Review by horror_spooky

"Livin' in a zombie paradise"

As a big fan of horror games, I was stoked for Dead Island. The long in-development survival-horror FPS was stuck in development hell for the longest time, but developers Techland and Deep Silver finally put the game out, and it became a sleeper hit. No, it didn't garner the best reviews from the mainstream gaming press, but the game did sell quite a bit of copies, enough to warrant DLC, a Game of the Year Edition repackaging, and a sequel that was just announced called Dead Island: Riptide. In light of this news, let's take a look back at the original Dead Island to see if it's right for you.

Despite being yet another zombie game, Dead Island doesn't just rest on the laurels of the sub-genre. It's actually an extremely unique game. Imagine Fallout 3 combined with Dead Rising combined with Left 4 Dead. On paper, that sounds absolutely amazing. In execution, it's less than great, but it's still an acceptably done game. And at first, the novelty of it all will blow you away. Being able to freely explore the island is an engrossing experience, and the side quests are always interesting. There is a wide variety of objectives as well as a ton of other stuff to do. Dead Island certainly isn't boring, but it does falter in other areas.

Namely, the multiplayer. One of the biggest features in Dead Island was the multiplayer functionality. Allowing for up to four people to play together in co-op, Dead Island has an online multiplayer functionality reminiscent of Borderlands. That being said, it's a real shame that Dead Island does not include split-screen co-op. The low level of graphics quality and the fact that Borderlands did it allows me to know for a fact that Dead Island was certainly capable of such a feature, but the lack of its inclusion shows that the developers did not go the extra effort. The online co-op technically functions, but it's not nearly as fun as split-screen would have been, or split-screen online for that matter.

Gameplay in Dead Island is a mixed bag from the get-go. Combat is satisfying, but the game can become frustrating as well. The driving mechanics are hit and miss, and the game has more glitches than palm trees. But all that being said, it's all in good, dumb fun. Weapon customization and being able to find a ton of different weapons to fight off the undead is still cool, even though it's been done by a bunch of games since Dead Rising.

What helps Dead Island stand out most is the RPG mechanics. I've made comparisons to Fallout 3 and Borderlands, and for good reason. Dead Island is, at its heart, an RPG experience. Players earn experience points and level up, purchasing skills off of a skill tree, opening the door for new combat opportunities and the like. People are going to come to Dead Island because of the zombies and the promise of free roaming, but they are going to stay for the RPG mechanics.

Speaking of role-playing, the game starts by asking you to pick one out of four characters. Each of the different characters specialize in a certain weapon type and have their own set of skills. The differences between all four of them is so great that they all feel entirely unique, and playing as one character will definitely result in a far different experience than as another.

Dead Island is a unique game with a lot of good ideas. Its low budget yields a B-movie like charm, and the RPG mechanics really help the game reach the next level. Bugs hold it down, as does the hit and miss gameplay mechanics that make up a majority of the rest of the experience. However, I can forgive these technical issues because Dead Island supplied me with a gameplay experience that I'd never had prior, and in a day and age populated with cookie cutter shooting games and generic Tetris clones dominating the digital space, Dead Island is a breath of fresh, salty air.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 06/25/12

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

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