Review by Solidusword
"Though Not Without it's Flaws, Dead Island is Still One Heck of a Good Time"
Long ago, I was super gung-ho about Dead Island. I loved the concept. Who WOULDN'T want to basically live out an undead invasion (digitally) and see how they'd fair? Not many guns, just strategy, friends, and whatever object you could use to whack zombies with. As time passed, I became less excited, unsure how exactly Dead Island would fair, according to reviewers and masses alike. I'm happy to say though, I picked it up at launch and was pleasantly surprised at just how much fun the game is.
The island is beautiful. It looks amazing, from huge swimming pools to straw roof huts and bars. Later as tones change, the beautiful scenery shifts to rainy eerie cities and abandoned alleys. Similarly, the character models look pretty good too. The zombies are gnarled enough to be creepy and the NPC's look frazzled as they should. The only true issue with the visuals is the texture pop in and the occasional low-res oddities. Things like this don't take away from the game at all, but are definitely noticed.
Zombie heads squish and splatter like a symphony. Character grunts and pants are crisp and hearing an unseen zombie howl like it's breathing on the back of your neck will rattle even the bravest of undead slaughtering warriors. Only issues I found were nonexistent NPC's making noise and randomly not having sound when eating/drinking items.
Standard zombie fare. An outbreak begins on the island and you are one of the four heroes who can't be infected. Accordingly, everyone else in the game has a laundry list of death defying missions for you to carry out. Some missions are pretty interesting and can be very serious while others are simple menial tasks. The tone of the game is hard to nail down though. One mission has you honor a man's wish to put his zombified family out of their misery. Another has you going on a mission to find champagne for a cabana full of survivors who'd rather reenact Ke$ha music videos than try to find a viable way off the island. Then again, I don't think your really playing Dead Island for the award winning plot, are you?
Here is where the lines get drawn. Dead Island is, at heart, an RPG. The basis of the game is to explore the island, killing your way from point A to point B. Similar to Borderlands, you complete quests and level up, further making your character more likely to survive the undead masses. Gamers who lose interest in leveling their character will most likely lose interest in Dead Island within hours. However, if you love action RPG's and watching your character evolve into a master in the art of zombie bowel feng shui, then you'll be addicted like I am.
The core formula of the game never drastically changes, but it is how you learn new skills, discover new areas, and gain new items, that keeps the game fresh and always exciting.
Melee combat is visceral and fast paced. Strategy is huge in a game where any encounter with more than 3 infected can lead to your demise. Once you master when to kick, dodge, and slice/smash, you'll be a tornado of dismembering, skull-crunching destruction. The combat is easily the best part of Dead Island, which is good, because it's the biggest focus.
The other large part of the game play is exploration. The island has many places to visit that all feel very unique. It's very easy to spend time walking around and getting sidetracked mid mission just to see what else the world has to offer.
Issues that arise from game play are mostly from AI. Notoriously bad in many games, escort missions are a pain in Dead Island. AI partners are rather bossy; instead of them following you, they often require you follow them. You know what that means, as soon as enemies are on the scene, your AI buddy is the first on the menu. As a result, you must quickly dispatch all the enemies and protect your AI partner lest you be forced to restart the mission over. And over. And over.
If the AI isn't causing you to fail, it may be the hordes of infected killing you. Playing solo, the game can be tough. Knowing when to fight is key. As I mentioned before, getting overrun can be easy and sometimes you'll barely make it out alive, if you make it out at all.
Characters: One of the biggest things I was concerned about was the characters. None of them seemed terribly interesting. Instead of saying Oh! I want to play as that one! I found myself saying, Eh, not going to be picking that one After hearing each character bio, I'm pleased to say the characters aren't terrible. I started my first file as Sam B and found myself laughing out loud at the things he said. The characters (and NPCs) are pretty diverse, so it's easy to find someone you'll enjoy playing as.
There have been tons of questions asking if Dead Island is like many other zombie games. While Dead Island has similar concepts to many of these games, I can honestly say none of them are truly like Dead Island. If I had to combine the games though, Dead Island is the synthesis of Borderlands leveling and loot, with Dead Rising like weapon creation, Fallout exploration, and Condemned melee fighting.
Notice I didn't even MENTION Left 4 Dead. It's because Dead Island is nothing like it. Stop asking if it is. :P
I think this will just be one of those games that gets really mixed reviews and opinions. Dead Island has received varied reviews but I've seen people on the forums that love it, like myself. Either way, the reviews shouldn't make anyone shy away from the game. In the end, it's a solid, fun and deeply addicting RPG, even with its minor flaws.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/09/11
Game Release: Dead Island (US, 09/06/11)
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