This review contains some very strong and violent images.
I beat Dead Island. Or I completed most of what the game had to offer at the very least. And here it is a full day later, and I’m pretty satisfied with the game. I want to get something out of the way right now. This game will in no way live up to it’s insanely hyperbolic trailer. At all. You will never give a shit about any of the characters that populate this game, and I would be genuinely surprised if anyone did. But aside from it’s own emotional posturing, the game itself is something of a triumph despite it’s wealth of shortcomings.
Dead Island is going to be a familiar set up to anyone that has played a zombie game in the last ten years. You are in a highly populated area… in this case, a resort island paradise, and some type of nefarious zombie plague breaks out. Now you are woefully outnumbered by hordes of the shambling undead, and you need to try to hack, slash, and shoot your way out of a zombie infested nightmare. It’s a borrowed concept with enough twists added to the formula to make it interesting. For starters, Dead Island is an open world romp. It has a lot less in common with open world games like Grand Theft Auto, or Just Cause, and seems almost directly influenced by Far Cry 2, especially in little things like the driving, and character movement. It also wears the influence of Borderlands and Dead Rising on it’s sleeves, with a crafting system that is like Dead Rising’s system on steroids, and enough loot to make any Borderlands fan happy for days. All of these things are tied into a surprisingly deep RPG that powers the game, complete with damage display numbers, and XP, also like Borderlands.
STOP! Hammer time. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA…. ok I’m sorry.
So does this mad dash of ingredients manage to come together in a meaningful way? Again, if you check your expectations at the door as far as the story and plot are concerned then yes. The game pulls these things together in a way that is almost always engaging, and the constant pursuit for better weapons, and more skill points makes it an incredibly addicting experience. But the star of the show is definitely the incredibly varied and lush environments that Techland have managed to create for Dead Island. The tropical setting is beautifully rendered, and is that much more remarkable when you realize that outside of the initial load in, you will never experience a single loading screen while wandering around. In that way, even though it may not possess the same level of detail as something like Crysis, it is still an accomplished feat. And while you will explore bright sandy beaches, and lush tropical jungles… my favorite section of the game was the incredibly claustrophobic city of Moresby. This overrun city is easily the highlight of the game, with it’s densely packed streets, and alleyways that always seem to be hiding no less than 8 billion zombies. (That may be exaggerated, but only slightly.)
And as for the menagerie of undead themselves? The cast of zombies does a good job of alternating between being target practice, and downright terrifying. The bulk of the zombies that you will encounter are simply called “Walkers”, and then you have the “Infected” which are a lot more insane than your garden variety corpse shuffler. Infected are basically torn right out of 28 Days Later, and will run with the intensity of a meth head, and they display almost the same level of disregard for human life. Get enough of either in a crowd, and it’s bad news. In addition to those lovely lovelies, you have a round up of for lack of a better term, special infected. It’s very reminiscent of Left 4 Dead… but again with enough changed to make it it’s own thing. There’s massive Thugs, who deal out an impressive amount of melee damage that sends you flying when you get too close. Then you’ll have Suiciders to contend with… zombies that explode when you get too close, and Floaters who puke flammable vomit on you when you get too close. And last but not least is the Butcher… a zombie with half a face, and bony stubs for arms the he will use to stab you death if you get too close. The moral of the story here, is that zombies all have personal space issues.
Is there ANY problem that can’t be solved by using a bat with nails in it?
Thank the maker that the weapons in Dead Island are an absolute blast to create, use, and just play with. While you’re exploring the Island, you’ll constantly come across odds and ends of scrap, and spare parts that you can combine with the weapons you find to make the most insane implements of zombie death ever conceived. And while you can’t just walk up to a workbench and start slamming stuff together like Dead Rising (here you will need to obtain mod blueprints first) the crafting system is detailed and rewarding enough that will probably spend most of your time just looking for more components and blueprints. There’s really no way to accurately describe to joy that is to be had from hitting a zombie in the face with an electrified sledgehammer. Honestly. And as an added bonus for anyone that is playing this as a melee class… the game features a really intuitive analog stick based aiming system for melee weapons that can be enabled. I can’t recommend it enough. It adds a level of control to melee weapons that I couldn’t get with my mouse and keyboard, and also has some hilarious results on the zombies.
We really messed this guy up…
All in all Dead Island was a great ride, that managed to surprise me in a lot of ways. Though it isn’t even close to being the narrative experience that it tried to sell itself as, it’s still a great zombie game in a time where I thought I was sick of zombie games. The co-op is also a great addition when you play with right batch of friends, and the sheer pandemonium and random stupidity that is possible when joined by 3 other people is pretty incalculable, but it adds tremendous value. What’s also great is that Dead Island follows in Borderlands and allows you to start a new game +. Which lets you work on the same character you beat the game with. The game will simply level the enemies with you when you start over, and scale all of the loot. Awesome.
Dead Island is an RPG that is made of hours upon heaping hours of brutal and addicting gameplay. It manages to take some of the best ideas of gaming in the last console generation, and cram them into one powerhouse title. While it’s something of a disappointment that the game didn’t try to take itself more seriously, and live up to it’s own hype… it’s still not enough of a failure to overshadow everything else it gets right.
Side effects of glitchiness may include: fun, and kicking lots of ass.
(It should also be noted that the game is full of glitches, but I played it on the PC build, and I found that the majority of the glitches actually make the game more fun to play, or are too small to even notice, but none of it came close to crippling my playthrough, or even remotely hindering it.)
Dead Island is available now for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360
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It was developed by Techland, and published by Deep Silver.
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