your vision momentarily, zombies that scream at you to fuck up your senses, zombies with bombs strapped to their bodies (pains in the fucking ass), zombies on fire who are not so scary because they just die on their own if you avoid them, zombies that jam your frequency so you temporarily lose connections to all your scanner stuff, and zombies with helmets on, requiring you to first beat them until the helmet falls off and then beat them again until their heads, you know, fall off. Later on there are some flickering fast zombie ghost things that go temporarily invisible, but they are surprisingly easy to beat. However, the first time you meet one it’s in a near pitch dark basement and that was just not fun. AT ALL. That’s it for enemies. No mutant anything else here, and no “boss” battles. The only time zombies are actually hard is when you’re surrounded by a ton of them, which is what’s considered a “boss” battle. And it’s so not cool that there are a couple of times where these fuckers show up in vents you’re crawling through and drag your ass out of the vents to fight you! EEK!
Getting around is a mix of quick and slow. When you first begin venturing into the city, it’s quite eerie because you don’t want to run into a load of zombies at once, but the good news is, most of the time when you clear an area, it remains clear (I noticed later in the game if I accidentally went back to areas I really didn’t need to, some zombies would respawn). Travel becomes quicker as you begin finding “man holes” that you can open (hehe) to give yourself a shortcut back to the safe house or any other man hole you’ve already been in (again, hehe). Annoyingly, these man holes are usually off the beaten path, so you can easily miss them. For instance, if you don’t happen to try turning left in a hall before going right, you inadvertently bypassed a long and winding path that leads you to the man hole shortcut. And the paths are usually down numerous flights of stairs, so you start to wonder, how the hell much of a shortcut is this? Not to mention, the paths to these man holes look virtually identical. You’ve seen one man hole path, you’ve seen them all. But seriously, it is a shortcut because the game isn’t exactly designed so that you can easily find your way to an area just by walking from the train station. For example, for no apparent reason other than to be a pain in the ass, before the final mission the game suddenly relocks all man holes. Helpful hints online highly suggest you go and reopen every single one of them before the end of the game. Problem is, it would take so fricking long to walk to each area from the train station and actually find them, plus there are those respawning zombies, so it seemed pointless. Not to mention, I tried to reopen one and the game wouldn’t let me! WTF? Maybe my timing was off and I was past the point of no return. Not sure. But the only reason it’s suggested you open them is because there is a flight task near the end of the game that requires you to run a long distance if you don’t have access to the man holes. And I’m not kidding when I tell you that you absolutely have no idea where you’re trying to run to. There’s a color blob on your map in the upper corner of your screen that is supposed to help you target the right direction, but it doesn’t take into account different levels in areas…so you could be running in circle trying to head for that dot because you’re actually on the wrong floor of a building. Argh!
While a majority of the game is linear in terms of completing a mission then moving on to the next, there is one mission that—without letting you know—can’t be completed until you reach later missions! You are given a task of finding 7 letters to bring back to a scientist, but some of the letters are in areas you haven’t even reached yet, can’t reach until later in the game, or can’t get to because you haven’t yet upgraded your scanner. Honestly, if I hadn’t been reading a walkthru, I would have been ripping my hair out trying to find these damn things.
And finally, I get to the end of the game. Would you be shocked to learn that this is a zombie game in which you need to reach a helicopter to escape the infected city? Here’s the really shitty part. Well, first of all, there are apparently 3 different endings depending on a choice you make earlier. I’m not sure if I actually got an official ending…because I didn’t fucking get away! WTF? So the helpful voice on your transmitter system tells you to get to the shore to meet the helicopter that will whisk you the hell away from there. But note this. Unlike most moments like this in these games, there is no COUNTDOWN. No timer. You’re just running and trying to avoid zombies everywhere as you go. And again that damn map is useless, because you’re trying to target the blob of color, but there is no way of knowing if you’re on the right level. Which is where I got fucked up.
I made it to the docks, and there are a bunch of them on different levels. I was getting swarmed by zombies, so there’s no time to stop, so I just kept running up and down ladders and stairs on these docks trying to find the right route to the helicopter. Suddenly I was fricking underneath a dock with a bunch of zombies right behind me, and I reached a ladder that was a dead end because it wouldn’t let me climb it! And I’m braced to be eaten—or blown up because there’s a damn exploding zombie right behind me—when all of a sudden there’s a cut scene and the helicopter flies off without me. Roll credits. What the hell? I mean, they didn’t even show me die. And I needn’t even point out that I couldn’t load the last save and try again because, yep, you guessed it. The game autosaves as soon as the helicopter takes off.
Honestly, I am left feeling like I didn’t actually complete Zombi, and that just pisses me off.