After a three year delay Techland’s first person zombie survival shooter / adventure Dead Island has finally arrived, leading to me spending the last few days of my life leaving a trail of mutilated bodies in my wake, as I played through the main story line and completed many of Dead Island’s side quests as well.
The story takes place on a fictitious island off the coast of Papua New Guinea called Banoi. The main characters wake up after a wild night at the islands premier Palms Resort Hotel to find their vacation paradise has been transformed into a blood soaked massacre after zombies attack. Each the survivors appear to be immune to the disease making them they idea people to help aid the survivors left on the island all while potentially holding the key to developing a cure.
You are given the choice between four playable characters each with their own skill trees and play styles. Xian Mei, a Royal Palms employee and master of bladed weapons and acts as a damage dealing assassin class. Sam B., a one hit wonder rapper who came up with the song “Who Do You Voodoo, Bitch?” acts as a tank class specializing in the use of blunt weapons and brute force. Logan, a washed up NFL star and master of thrown weapons acts as a long-range damage dealer. Finally, we have Purna, a former police officer who prefers firearms above all else who acts as a long-range damage dealer and leader of the group. The game is made up of a total of sixteen chapters spread out through four acts and can be played both single player or with up to three other players.
Each of the four characters have unique three branch style skill trees that allow you to fine tune each to support your over all play style. It is recommended that you stick to their preferred weapon types, as it will grant you bonuses and often-extra XP when certain conditions are met.
Dead Island also features a weapon modification and upgrade system adding a crafting aspect to its RPG element arsenal. You must locate or finish various quests to unlock plans that contain shopping lists for each of the weapons. Ever wanted to smash a zombie’s skull in with an oversized sledgehammer reinforced with an engine block, or perhaps fire a precision bullet into a zombie’s chest sending out a pulsating surge of electricity? Well then, here is your chance to do just that without having to worry about jail time. Weapons decay at an alarming rate without proper skill unlocks causing a constant need to also repair your weapon of choice. Another RPG trait the game features is the typical MMORPG style loot system of white, green, blue, purple, and orange colored coded drops based on rarity.
Zombies are split into six different verities each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Walkers are your basic slow walking Romero style zombies. Infected are more like modernized zombies that run full speed and scream loudly to let their presence been known. Floaters are large overweight zombies, who have the ability to spit a stream of acid like liquid and can take a lot of damage due to their extra body mass. Rams, are huge muscle bound freaks in straight jackets that run at you full force and slam into you with the force of a Mack truck. Butchers move fast like the infected but feature long blades that come from their arms, they are able to dodge and attack with great speed and accuracy making them a very dangerous foe. The last enemy type is the suicide, a disgusting mutated mess of a zombie that explodes whenever you come to close to them or they are killed.
Dead Island while highly addictive and exceptionally fun is far from perfect and suffers from a variety of bad game design choices and flaws. My first complaint is the hoops needed in order to sell off inventory, for some strange reason whenever you sell anything you cursor jumps to a random object in your inventory. This makes selling items a painful process and to make matters worse you have to sell stacks one by one with no option of choosing how many of an item to sell or buy.
Another item related issue I have with Dead Island is the overall lack of non-common loot drops, I was hoping for a Diablo like loot farming experience with a zombie skin but the rate of worthwhile drops is insanely low. Many of the special weapons I managed to come across were quest rewards making going out into the wide and farming zombies for drops pointless, in turn in my opinion removing what could have been a fun aspect that could of added a level of replay value for us certified loot whores.
Gameplay wise the game is solid, I had zero control issues playing on the Xbox 360, combat seems fluent, and with practice you can be transformed into a precision zombie killing machine resulting in some authentic “holy shit, did you see that?” moments. By the time I had finished the first act I was timing blows and handling large mobs in such a way I truly felt like a trained zombie hunter laying to rest my enemy after years of practice.
While the game visually feels out of date compared to other current gen games, mainly due to hideous character models it does take away from the game at all. Once again, I have heard PC users complaining heavily due to major graphical tearing issues and performance issues. I think they did a great job with making each of the games four locations visually interesting keeping you from becoming bored with your surroundings. Dead Island shines when it comes to small details that make the surroundings seem realistic and believable causing you to feel as if you are honestly playing through a zombie flick at times.
The storyline is laughable but it adds a B-movie cheese factor that ends up creating a genuine zombie movie-feeling atmosphere. It’s basically a melting pot of various zombie story cliché’s, but to be fair why try to fix something that is not broken and as I said in the end it ends up making the experience a lot more enjoyable from the stand point of a die hard horror fan. Unfortunately, once you finish the main story line you are only able to retain your characters skill tree unlocks and current inventory. Once again I feel this was a missed opportunity to add replay value to the game by letting the player be turned loose into a giant zombie infested sandbox to gather and build any weapons they hadn’t got the chance to play with and reek havoc with friends looking for sweet loot. Once I realized I had lost all my mod plans and was simply replaying through the campaign with equal leveled zombies, I lost any interest in additional play troughs, especially without the temptation of farming loot drops.
Overall Dead Island is a ton of fun gameplay wise but after awhile it becomes very repetitive, and after completing the main story line there is little reason to return unless you are a raving achievement junkie making this game in my opinion more of a rental than a purchase unless you’re absolutely obsessed with the zombie genre.