Review by Ice_Shield
"Enjoy your vacation in Hell!"
First I'm going to start off by saying that the only other "zombie" game I've played is Resident Evil 4. That being said, this is probably going to not be biased, as I couldn't compare the game to other games.
Dead Island places you on a beautiful Australian beach named Banoi. this is a perfect place to relax, and maybe swing a few maces at a few faces, adding to the fact that there's a zombie outbreak. Get ready for the fight; it's going to be a messy one.
The opening cutscene depicts our character, extremely drunk, wandering through a night club. After getting punched in the face and thrown to the ground you take witness to a zombie attack in your dazed and confused state. Heading back to your room you take a few pills and pass out. Your vacation has ended. The world you awake in is full of panic. The dead lay everywhere, and where they're not laying, they're running at you. One thing is for sure; you want off the island.
The story isn't that original. Your job is to escape the island. Bring a bunch of people if you want to as well. The main goal will always to be to get off the island. In fact, everyone will tell you this constantly, so it's not hard to forget. Along your way you'll encounter sidequests to do, which add onto the story, and develop other characters. These are the real gem to the story since it'll give you a better sense of immersion to the game. People's problems are real on the island. Not only do you get people who want to save their loved ones, you'll also get requests that really capture the essence of an apocalypse, such as a woman wanting "more champagne" and how she will "do anything it takes to enjoy the apocalypse." It's nice to see something different in NPC's than the usual "I'm worried" type.
Overall, the main story is kinda traditional, but the sidequests more than make up for it. 8/10.
Dead Island probably has one of the greatest gameplay aspects of any game I've ever played. Killing off the zombies is fun in a way that I've never had fun killing things before. This'll be the biggest part of the review.
At the beginning you pick a character (out of four characters) which has a special benefit. For example, one character will excel in blunt weapons, while another will excel in guns. Who you pick has a big impact on how you play. For instance, picking Sam B who excels in blunt weapons, you'll probably be running around the majority of the game with a bat or mace in your hand. Picking Logan, who excels in throwing objects, means you'll be throwing quite a few knives and fuel tanks at enemies.
Each Character also has their own skillboard. The board contains a plethora of skills that you can master as you level up. As you kill zombies and complete quests, you gain EXP, which then levels you up. Each level gives you one skill point to place on the board, with a max of 50 levels and 99 total skill points needed to max everything, meaning you'll have to pick and choose which skills to master. It's somewhat like any MMO you've played; you unlock skills and perks as you level up. The only difference is that Dead Island doesn't include any "stats" to level. You can't "level up strength but not level up defense". The only thing you can pick are your skills, and that's what makes the game great. The skills are also presented to you in a way that prevents nitpicking through a long list to decide which one to get.
As for zombie killing, the gameplay is awesome, and couldn't get much better. You slash, shoot, stab, punch, kick, stomp, burn, poison and even de-limbify your zombie friends. Weapons are found everywhere, from pipes to wooden oars to butcher knives, so you'll never be empty handed. Weapons do degrade over time, in which you need to repair them, but after the first few levels you'll have more weapons than you could wish for. As you do quests you can even earn mods, which will modify your weapons, which in example could turn a stick into a burning stick of death and destruction. Pretty cool if you ask me.
Zombies level up with you, so there's no "zones" for harder zombies, and there are also different types of zombies. Walkers are your regular zombie who walks, sometimes runs, and is generally easily decapitated. Infected zombies run at your full force and claw at you like a madman. Thugs are giant zombies who can take a beating and throw you clear across rooms. as you continue the story you unlock different types of zombies which adds to the gameplay.
The only negative aspect I can see is that you're thrown into the open world and navigating the map takes some time to get used to. There are some quests that don't give a clear description on what to do, but you usually figure it out as you go through other quests. Nothing that really hurts gameplay. Score: 10/10
The controls take a moment to get used to. Being that the game is in first person (which you cannot change) it does take a while to work out things like how long your reach is on your weapon or how far you can kick. But once this initial "testing" period is over, the game flows quite beautifully for controls. While some games feel too "strict" in first person, Dead Island makes you feel free to do whatever you want, which is something I love.
Fighting is also broken up into digital and analog. Digital is your normal version of the game; you just go in fighting. Most people play with digital. Analog, however, breaks it down to where you can pick which type of attack you want (instead of just "swinging away"). I haven't played with it much, but it's just another way that you can change up the controls. All in all, 9/10 for controls.
Let's start with music: there hardly isn't any. Sometimes when fighting zombies you'll get a "combat" like tune in the background. There are spots in the game, like the safe zones, that have their own music to it. Nothing is really memorable though.
As for sounds, the game is great. Zombies have their own calls, weapons have their own "beating" sounds, you even hear your character gasp for air when low on stamina. When you decide to take on a quest your character will say if they agree or not to the NPC. My favorite thing is when my character walked down a staircase onto the beach, which looked really beautiful (sans dead bodies), at which point in game he said "Looks like a mother (censor) postcard." It's the little things that count.
There are a few downfalls to the sound. When driving a car, the motor will "repeat" the same sound over and over if you maintain the same speed, so you'll constantly hear a one second "clip" of sound which you can definitely hear the blip as it resets. NPCs will also talk too slow or too fast for the on screen dialog. When completing recurring quests, NPCs will ALWAYS say the same things, which gets somewhat annoying. For these reasons, sound gets an 8/10.
Graphics are a mixed bag. While some of the graphics are simply memorizing (such as staring at the beach from up high) some of them aren't so great. There are quite a few glitches, such as portions of the ocean water not loading and leaving a giant void in the ocean. This happens in a lot of places. Since the overworld never has loading times, you'll often wander into an area that hasn't fully loaded, in which the graphics will "catch up" as you wander into them. None of it hinders gameplay, but it's definitely not good, so graphics gets a 7/10.
Dead Island is a great game. I was astonished while reading professional reviews that gave the game 5s or 6s. The game is wonderful; combat is great, skill system makes every character different, there are plenty of ways to fight. If you can look past some of the graphical errors, the game is near perfect.
Overall: High 8, bumped to 9 because graphics are quite good in some areas.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/09/11
Game Release: Dead Island (US, 09/06/11)
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