Zombie games are all the rage it seems lately, but it’s not too often where you get to experience for yourself what it would be like to actually try to survive a Zombie Apocalypse beyond simply running and gunning. Enter Deep Silver and Techland’s latest Action Role Playing Survival Horror game, Dead Island, which throws you balls deep into some seriously scary shit! While there certainly is plenty of zombie face-melting, the game to me feels more like Fallout 3 than it does Left 4 Dead.
Dead Island puts you in the shoes of one of four characters who wake to find that the resort they are staying at on the paradise island of Banoi has been infested and is being destroyed by crazy ass zombies! Early investigation reveals that you are immune to whatever has caused this outbreak, a mysterious man on a radio has instructed survivors to get to a jungle to find the source of the problem, and you just need to get the hell off of this god forsaken island. Initially, I didn’t really care for the look of any of the four characters, but once I read their profiles I found them all quite interesting. While I can’t relate to any of them, I was at least interested in their back stories and genuinely cared to see how I could help them escape Banoi.
The game’s 18 chapters spread out over 4 acts will cover several large unconnected sandboxy zones. My play-through took me roughly 24 hours to complete and that didn’t even scratch the surface of plentiful helping of side quests. The art direction is great as each zone brings with it a unique look from the beautiful island paradise to the grungy broke down slums to the eerie unknown jungle. While footing it across the massive game-world is always an option, you will also have access to vehicles to mow down zombie bystanders and a fast travel system to significantly decrease travel time.
Unfortunately what seemed like a great concept for a game ended up having some pretty significant technical downfalls. The PS3 version of Dead Island suffers from some of the worst screen tearing I’ve ever seen pretty much 100% of the time. Texture popping and random frame drops plague your experience as well. It also seems like motion blur is enabled by default which is a feature I prefer to have the ability to disable as it is really hard on my eyes. Overall, the graphics engine really just needs a lot of work.
I played through the entire game single player, but as I got about 2/3 through I began to realize that the story and mechanics were really designed with 4-player jump-in-jump-out co-op in mind. When you die, you simply lose a little bit of money and respawn a few seconds later nearly on top of your corpse without losing any progress. If you are fighting a tough battle, dying over and over will eventually overcome any obstacle. To me, this was more frustrating than anything which made the overall challenge trivial without a real penalty for death. This is unfortunate because the early game gives you the feeling that you are truly helpless and that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
While there are some shortcomings, the game-play is still quite fun much of the time. The island is huge leaving plenty of room for exploration. Side quests like turning on water pumps, escorting wounded survivors and finding gas supplies make sense given the context of the situation.
There are several types of zombies that you’ll encounter all over the damn place, each of which need to be handled differently. You’ll earn experience points for completing quests and creatively killing the enemies which will level you up providing you with points that may be spent in three different skill trees with abilities unique to each character. The enemies scale in difficulty with you as you level which makes fighting them challenging all the way to the end. If a quest says it’s going to be difficult, you can’t out-level it to make it easier. In fact, I died over 100 times on my play-through.
I think the thing I enjoyed the most though was finding and collecting the game’s massive amount of loot. Killing zombies is always fun when you have access to a serious amount of different weapons ranging from frying pans and coat racks to machetes and baseball bats to pistols and rifles. Items are scattered everywhere and it’s important to gather as much of it as you can. Melee weapons degrade rapidly as you use them and ammunition is scarce, so you have to constantly repair, upgrade and create modifications for your weapons as you go. Completing the game will also allow you to start over with all of your pimped-out super-gear and keep your experience and levels.
Dead Island is a mixed bag. It’s full of technical problems that really prevented me from completely enjoying what could and should have been a wonderful title. To me, the story felt like it just drug on, but that could simply be that I wasn’t in the mood for such a long game – so take that for what it’s worth. If you want to play Zombie Fallout 3 where you’re essentially playing a lengthy zombie apocalypse simulator, this very well could be right up your ally if you can deal with the technical downfalls. Regardless, for the most part, I had a lot of fun playing this game… especially the beginning.
Publisher: Deep Silver
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Price: $49.99 – $59.99
Release Date: September 6, 2011
Commentated Game-play: http://www.youtube.com/ZGRWhyUDead
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**This title was provided to me free of charge from the publisher to review for you.