Dead Island Review

by on September 21, 2011

Dead Island ReviewGame: Dead Island

Developer: Techland

Publisher: Deep Silver

Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC (Xbox 360 Version Reviewed)

The hype is now over and it’s judgement day for the zombie apocalypse that is Dead Island. We all thought we were in for a treat with the amazing trailers and music that pretty much came to us out of nowhere. The trailer captured all of our imaginations and we all hoped for an amazing title and the build up of news, trailers, and gameplay video’s only escalated the hype for this game. Hopes were high, possibilities were endless and gamers were drooling in anticipation for the beauty and horror that this title potentiall promised.

Unfortunately, hype can destroy a game. As we all start to want and expect too much, it does then put immense pressure on a game developer. Sometimes they pull it off, but these are rare because the for the majority, they usually fall short. Well it’s now time for Dead Island to face the judge jury and maybe the executioner. Has the hype been worth it and have Techland pulled off a cracking title? Or should we all put a shotgun in our mouths and pull the trigger to avoid the infection?

STORY: Dead Island is situated on the Island of Banoi which is just off the coast of Papua New Guinea. A tropical paradise that has many tourist come to visit its beautiful beach resorts, bustling warzone-esque city and deep jungles. After a heavy night on the sauce, your character (one of four that you can choose from at the start) awakes with a monster hangover to hear screaming in the hotel that you are staying at, called the Palms Resort Hotel. After an initial look around, you discover that many of the patrons have turned into blood thirsty zombies, hell bent on eating your flesh. After a lengthy chase you are knocked out by a zombie, only to awaken with a chap ready to cave your head in with a baseball bat. From here you find out that a lifeguard saved your life and for whatever reason, your character and three others seem to be immune to this mysterious outbreak, and have heard a mysterious voice on the radio claiming he can save you and the other survivors. So with your specialist skills and willingness to batter zombies to death, whether it be melee weapons, guns, or your bare fists, it is up to the four people immune to the virus to save the day. But is there something else to this mysterious outbreak?

Dead Island doesn’t really have a smooth storyline in all honesty. You find yourself at times wondering what’s going on in the cutscenes, due to the fact that during gameplay all you are doing is helping other survivors. There is no conversation throughout the game with the other three characters and this can be generally confusing. Instead of the cutscenes, the developers should have gone down the same route as a game like Oblivion and explained the story through meeting characters along the way. If a solid storyline is one of your pre-requisites to buying a game, you may find yourselves disappointed.

GRAPHICS: The world that Dead Island inhabits is a very beautiful one to look at. Where the gorgeous beaches that everyone dreams of are recreated and the oceans are amazing and realistic looking – the developers have really put some major effort into making Banoi a believable paradise. But it’s not just the beach resort. The city has been designed fantastically and really does look like it has been overrun by a zombie outbreak. The burnt out cars, the barricades that people have put up for protection and the rubbish littering the road makes it really look like armageddon has come to the city of Moresby. The jungles are a lush green with loads of hills, bridges and little villages and tracks to explore. The scenery is absolutely wonderful.

The zombies have been rendered exceptionally well. The sheer grotesque nature of a zombie has been captured perfectly. It is genuinely pant messingly scary when your are grabbed by one and see their faces up close and personal. It really does feel like they are climbing out of the TV at times. This adds to the fear and adrenaline you will feel when playing and makes this a brilliant horror game. However, additional horror comes when you see the main character and human faces. They are not Oblivion bad, but they do look a bit ropey, and it reminds you that Dead Island was made on a budget. This is a shame because Techland have created a beautiful world with horrific zombies, but put the rubber faces from Bo Selecta on the survivors. If they had spent a bit more time in making them more believable, then this would’ve been a great looking game overall, but on the other hand, the game disc must be bursting at the seams with the graphical quality and sheer size of the island because it is absolutely huge and you could get lost for hours just exploring the place.

SOUND: Dead Island sounds beautiful. The screams of the zombies are terrifying and when you are in an enclosed area, the constant moaning and screaming adds to the intensity and insanity that Dead Island can provide. The sound of slamming a baseball bat or slicing a machete into a zombie is sickeningly satisfying, and exploding heads have never sounded so good. The voice acting is not that great though, as they sound a little over the top at times. I’m sure that there are people that sound like this but it really does come across at times as a bit of a joke.

In terms of soundtrack, all you really hear for most of the game is the same song and unfortunately, it’s not that song. Admittedly, you’d want to hear it at key points but it just never comes along. The only tune you do get is not bad, with a sinister feel which adds to the general anticipation of being scared. It feels like anything is lurking around the corner and although there are other tunes that add to the atmosphere, they are pretty much forgettable.

GAMEPLAY: Played like a First Person Shooter, you have an aiming reticule so you can accurately hit, throw, or shoot a zombie wherever you desire and this allows you to kill a zombie tactically. For example, if you have two zombies with a bigger zombie known as a Thug coming at you (and they will with speed), you can kick the two normal zombies out of the way with the left bumper and cut the Thug’s arms off because when he hits you, you will go flying. Once you remove the Thug’s arms from his body, you can then take down the smaller zombies quickly by removing and smashing their heads. Then you can concentrate on finishing off the Thug. The accuracy of this is very good, so wherever you swing, you will be hitting that area. When attacking zombies, you have to make sure you time it well, so swinging too soon or too late will find yourself getting nibbled on by your peckish foe. If you think you’re not going to get the timing right when they run at you, then a quick kick will stun the zombie, giving you some time to commence the hacking and smashing accurately. But be warned, as you progress through the game, the zombies get harder to kill and come at you in greater numbers so swinging your weapon wildly sometimes won’t cut it, as you have a stamina meter to worry about. The more it goes down, the slower and weaker your hits will be, so you will need to buy some time to get it back up (and it will, relatively quickly) but they can be so fast at times you may find yourself dying a lot.

There are many different types of zombies that you will come across and also some mutations that can really ruin your day, for example there are Suiciders (they explode if you get too close), Rams (these charge at you and can dish out and take some punishment) and a few other bizarre creations to give you a difficult time as well.

If you loved playing Oblivion and Borderlands, then Dead Island will be right up your street. The massive world you can explore can burn the hours away, and the vast array of melee weapons and firearms (although these are quite sparse at first) are immense. With the help of mods, which you will find scattered around the island or by completing side-quests, you can upgrade your melee weapons by finding various miscellaneous items scattered everywhere by rummaging through bins, looking in lockers, searching corpses, and turn them into more lethal devices of destruction, whether it be an electric machete, a poisonous mace, or a flaming baseball bat, each have specific stats in regards to damage, force, range and durability. To upgrade these you need to find various items that the mod suggests, whether it be a battery, duct tape, wires, rags etc. As you would expect, these weapons won’t last forever. There is only so much a baseball bat being wrapped around the head of a zombie can take, but you can repair these weapons as well as upgrade them with mods at various workbenches scattered around the island to ensure that you are always ready to club heads, but for a price.

Some survivors will be willing to sell you weapons, items and health but sometimes the prices can be a little extortionate. If you need to purchase a weapon fast or find an item to make a modified weapon that the survivor already has, then this can be quite handy as a quick fix. But bare in mind that you have a limited amount of weapons that you can hold, so make sure you choose them wisely. By gaining experience points you can increase the amount you carry, and a little later on in the game you will be given the added option to store your weapons with a survivor that you rescue called Jin.

The level up system is divided into three categories which are rage, combat and survival. By holding down the B button when your rage meter is full, you use your character’s special skill – whether it be throwing knives or just sheer brute force to name a few. In the level up menu you can increase your attacking range or improve many things like throwing distance and damage increase. The combat level up allows you to increase your damage, increase normal throwing distance or improve weapon durability. The survival level up allows you to increase your stamina, up the damage caused when drunk or learn how to pick locks. All of these come in very handy when you progress through the game and it is very important to do as many of the side-quests as you can, because if you progress through the plot too quickly, you may find yourself dying a lot as the zombies get a lot more stronger and come in greater numbers.

Dead Island is a fun, interesting and challenging game on your own, with a huge island to explore, a ton of weapons and items to find/mod and a melee fighting system that, once you master, can be an intensely satisfying experience, the possibilities of this title are endless.

MULTIPLAYER: Without question, Dead Island is meant to be played in co-op. When playing on your own, it can be very challenging, but when you get even just one additional person playing with you, things get easier as long as you stick together. It can be great fun clearing an area of zombies to allow you to progress with side-quests or the main plot. But the game comes into its own when you have four player co-op going. The fact that you can split up and explore the area you are in is a breath of fresh air, because you can all go off and do four separate side quests and then meet up, finish the quest off and get the XP very quickly, which also aids to finishing the game quicker. If someone is having difficulties with a quest then you can happily join in mid-quest and assist them. You can also trade weapons at any time with other players, so you can help a partner out by giving them a weapon, as long as they are at the level required to use that weapon.

The only problem is that you cannot fast travel unless you are all together, which can be annoying and time consuming and if your partners needs help, then you will have to travel great distances, via car or on foot to get there and by then it may be too late, so it’s best to plan what missions you are going to do depending on their difficulty. But as a co-op game, Dead Island is fantastic and you can have a brilliant amount of fun smashing zombies, finishing quests and generally exploring and experimenting.

LONGEVITY: As a single player experience, and depending on how many side-quests you do, Dead Island can take anything from 15 hours (if you want to race through) to 30 hours or more. If you’re a completionist and with the multiplayer aspect you could spend longer just exploring the island in its entirety and searching for weapons to build fun and lethal weapons, items and side-quests.

In essence, it really all depends on how you play it, as there is that much variety on offer. With DLC coming out at the end of September with a new story line to play through, this title could last you a fortnight of solid gameplay or maybe even a month if you and your friends really enjoy it.

VERDICT: After all the hype for Dead Island, it may not have quite lived up to some of the expectations it was given, but it’s given it a damn good go. The sheer size of the game, the stunning graphics of the island and the zombies, the combat and the multiplayer aspect make this a great game to play. It is let down however, by the confusing storyline, the shaky human graphics and dodgy voice acting, but if you can look past this and look at it from a gameplay experience, it is a genuinely fun and immersive world to go around and smash or slice up zombies in.

If you are a little squeamish and are not a fan of sandbox games, then you may want to give Dead Island a miss. But if you love a good zombie game that is comparable in gameplay to Oblivion, Fallout and Borderlands (maybe not as great, but up there) then Dead Island would be a wise title to add to your games collection.

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