When we first saw the trailer for Dead Island we were impressed, yet also cautious. Could this game from a little, less-known developer really live up to the trailer? The answer is no, definitely not. Yet, they were still able to deliver a fun and impressive game that rivals some of the zombie games we have seen from well-known companies.
Dead Island has an undeniable charm that keeps you wanting to dive deeper and deeper into the game even thought the story is pretty nonexistent and the combat is annoying. The environments of the game are constantly changing, which keep things exciting and I don’t think you will get bored of decapitating zombies anytime soon.
Like I said above, the story is nonexistent. When you start the game you will be able to choose between 4 different characters who all specialize in different types of combat and who all have a different beginning. The differences in the beginning story are very small and not drastic enough to write about. From there, you are basically the only person (persons if you’re playing co-op) who seem to be able to do anything for themselves on the island. You will run into many different survivors who have taken refuge, yet all of them need you to do all of their dirty work for them because apparently, they are all helpless. You will be running around finding water, canned foods, insulin and a teddy bear…yes, you risk your life for a teddy bear. Your main objective is to get to a guy who you have been in contact with over the radio who promises to get you off the island. As always, there seems to be tons of things stopping you from getting to him, so you must go on missions to help other survivors to collect the things you need to escape.
Who wouldn’t love to go on vacation to a beautiful beach resort on an island? Minus the zombies of course. The environments in Dead Island are gorgeous, except for the greenery such as bushes, trees and grass which all look extremely pixalated and just down-right bad. There are also times where there will be mystery light sources inside buildings which will have you wondering where the hell all the light is coming from if there are no windows and no light fixtures. Other than those minor hiccups, I really enjoyed the bloodshed and mayhem on the backdrop of a beautiful beach with crystal clear water. The beach resort isn’t the only place you will be spending your zombie-killin’ time; you will also head to other locations like a lush jungle, dirty sewers and a run down, shanty town to name a few. The area and scenery change often enough to keep the players from ever getting too comfortable or bored with their current location.
The gameplay in Dead Island reminds me a lot of Dead Rising, but so much better. There is crafting, repairing and upgrading your weapons at repair tables, but these weapon changes are much more practical than a teddy bear grenade. Also, the inventory reminds me a bit of Dead Rising, but now you are able to carry many different weapons and heath packs.
The worst part of the gameplay would definitely be the combat. Shooting zombies and enemies is a much easier task in this game than melee combat, but the ammo is so rare that even if you choose the character who specializes in firearms, you will be finding yourself using hand-to-hand combat weapons more than your guns. Not to say that the melee combat is awful, just annoying and takes quite some time to get used to.
You also level-up in the game by choosing different skills from the skill tree that offers 3 different options. Each skill then has 3 levels within itself. I found most of these skills to be pretty useful, but none of them were “OMG this skill is badass!” which I usually come to expect.
Also, I had some trouble with the map and UI. The mini-map is your basic “go in the direction of the arrow” yet it was all just on a black background. There are no sketches of the buildings or rough layout of the land, just darkness and a GPS like dot system. The UI and menu system is a bit confusing because they never describe what anything is except for what each skill in the skill tree is for. There are no explanations about the inventory or why there are three different levels.
Dead Island is built to be played co-op and playing through it solo is maddening. There were many times where I could tell certain missions were definitely not built to be played by only one person. Like having to turn on the generators and have no one watching my back while getting stuck in the action animation. Also, a lot of the dialogue with NPC’s were group oriented. I don’t know how many times I was called “you guys”. I found it very humorous too that in cutscenes it was all 4 characters instead of just mine. Plus, playing games is just always more fun with friends.
Overall though Dead Island is a must. I think any gamer who enjoys games like Fallout 3, Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising or any other open-world game will really have a great time with Dead Island. Find up to 3 other friends and jump in to kill some zombies and survive the outbreak. You will have a dead good time.(See what I did there?)
Pros: the environments and world really make this game, 4-player co-op, running over zombies, tons of missions which mean hours and hours of gameplay
Cons: having to stand to drink an energy drink while in the middle of a shoot out, occasional game crashes, the camera angle while driving, auto-save only
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Zombie Heads