Dead Island: Official Review
Publisher: Deep Silver
North American Release Date: 6th September 2011
European Release Date: 9th September 2011
Trophies: 1 1 7 32
In February 2011 the debut trailer for Dead Island was released. The trailer gives the impression of a stunning, greatly cinematic game based around zombies. The trailer tells the story of a families holiday being torn apart after their young child is bit by a zombie, and you instantly get attached to what's going on around you. In September 2011 Dead Island was released, and it couldn't feel further away from the trailer.
Before I start, I must say that it isn’t all bad. Whilst the previously mentioned trailer featured a gripping tale that instantly connected the viewer, what’s actually left is a four player co-op RPG, not exactly what I personally expected from first impression. The game is flawed. At more hectic times you soon find that the combat system has its issues. When you first play the game, you may find it hard to get adjusted to the control system, but beyond its flaws I still managed to have a pretty fun experience exploring this zombie infested island.
One thing that the game does fairly well, is that the levelling up makes a fair amount of sense. When you start out, your character is weak and has barely any knowledge of what he/she is doing, and neither will you as a player to an extent. You’ll start out picking up random weapons and simply swinging for the fences, with your character being weak, you wont do as much damage as you could be doing, and your technique will be off a little, meaning you’ll be breaking your fair share of weapons and end up running for your life. Natural progression happens through out the game, in the sense that your character continually levels up, and so do the enemies around you. Your character progresses from having more experience of killing, and the zombies level up from natural progression and the weak dying out. The only annoyance is that despite there being four different areas to the game, the zombies stay the same, and they level up at the exact same pace as you. Meaning that the holiday goers by the hotel are apparently as strong as natives living in the jungle, the thugs living in the city or the prisoners on the island. The only difference is the character model.
Electric blades, just as fun as they look
Due to the previously mentioned weakness in the weapons, the flaws in the combat system do not become apparent until later on. When you’re fighting in a close quarters area, you’ll just find yourself becoming frustratingly swamped by zombies with no real way of shrugging them off. Whilst this adds a fear aspect to the game in the sense that you’ll end up running from point to point, it often ends up being a frustrating process most of the time, you’ll end up getting cornered by sprinting zombies that stop your attacks half way through. The fun parts of the gameplay are kept fresh by the weapon creation system. Whilst it didn’t seem as free or in-depth as the system in Dead Rising 2, the collectable aspect kept me coming back for more.
Getting around the island just feels the same as any other RPG, whilst I wasn’t too impressed with how they planned out the Singleplayer (More on that soon) the constant change of scenery does stop it from coming stale in some parts in the visual sense, but the gameplay doesn’t have much variation other than new weapons and new enemies. The controls are pretty straight forward, and it felt easier to adjust to than I first expected. The movement isn’t as smooth as on other RPG’s and the combat can be a little clunky at times. The driving and shooting mechanics both feel incredibly rushed. The driving is still fun, when has running over zombies not been fun? The shooting problems wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the game didn’t rely on them so much at times. When you enter a gunfight with the other remaining people on the island you’re sat there wanting it to end so you can go back to cutting up zombies.
I want to say this straight away, despite the impression they tried to give, this game has nothing going for it in terms of story, and you shouldn’t buy the game expecting a gripping story that reaches the highest highs and the lowest lows of your emotional scale. That being said, a lot of fun can still be had throughout the Singleplayer section (especially on co-op) and the game just feels like a rushed version of borderlands with zombies thrown in. Inspiration has been taken from Borderlands I’m certain, the weapon rarity is the first tell tale sign. But this doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem. The ranks go up to 50 and it gives the impression that it could take a while to get there, but if it means forcing myself through some more bland attempts of connecting me to characters, I don’t know if I’ll be coming back for much more once I’m done exploring. Whilst it isn’t unique for an RPG, it’s unique for a zombie game, and for what it’s worth mentioning, within seven days of having the game I’ve put in just under one days worth of gameplay. The game cant be that bad, right?
Outside of the main quests I’ve had a much better time. The side quests can actually feel more fulfilling due to the rewards, where you’re more likely to get better weapons or mods for your weapons. The layout of each area becomes increasingly obvious that they’ve copied and pasted the style of which they introduce characters etc. It’s the same everytime, travel to a new area, meet a new “Leader” of a new group. Be forced into side quests helping out their friends to build up a level of trust. After a handful of sidequests you’ll get back onto the main quests, and using your new friends, you’ll get to a new area and meet new people.
The game tries many times to get you to connect to the characters, but never truly succeeds
Exploration of the island was fairly good fun, the collectables would be worthwhile if the plot was interesting. The lack of interest in the main story kind of puts a downer onto certain aspects, but all is not lost. It’s still an RPG at heart, making it feel fun to wander around the island and explore new areas, meet some new people and collect some more weapons. The weapon collection was by far my personal highlight, as I mentioned it takes inspiration from Borderlands with how they rank the rarity of weapons. Those of you who’ve played Borderlands will appreciate that once you start getting the rarer, more powerful weapons, the less you’ll be bothered about the routine boring weapons. You’ll see the name of a weapon on the list of weapons you can use a mod on, and set out to look for it so you can get the most out of your weapon mods. It’s weird how one of the simplest of features turned out to be the one that kept me playing.
Playing this game in co-op mode is where the fun is truly found. I don’t know if I could’ve stomached so much of the game on solo, but when you’re playing with a group of friends, aspects that could be gamebreaking (Such as kicking a beachball into another player manages to kill them due to gameplay glitches) turn into something fun. Biding your time and watching a friend strategically place red canisters to blow up, only to do the deed for them, robbing the XP and possibly killing them along the way is a laugh in any game. It was through laughter that I managed to succeed in enjoying this flawed game. The lobbying is easy enough, and I was impressed at how easy you can invite, or join players that are in a similar part of the game. Never came across any real lag and mic quality is good enough. The most impressive section was how well it tracked my progress when joining different games. After hearing about the game being buggy at times I was quite worried when I realized I’d spent three hours in someone elses lobby. I left into my own save file with a bad feeling in my stomach, but I was met by a great surprise when I found out that it tracked the game up to where it matched my progress, then went further! All of my completed quests were updated, my rank was updated and so was my inventory, no loss of progress anywhere.
Some sections looks absolutely gorgeous
Whilst the game isn’t spectacular in terms of visuals, it does the job of creating atmosphere pretty well. The first section of the island, the hotel resort looks picturesque, and it feels like most of the effort has been put into this portion. It does capture the feeling of it being like a paradise island at times, one minute you could be going for a nice Cliffside stroll, the next you’ll hear the cry of a zombie and be running/fighting for your life in the beachside sunset. The weather stays sunny when you’re at the hotel, and whilst at first I was a little mythed by this, after going to the different areas I can see why. Simple things like the change of lighting and weather change the atmosphere completely. Whilst the hotel looks modern and beautiful, the city looks urban and dirty, with the jungle filling the space inbetween. In terms of soundtrack the game is good enough, it adds to the atmosphere and builds it up a little, but the voice acting is dire. Again, when we put all of the story related faults to one side, the game is still pretty good. The game has an amount of glitches on a similar level to most co-op RPGs, but they’re weird momentum based glitches that will kill you. Such as the beach ball (The impact of the ball somehow kills the player) and if you barge through certain doors the impact can kill you, nothing game breaking but we could do without them.
Despite being an RPG at heart, the game shouldn’t be too much of a difficult platinum, perhaps on level with the likes of borderlands. The collectables are tallied in game, and as by the nature of the game, it’s a little bit broken, thankfully in a good way. Apparently the tally carries on across all profiles that you create, so you could get 80/120 collectables with character A, start with character B and they’ll all add up together. Level 50 should be achievable without too much grinding
Again, the game is flawed, but I don’t think that it should stop anyone from trying this game out. I appreciate that it can be a nuisance at times, and I’ll admit that I was beginning to lose my temper towards the action packed end of the story, but for fun co-op, the game is definitely worth your time, and it has a weird level of addictiveness.
Nothing special here, but nothing monumentally awful. Whilst it has its downfalls, there’s nothing too bad, and there’s a lot of fun to be had
Poor plot building, mission layout and a poor story. Despite that I felt myself coming back for more, and wanting to explore this mysterious island and find more weapons
I think that without the fun times I’ve had playing the multiplayer I could’ve been slating this game, but I cannot deny that I’ve already had some really great times playing this game online. Aswell as that, it was a lag-free, easy to use experience
Not the prettiest of games but it has its moments; poor voice acting and the odd glitch however let it down
Overall: 7/10 Good