Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
September 6th, 2011[NA]
For Fans Of: Left 4 Dead, The DeadRising series, Open-world Mulitplayer
Something disturbing is happening on the rainforest island of Banoi! This beautiful, lush, exotic landscape off the coast of New Guinea is being overrun with something so sinister, so dark, so bloody, Zombies! No one knows how, but zombies have started appearing all over the island of Banoi and with their infectous bite, threaten to genocide the entire island effectively turning this paradise upside down.
Everyone on the island is there for their own reasons, be it trying to forget their past, working with the government, or even just working with the rich folks as an escort, Banoi is a place to relax, a place to kick back and enjoy the simple things in life. So what happens when that place is turned upside down and infested with zombies? You try to survive, try to get off the island while killing as many of those brain eating bas***ds as you can without getting infected yourself. However all this is easier said then done. The zombie infestation has quite literally spread overnight.
After waking up to a trashed hotel after a hard night of drugs, alcohol, and music you're wandering around being led by only your wits and curiosity. Soon, a man starts stalking you and using the cameras to lead you to him. Outside the hotel, spread all over the island are pockets of survivors that all have things that need to be done to get their affairs in order, some requiring you only to find them alcohol while others require you to check up on other survivors making for easily the most boring missions I've ever completed.
What I don't get about the whole helping people thing is why your character is doing any of that. There are four characters to play as and only two of them really have the personality of helping others, especially of some of the more trivial ones like getting a teddy bear for some random chick or more expensive champagne for the foul-mouthed alcoholic chick. I can see doing things that actually help the group but the sheer tediousness of some of these missions makes no sense. What is good though is the amount of side-missions. They did not go overboard on the amount which means your main missions wont be lost in the slew of junk side-quests. You don't really have to do all the sidequests, but it's a good idea to do a bunch of them for leveling purposes.
The main missions progress in chapters and acts, roughly each new hideout/scenery change is a new chapter and the different parts of the island, because they unlock progressivly, would be the new act.
Most of what you'll hear on the Dead Island is ambient sound, with a light touch of music. The music does fits the game but makes it seem soo depressing and boring, so I threw my own music on and just rocked out to that regardless of immersion. The ambient sounds are awesome though if you wanna be fully immersed and take the silent road. The best part of the sound is sometimes the zombies will be silent and sneak up on you, well, except the "Infected" who yell and scream as they sprint after you.
The voice acting though is in another ranking, by itself, and for good reason. Right from the character selection screen you will understand and just want them to stop talking so you can read instead. Through out the rest of the game it only gets worse as you have to try and listen to them when you accept something or loot an item. The NPC's are slightly less annoying as you only have to listen to them for short periods of time.
I said earlier the the island of Banoi is a lush beautiful landscpe, with the keyword there being beautiful. Right out of the gate you can tell they put a lot of time into the general design of everything. You won't find anything too heavily detailed here though. Dead Island is one of those games where if you take a few steps back in-game and just look, it's fine, but as soon as you go in with the macro vision you start to feel unimpressed. It's also during some of those macro events that you'll notice the graphical bugs in the game, like being able to walk through umbrellas, or see through walls into the water level of the game. Sometimes the texture layer on peoples faces won't load up for a while. One thing I was amazed at however was how the frame-rate held up. Even when throwing multiple bombs at propane tanks, igniting several zombies at once, I never once noticed the frame rate drop.
In a sense, Dead Island isn't really a unique game, taking our favorite open-world role playing games and just throwing zombies in them. But they didn't just throw the DeadRising zombies in here, they threw a few curve balls and got some special ones too, ones that will actually require some thought in taking down. With a strong RPG aspect in it you can expect to do a lot of leveling and reading the skill tress so you can design your character around your playstyle. The four characters each specialize in their own style and have different talents and abilites with the exception of the survival tree. The skill points for these skills are gained when you level up.
Along with each of the characters specializations, are the special abilites, called Fury. Much like in "Borderlands" your character's fury is basically a single overpowered attack/mode you can use. Fury unlike Borderlands builds up by hitting or killing zombies in special ways like kicking them rather then being on a cooldown. Unleashing your fury is almost like hitting the win button, every zombie in the area will die or take massive damage from your hard hitting attacks.
Continuing with the RPG aspect is the ridiculous amount of looting. This is where the game got stupid tedious. Everytime you want to check a bag for something you have to first search it, then wait a second, then loot it, just to pick up one item out of the bag. Sometimes there's not even anything in the bag while other times you'll find nothing but junk. But you'll pick up that junk anyways and carry it with you because you'll never know when you need those forty batteries you found to mod a weapon. There is no system for identifying whether an item is safe to sell and just get the money from it. I found this, and the looting to be stupid frustrating because I'll be walking around with probably three grand worth of junk in my pockets but I'll be flat broke and not able to fix my weapons.
Probably the best feature in terms of game play is the weapon modification. Now this isn't modification on a level we've seen in many other games but it's cool that it's in the game. Throught out the game you can accquire weapon mods, which are the blueprints for creating your unique weapons. Although, some of the mods will only work for certain weapons (i.e.: torch mod will only work on wooden blunt weapons and shock mod on metal edged weapons). This is kind of a shame because I can't recreate my favorite flaming sword, the "Shishkebob". Each weapon also has durability loss, and while you can talent into reducing the speed at which the durability falls, it's still too fast. No matter what kind of target you're hitting, hitting that target about twenty times with your weapon will damage it almost beyond use so be sure to keep a few back-up weapons if your venturing out into the island.
None of the above will matter if you can't hit your target and the good people behind Dead Island sure took pleasure in making even just that a challenge. Most of the controls are decent with the exception of the button layout being a bit wonky, but what topples this ricketly jenga tower is the left stick movement; it's Lagged, and bad. It takes almost a full second for your character to start moving after thrusting the stick forward. Now I am playing on a 360 so I'm not sure how it is on other versions but damn, you think they would fix that up. You can get used to it but then when you go to play something else, it takes a few games to get back into those controls again.
Going off the controls they have included a setting I haven't seen personally in any game: Analog. Turning on analog turns your joystick into your arm, letting you get far more precise control of where you swing, however, there is a catch, and a bad one. To swing your weapon in analog mode, you have to stop, pull the LT and then do your swing. You can't run and swing in analog mode because you can't look around. To make your arm swing you have to use the stick that would be otherwise controlling your X,Y vision, kind of an interesting idea but until I see it excuted in a much better fashion I'll stick to Resident Evil if I want to stop and fight only to be eaten by zombies.
This is proabably where the game shines the most for some. Much like its open-world brethren, Dead Island features online and offline co-op meaning you and your friends can now spend endless hours slaying zombies with paddles and machetes! The best part is the game trys to persuade you into the social light by telling you when other random people are close to your area of the game, letting you join their game in a single press if you so choose. I mostly ignored these settings as the game becomes stupid easy when more people join because the enemies dont get any harder to kill to my knowledge, and even if they did, I'd still kick to win.
Dead Island is a weird oatmeal-peanut-raisin cookie of a game. It has all these aspects that should make it great and at times it honestly is. But the other times I felt like I was trudging along not really having any fun at all. Now this could be because once you do the mission once you don't forget it and it becomes boring to do again but I do have to throw the lagged controls and the tedious looting in that same pot. They take a part of the game experience away and they really didn't need to if they had fixed those problems right from the start. With everything except the mulitplayer-ness sporting apperent problems I can't really recommend this game to anyone, at least not at the current price. However, IF your still thinking about picking up Dead Island, wait until the price drops, maybe then it won't leave marble sized holes in your wallet like it left in my heart.