Review by KOTRwhoops

"Dead Island: A zombies lover's paradise! But not without its problems..."

Dead Island is an open world game that is a treat for zombie game lovers set on an island of paradise called Banoi that has been overrun by the undead. You must help other people trapped on the island by completing quests for them with the ultimate aim of surviving and getting off the island. There is a big emphasis on melee combat, and co-operative game play is a huge element to enjoying the game fully. Unfortunately the game has a very large number of problems (major glitches and balancing issues) that really hold it back.

The game is set on the island of Banoi, a paradise island which has a number of regions that you can explore. You pick one of 4 characters to decide which style of play you would like to specialise. The character you pick has pretty much no bearing on the storyline as all the major cut scenes will show all 4 characters regardless of whether you are playing solo or as a 4 co-operatively. The characters are also straight out of the stereotype catalogue (A black rapper, and American footballer, an ex cop and sensible Chinese women that specialises in blade weapons and medicine)

The premise of the story is obviously a zombie outbreak, the aim of the story is to survive, help out others in the form of side quests and find out what is behind the outbreak. The story takes you across a variety of locations including a beach resort, a city, a jungle and two or three others that I won't spoil for you. These areas are very big and have massive exploration opportunities. They are very distinct and offer up slightly varied game play due to the different types on enemies you meet. The individual maps are designed pretty well and are fun to navigate.

The problem I found with the story is it takes itself too seriously; some of the scenes were a little cringe worthy as the game went a little melodramatic. In a game of this type it felt a bit out of place. A tongue in cheek approach would be better in my view. But this isn't really a problem as the story most definitely takes a back seat to the game play and the well implemented co-op.

This is where it's all at in Dead Island, the game plays very well. From the off the game offers you the biggest choice you will make, what character you want to be and therefore the style you would like to specialise in. You have Sam B who specialises in power and blunt weapons (hammers, crow bars, maces, etc), Xian Mei; healing and blade weapons (knives, machetes, cleavers, axes, etc), Purna; support and fire arms (pistols, shotguns, rifles) and Logan; throwing weapons.

Each character also has their own special related to their specialised move called Fury; these build up by killing enemies and are unleashed by holding the B butting. For example Purna will whip out a gun with unlimited ammo and shoot all the zombies in the area to death. Fury is great to take out difficult enemies and when you are surrounded by many you can take them all out in one swoop.

Progression wise each character has their own unique skill trees in Fury, Combat and Survival. You level up to a max level of 50 and choose to put a skill point into one of the skill trees. There are 99 total slots where you can invest skill points but only 50 actual points on hand, so you need to choose carefully in how you build your character. But this allows you to further develop your character towards your style of play. The skill points are far more important than the level as enemies will level with you so the difference to your character is where you place those skill points.

The actual handling of the combat is pretty good overall. You are able to target different body parts and either slice them off, bludgeon them or blow them off with a gun. It is very satisfying, one highlight for me was playing as a 4 we came across our first Thug (a large enemy that hits hard and has a lot of hit points) and we were all taking it in turns hacking its limbs off. Great fun!

Talking of enemies the game only boasts 6 different types of zombie. You have your standard ones right up to quicker bigger more powerful ones which you I won't spoil as it's a nice surprise when you come across them in the game. But I will single one enemy out, the second one you come across are called Infected. These are like the standard zombies but are far far quicker and run at you screaming. These are quite common place through the game and in my opinion they are too powerful. They are so quick they give you little time to react and they take off huge amounts of health and can interrupt your attacks making them very frustrating to battle. If there is more than one which the often is you have to rely on luck more than judgement to survive which is not a good thing.

As part of the story you will also battle human enemies many of these have guns and drop ammo, to the game play mixes up a bit here. As the game changes to being a proper FPS for these segments of the game, I found the shooting quite satisfying in the game but again it is nothing groundbreaking. You can also drive cars on the bigger maps, the handling does its job but the perspective you drive from makes it difficult to not hit things.

You will find new weapons everywhere. There are chests scattered around which are supposed to hold rare loot but more often than not, don't. In 50 hours playing this game I have only come across 2 of the games ‘exceptional weapons' which makes looting these chests feel a bit underwhelming, even with the lock pick skill maxed. All weapons found can be upgraded up to 3 times which raise their stats and make them damage more; you can also mod weapons by applying the loot you find throughout the game (mod blueprints are found by completing quests or simply searching thoroughly). Playing around with weapons is great fun adding things to them such as shock mods that will electrocute zombies to a spinning blade on the end of a baseball bat. The only problem here is that as you level up the weapons you have worked hard on become useless meaning it won't be long until you have to find the next weapon to upgrade.

For a game of this nature the quests you encounter are fairly varied. Yes you have your fair share of fetch quests but because of the location and enemy variety each mission feels individual making doing all the side quests a fun diversion from the main quest, especially taking the rewards into account.

One point I have mentioned before is that this game is built for co-op game play. The game is certainly playable in solo mode but is not really a great experience. You need to play this game with others to get the full enjoyment. The replay value of the game is very decent as you have 4 very different characters that you can play through the game with.

The game is very nice to look at but that's a about it, it's no masterpiece. The zombies do look great when you are chopping or smashing them to pieces and although there is nothing original about them the map is very varied with its locations which all look very nice. I've come across a bit of screen tearing. The resort in particular does look fantastic though with the nice beaches and great views and the graphics to depict the variety of locations very well. The main problem is the interactivity with the environment. If you drive a car it to a suitcase for example you will stop dead, you also have sandcastles on the beach which stand steady. It just meant that the game world can sometimes feel more like a shell than an interactive world which can remove the immersion. The music is above average and does its job nicely with its fair share of suspenseful tunes but is certainly nothing to write home about.

This is how the game is meant to be played. Solo is ok but the game is built for co-op gaming. There are problems with the lobby system and getting into other peoples games but playing with a group of friends is superb. You can join other people game by going into the lobby menu or just by pressing left on the direction pad. There is no level restriction (so a level 50 character could play with a level 1) and zombies will average out their levels of the players in the game. You can trade items, you all get quest rewards and you can heal each other when downed. Although you do need a med pack, which are fairly scarce and have a measly 5 seconds to do so.

I wouldn't normally include this section but I'm afraid this game has so many glitches and other issues that really hold the game back. To put it bluntly the game was not ready for release there are so many little things wrong with the game that point towards a rushed release. From menus not working properly and weapons falling through the floor to save game corruption and getting stuck in missions. On release the online component is not working properly. It's really hard to join random games and have random people join you, there is a work around but it's not something the average gamer would know about. Even one of the achievements is currently glitched and it not unlocking for most people (find all 72 locations),

There is a patch due but the game at release only just verges on playable. Luckily what the game does right is quite good which just about saves it. The patch should resolve most of the issues and once that is in place the game will hopefully be what it should have be on release day.

Dead Island is a fun game especially with 3 mates. The game play is good and varied and the game looks nice and will last you about 20-30 hours depending on how quick you are with many reasons to play the game again (achievements and different characters). But the game has a large number of glitches and polish issues that means it will never be a great.

7/10 – Fun but has a number of flaws, worth a play and much more enjoyable if you have Xbox Live.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 09/14/11

Game Release: Dead Island (Special Edition) (US, 09/06/11)

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