Dead Island: Review

Posted on October 8, 2011

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If everyone loves a terrible, zombie flick. Why did I hate Dead Island, as it was both?

Dead Island, is a first-person, zombie survival RPG developed by Techland, the studio behind the Call of Juarez trilogy. It gained notoriety for its supposedly emotionally charger trailer…

Watch here.

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Before I begin, Dead Island is nothing at all like the trailer above in anyway. Not by a long-shot. The trailer evokes feelings, fear and intrigue being among them. It features high-res characters who you care about in the brief time you see them, a child dies. Hell, it features a zombie virus breaking out in a Pacific Island holiday resort.

Naked zombies. Yuck

Dead Island has none of the above, no fear, intrigue, high-res characters, children, or even a zombie outbreak.

It is set in the aftermath of an outbreak. Disappointingly you wake up after all the panic occurs. I have no doubt in my mind this saved Techland a large amount of money that would have been otherwise spent on animating terrifying scenes. Techland, I for one would have probably appreciated seeing something like that. Also the word zombie, is never used, not even once, is the word zombie trademarked or something? Or do Techland continue under the assumption that their game characters have never heard of zombies… if so why? So many jokes, puns and references could have been made, whereas instead, the game is humourless and sterile. Frustrating too.

It was also difficult to make a connection with any of the four characters you could pick. I chose Sam B voiced by the legendary Phil LaMarr (Hermes from Futurama and Vamp from Metal Gear Solid), just because, well because I hated all the characters a little bit more.

Sam B is a fantastically terrible character. His dialogue consists of “Imma gonna do that” and “where dat muthafucka come from“. Even worse is his reason for surviving the outbreak, apparently Sam B, a washed-up hip-hop artist is immune to the zombie plague. He is unaffected by zombie bites. How very convenient.

Sam B, Rapper from Nor' Lins

He can’t be turned… well there’s that fear done away with. No internal conflict, no risk, nothing. One about the great things about the walking dead is that survivors have to deal with the prospect of being forcibly turned into one. It is an engaging concept and probably the genre’s biggest hook.

Ignoring that though, Sam B is the game’s blunt expert, meaning his specialty weapons included baseball bats and maces. which isn’t as fun as it sounds.

Throughout the game I cursed my choice of character. I wish I picked the blade expert as swords are much more fun. With decapitations and big machetes with batteries wired to them, what’s not to like?

One of the redeeming qualities of the game is the fighting system. It’s rather amusing, cutting the limbs off the undead can be very satisfying. First person sword-fighting has never been so good.

Let me be clear, Dead Island is a sandbox game, it is supposed to be played over Xbox live or PSN with three friends. I played alone.

Therefore I deprived myself of some amusing banter and more importantly assistance from allies. Dead Island is hard, the zombies level up parallel to you, meaning you never have a great advantage over enemies, even when you acquire a powerful weapon or purchase an upgrade. Therefore leveling up feels like a chore, what’s the point in it if there is no reward?

It’s not all doom and gloom though, there are times when the first-person perspective does benefit the player. At times, I did feel like I was on a zombie infested island… although whenever I turned the game off, I was an agitated mess due to the fact decapitated an average of 247 zombies every session. Dead Island was my ‘Nam, and I survived.

It took me a massive 22 hours to complete the game. I don’t want to spoil anything (although I feel I would be saving you time) but the game’s ending is entirely lifted from 28 Weeks Later… minus the feeling of dread. I couldn’t give a shit about any of the inhabitants of Dead Island, all the characters who I had to rescue, escort or supply with food, were useless bastards. I hated them more than the zombies. Here is a perfect example of a typical mission objective:

“Bring bottled water to _____” or “supply _____ with ______”.

I heard myself often say: “I don’t want to do that”.

Axcellent...

After surviving a plague and the resulting genocide, your character gets turned into a glorified, blood-stained delivery boy (or girl) which sucks. And that brings me to my next point.

NO matter which character you select, you are an immortal being. If you do happen to get beaten up by zombies, you respawn nearby with less money. It is almost as if you are paying rent to God in order to stay in hell. Ironically paying for this game is the same. If I wanted to be killed by wretched, monsters I would punch my local alcoholic’s dog on the snout.

I found the game boring, it never hit a climax, the narrative was pathetic, the cut-scenes were ugly and the missions were downright pathetic.

I found that the first-person RPG elements got me in the mood for the upcoming Elder Scrolls Skyrim. At times I pretended I was playing a crappy, unfinished Skyrim.

However I feel I am missing the point, If played online with three friends I am sure that Dead Island’s many, problems wouldn’t have been as apparent. It may even have been fun. As it is, I played it alone and it sucked. Nonetheless I see what Techland tried to do, and for that…

2.5 *s out of 5

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