A fairly bare-bones port of the clunky 2012 Wii U title by Straight Right.
Ubisoft’s ZombiU was a rather…quirky title for its time. Developed “exclusively” for the Wii U, ZombiU was one of the first games to really push for the use of the GamePad. Granted, it wasn’t anything horribly innovative but it added a few neat twists to the age-old zombie and survival horror genres. ZombiU was also intriguing for running at 720p resolution and 30 frames per second, the latter which reportedly didn’t see much fluctuation. Given the limited performance potential of the Wii U at that stage – it was 2012 after all – ZombiU didn’t do too badly for itself. But it was bound to eventually arrive on the Xbox One and PS4. It’s been rebranded as Zombi and honestly, we could think of dumber names without being paid to do so.
Zombi runs on the LyN Gen3 engine, which has been developed by Ubisoft for the Wii U. This was meant to effectively maximize performance above all else. The LyN engine was used in Red Steel 2, From Dust, Rabbids Go Home (with Zombi starting out originally as a Rabbid-killing title) and is rumoured to be the engine used in Beyond Good & Evil 2.
Now that Zombi is on the PS4 and Xbox One, is the LyN engine really required seeing as both platforms are more than capable of strong performance with better visuals? Developer Straight Right was obviously tasked with creating a straight port (no pun intended) with some neat bells and whistles attached. And from what we’ve seen, the gameplay has pretty much tossed all Wii U functionality out the window.
Head to head comparison – PS4 [left], Xbox One [middle], PC [right]:
Rather than viewing your backpack on the GamePad’s screen, which opened you up to attacks since the game doesn’t pause, you’ll see it on the main screen. Players are still vulnerable to zombies attacking in this state but much of the tension of looking away is gone. The two-player mode which allowed one player to use the GamePad to deposit zombies into a second player’s game on the main screen is also gone. What about this port then makes it stand out, especially when it’s arriving a good three years later?
Zombi runs at native 1920×1080 resolution on both the Xbox One and PS4. So far, so good and the sharper texture filtering is a bonus. The hardware on both current gen consoles also facilitates highly reduced loading times. Texture quality has been improved significantly but you’ll find the highest quality in the PC version (despite similarities across all three current gen versions). Straight Right seems to have modified the lighting system but unless you stop and observe your environments closely, it’s not immediately apparent. The field of view has also been expanded. Poor use of Chromatic Aberration results in reduced sharpness on-screen, while the post process anti-aliasing smoothens out the edges enough. An anti-aliasing solution is present but it’s implementation is a bit spotty. Regardless, the custom solution does a decent job.
Otherwise, in terms of art style, alpha parameters and volumetric effects, Zombi resembles its Wii U predecessor almost exactly. If you were a fan of the dirty lens filter effect, then you might be slightly bummed to hear that it’s gone. Honestly, it’s a purely subjective aesthetic but it would have been nice to see some kind of option to enable or disable it manually. This would have provided current gen players a look at just how the Wii U version felt (though the clunky combat will more than assist you in that endeavour).
It’s the frame rate performance that ultimately disappoints in Zombi. You’d expect a Wii U port to PS4 and Xbox One to run at 1080p resolution and 60 FPS, right? Straight Right only received half the memo as Zombi runs at 30 frames per second on both consoles. It would be one thing if the frame rate were locked at 30 FPS but it sees its share of drops. It admittedly drops to the high 20s every now and then but on powerful hardware like this, that’s hardly any consolation. Again, this game launched in 2012. A locked frame rate should be a given and 60 FPS should have been the priority on Xbox One and PS4.
PC users will be better off as usual. It’s possible to hit 60 frames per second using a mid-level GPU. Our test configuration consisted of an Intel Core i7-5960X with 16 GB of RAM. Settings were turned up all the way across six different GPUs – the Nvidia Titan X, GeForce GTX 980, GeForce GTX 960, GeForce GTX 770, Radeon R9 290X and Radeon R9 290 – and there were absolutely no issues in achieving a steady 60 FPS.
PC Graphics Settings are limited.
But – and you knew it was coming – there isn’t any other real advantage to playing the PC version. The texture quality is slightly better than consoles but nothing else has been improved, whether it is lighting or other effects, from the console versions. One could at least expect significantly better texture work but alas, that’s not the case.
There isn’t much more to be said about Zombi and that sums up the game’s entire existence till this point. A sequel was planned at some point but cancelled by Ubisoft since the first game wasn’t profitable. This port is as rudimentary as can get and the obvious objective is to try and earn some revenue from current gen consumers while expending little by way of resources.
If you really want to play Zombi, then the PC version is your best bet. It’s possible to achieve 60 FPS without the highest of the high-end hardware and thus acts as a significant game changer. That the consoles never received a 60 FPS frame rate option still baffles us. If you’re really desperate to know what the gameplay appeal of Zombi is, then the Wii U version is worth looking into to satisfy your curiosity. There’s little else to recommend either the 2012 or 2015 version by in terms of graphics though.
Note: Performance analysis was carried by Bill Smith.