Dead Island Review
- Posted November 16th, 2011 at 15:24 EDT by Robert Zwetsloot
- 8 Comments
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Ambition can only take a game so far. The inconsistent experience in Dead Island is testament to that, with a selection of surprisingly good gameplay mechanics somewhat overshadowed by technical issues and a bad story.
- Deep and enjoyable Crafting System
- Fun with friends
- Quests don't get repetitive
- Pervasive technical issues
- Weak story with offensively racist characters
- Boss fights are rare and uninspired
Dead Island has been in development for a fair few years, almost causing the Techland zombie title to fly off the radar completely. Then suddenly, the game was thrust into the limelight earlier this year with that trailer, getting everybody talking about it. However, the trailer ended up having no bearing on the final product, other than it was a zombie game at some resort hotel. There is so much more to the game though, and not all of it is pretty.
At the very core, Dead Island is a complex and involved RPG. Levelling, crafting, and skill trees are fundamental parts of the experience, with each of the four main characters having unique skills and specialties. Like an RPG, you have a main quest going at any one time, however the game world has a huge array of side quests for you to pick up as well. These range from your standard 'kill these zombies' or 'collect these items', although there is enough variety in them that they never feel too stale.
The other side of Dead Island is a zombie survival game, with a bigger focus on melee weapons than firearms. Around the world you will pick up weapons from the environment, as loot from the undead, as quest rewards, and also plain old fashioned vendor purchases. In the early stages of the game, the survival aspect is more about just finding a usable weapon to fend off Zombies, grabbing a nearby oar or iron pipe to whack something. When you start picking up viable weapons to reuse, you begin to learn about aiming your blows to severe limbs or break bones. Using an odd combat system, you hold a shoulder button to raise your weapon, then the right stick to control your characters arm movements to swing the weapon around.
To be frank, it’s a little janky. You’ll either get used to it eventually, or concentrate on any number of other technical issues that plague the game. It’s the perfect concoction for a jankfest - an overly ambitious, open world, hack and slash shooter with RPG elements made in Poland. Admittedly, a lot of problems have been fixed since launch: inventory items don’t disappear now, save files aren’t corrupting as commonly, attacks do what they’re supposed to, enemies level better in coop, etc - However, laughable clipping, mistimed dialogue, broken quests, and more, are still problems you’ll face playing the game today.
As the game progresses, you’ll find yourself travelling to 4 distinct areas. The hotel at the beginning is soon left behind for the ravaged Island capital, followed by the Jungle, and finally the offshore prison. Which for some reason is surrounded by mines. There’s a lot of ‘for some reason’ with the games almost incoherent story, with your characters seemingly blindly following whoever asked them to do something most recently. And then. suddenly, after fighting zombies half the game, real people will start shooting at you with little warning. Without batting an eyelid, your characters will stomp through their heads at a moment's notice. It’s all very jarring.
As a single player game, it is incredibly difficult and frustrating. The bugs hamper the gameplay no end, and the checkpointing is infuriatingly inconsistent. Co-op is really the best way to go with Dead Island, turning maddening sections from single player into manageable yet challenging encounters to overcome with team work. Even deaths find a balance in co-op, and not just because friends are able to heal or revive you. Whereas before you may have been unavoidably overwhelmed, now it’s a lot fairer if you die.
In some ways, a lot of the minor jank actually adds to the experience while in Co-op, as you and your friends laugh at how a jump kick looks like someone is kneeling in mid-air before extending their leg awkwardly. Later, some of you are teleporting between chairs in the back of a truck, all while any zombie that dares cross the drivers path clips through and around the vehicle, limbs flailing. A knife that looks like a fire sword on your friends character is just shimmering for you. As long as you don’t take it too seriously, it can be fun.
In the end, it’s something that should really be applauded for its depth and ambition. Behind the scenes, the game seems to work remarkably well most of the time. There’s also plenty to do in it, so you’re definitely getting value for money if that’s a concern. Apparently, I played 20 hours into it on one playthrough with friends. It’s definitely not for everyone, even if it tries to be, but it is definitely a curiosity and a serviceable co-op game.
- 10:57am EST - November 16th, 2011
damn lucky the Austrian shop I preordered to was out of stock of the limited edition I wanted (with a beach towel with blood stains and a wooden key ring) minutes after I saw it on the site ... I'm already quite weak at survival horror games because the's not enough health packs, but with few save points and bugs ...
I thought it was Borderlands (4 characters, each having 3 skill trees) on an island with zombies, but now I'm glad I didn't get it
Nakatomi Uk | Nakatomi_Uk
- 11:03am EST - November 16th, 2011
I'm waiting for Borderlands 2 next year for my massive island search around for loot blow the stuff out of anything and everything game
- 11:19am EST - November 16th, 2011
Sorry about the lateness of this guys! I did finish the game a while back, but Adam didn't ask me to review it until last Friday. Glad it's already helped one person.
Drebin296 | Drebin296
- 12:28pm EST - November 16th, 2011
God this game is pants. Such a disappointment.
- 1:05pm EST - November 16th, 2011
Yeah, we are catching up on some old reviews for sure. Look for more like this in the coming weeks!
Scrubs42 | GlassGun
- 4:45pm EST - November 16th, 2011
I really do like this game, it doesn't seem to take itself seriously... some dialogue lines and quests titles (A few references to movies and songs) back this up.
It's quite an enjoyable expirience espicially when you do pick up a hammer and swing it knocking a zombie on the head and making it do barrel rolls through the air. The weapons really do feel like they have weight to them which you can see visually and hear. (breaking of arms/heads and slashing of limbs/heads)
With the game, in which I see, not taking itself seriously, the clipping of the zombies when being hit with a car, and they end up sitting next to you add to the hilarity.
I have been playing on single player myself and reaching the city I have found it to be alot more challenging, espicially with Humans and their guns... ">.> I have yet to play online Co-op as my Nat Type seems to be stuck in 3 and not finding any games at all (after changing various ports and static ip address, after doing all that via my router I could not be bothered to try out DMZ by the end of the night) even though I can connect to people on Dark Souls...
Don Oliveira | Other_
- 6:43pm EST - November 16th, 2011
Yeah, we apologize. Rob\'s crystal meth addiction really took him out of the game for a while there.I think Dead Island sounded great on paper, but went a little wrong in execution. I think if Greabox, or Bethesda took a shot at a game like this, we'd see stars.But Bethesda\'s version of this would probably still be buggy as heck.
- 7:15pm EST - November 16th, 2011
If you can get three friends instead of strangers you'll get a lot more out of it. And yeah I did find a lot of that jank funny, especially when I could share it with my buddies. One of them had (Peter) Gabriels Sledgehammer with an electricity mod, it's extra funny when zombies just fly across the room completely spazzing out.
At PSU we do try to be objective though, and someone who doesn't really "get" that sort of humour would find some of the funny jank just bad. Definitely an 8 if it doesn't bother you
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