Dead Island

Video Game Review

by Christian Diaz

In 5 Words or Less

Mindless, violent, zombie slaying fun!

Value

Paid $60 » Worth $40

Affiliation with KNEW GEN

None

Intro

Picturesque, Tropical Beach Resort check. Flesh Eating Zombie Tourists check. Wait, What?!

Dead Island captivated the gaming communities’ imagination with an emotionally gripping and disturbing trailer. The trailer follows a young, barely teenage girl and her family as they struggle to fend off a horde of infected ravenous zombie tourists. The ultimate demise of the family including the young girl and her transformation into an undead flesh craving zombie was received with mixed reactions. Needless to say, the trailer did its job as it received thousands of views from gamers who wondered what the controversy was about. The press generated coverage was enough to help make Dead Island one of the year’s most anticipated releases. The game can simple be described as a blend of many genres that is unpolished yet entertaining enough in its approach to resuscitate the slowly dwindling zombie genre.

Story

Set on the beautiful tropical island of Banoi (just off the coast of Papua New Guinea) is the Royal Palm Resort, a scenic getaway known for attracting wealth. After a night of heavy drinking, the game opens up your hotel room where a hangover is the least of your worries. The buildings alarm system is going off and the hallways are eerily vacant as you take control of your chosen character and make your way through the ominous halls of the resort. At the start of the game you’re given a choice of four lackluster characters with varying back stories comparable to a television movie. You have a choice between Sam B, a one hit wonder rapper who is a brute with blunt weapons. There’s Xian who is a former police officer and an employee of the resort who is a surgeon with sharp weapons. Purma, a feminist ex-mercenary with a grudge is a firearms specialist. And last is Logan, a washed up former football star who is accurate with throwing weapons. The cast of the game are mysteriously immune to the infection that has plagued the island and use their immunity to find a way off. The weak plot of the story is enough to keep the game-play together as you hack and slash your way from one location to another. The game is a sprawling open world rich with detail and beautiful picturesque vistas that sometimes make you forget about the bloodthirsty horde of undead mindlessly hunting you down. The locations vary as you progress from one safe haven to the next. You’ll find yourself in a lighthouse in one part and then a church in another. Some areas completely lack safe zones and you must conserve your stamina as you run to the nearest ladder or climb the nearest park car. The game is massive and can easily take twenty hours to complete. But if you’re an explorer like me, you will be rewarded be searching every inch of the game for rare and powerful weapons and elusive collectibles as you level up extending the experience well past forty hours.

Game Play

If you’re expecting an emotionally gripping story of survival as the trailers suggest, you will be slightly disappointed. An otherwise flat and unfinished game is saved by its ability to get enough of its core game-play mechanics right to create a suspenseful, action R.P.G. Dead Island is heavily focused on melee combat. The player will find the occasional firearm but the bulk of shooting sequences don’t come till later in the game. Weapons vary from wooden boat paddles to devastating electrified machetes the player can create for a price. The majority of the weapons in the game can be modded and upgraded to increase their overall damage and durability but you’ll find yourself quickly replacing a weapon you just spent $6000 dollars on for a stronger one.  As you level up, so do your enemies who are always around your level leaving difficulties in leveling up behind you. There are a couple of different enemy types but nothing a couple of well placed blows to the head can’t fix. Your chosen character has their own attributes that consist of health, speed and stamina. Depending on whom you pick, you must keep an eye on your stamina, as it governs almost every action you take. Running, swinging weapons, jumping, all take stamina away. Also your weapons diminish with every strike you land. Constant repair is a must in order to insure your weapon lasts. Keep in mind that higher damage weapons cost more to repair so use your money wisely. Combat is choppy and stiff but when you’re facing fifteen zombies chasing you, you hardly notice. You’ll rely on your kick and slash combo for the whole game as your kick can not be interrupted and always creates much needed distance between you and enemies. The games Chrome engine gruesomely showcases the dismemberment of your enemies in all its gory glory. Chunks of flesh are ripped away from your enemies’ bodies as you hack away at them.  Nothing is more satisfying then cutting a zombies head clean off who has been chasing you for the past five minutes. The games A.I. is flawed at times with human enemies (usually looters) showing less intelligence then there undead counterparts. I found myself many times just waiting for a dumb enemies head to pop out for a well placed head shot. Single zombies are disturbing fun to slash away at but when faced with a horde of them you best run and find cover.  The game can be enjoyed by a single player adding to the sense of tension the game constantly creates.  However the game is best played through its’ cooperative mode which lets up to 4 friends or strangers partner up in some zombie slaying. I found myself on many occasions skipping the games missions to explore the island and level up and search for items for hours at a time. The levels are expansive and reward exploration. Missions are varied and plentiful with your character receiving experience points and money along with special items sometimes. But the majority of the missions have no impact on the story and get monotonous as the games progresses. One moment you’re searching for much needed medical supplies, the other, you’re searching for a grown woman’s teddy bear. Your path and character choice have little impact on the game itself. Regardless of what you do you will see the same cut scenes, follow the same path, and see the same ending.

Graphics

Even on the P.C. version, the game looks awkwardly stiff and emotionless. Voice acting is tolerable but lacks punch in cut scenes. The draw distance of the game from certain locations is amazing; showcasing the islands pristine beaches, but the more then occasional pop up of objects and textures hurts the overall presentation. Your characters animations and those of N.P.C’s look as though an old man with hemorrhoids was their motion capture actor. The levels are vast but not completely open. There’s usually a given path to follow and if you chose to go off it you’ll be met with invisible walls and boundaries, or worse, a glitch that’ll get you stuck inside a mountain somewhere. Where the graphics really shine is with the violence. You lose count of all the limbs you’ve cut off by the end of the game but each one is as rewarding as the last. Character models on your enemies show real damage as they are torn to shreds by your weapons. Your weapons also get some gory detail as they crack with each blow and collect thick infected zombie blood.

Overall

If you’re looking for an entertaining, violent, cooperative game, Dead Island will satisfy you for a while or until a new game comes out. The mix of R.P.G. elements coupled with a fun yet choppy combat system, and many collectible items and weapons can merit another play through. If you beat the game in single player, you’ll want to play it again with friends. Several patches of the games glitches have been released by developer TechLand and downloadable content is on the horizon. Dead Islands many problems can be over-looked to reveal a good game at its core.

Contact Christian at cdiaz@knewgeneration.com