A broken mess of a game that almost manages to be fun. From the devs that most recently made Call of Juarez: The Cartel

User Rating: 4.5 | Dead Island (Platinum Hits) X360
I really, really, REALLY wanted to like Dead Island. 15 hours later, I can tell you that I don't at all. 5 1/2 years of development gave them enough time to "borrow" elements of game play from other (far superior) games in an attempt to emulate the glory of these titles. Whether you're talking about the the Co-op of Left 4 Dead (Dead Island started development as a single player game), the inventory of Borderlands (500 different pistols with barely discernible stat differences and names), or the crafting of Dead Rising 2 (get a blueprint, collect pieces, assemble at a workbench), Dead Island tries and resoundingly fails to utilize these in any way that does justice to the titles it lifted them from. None of this should come as a shock to anyone who has played any of other recent Techland titles (i.e. Call of Juarez: The Cartel 45/100 Metacritic).

PROS
30+ hours of gameplay

Ambient audio and soundtrack are both surprisingly top notch.

Beating a zombie to death rarely looks as satisfyingly devastating as it does in this game.

CONS
Matchmaking is broken on Xbox LIVE at the time of this writing. You are not able to join into games with people who are not on your friends list. Even if you are friends with someone it is more than likely that you will be unable to invite them to your game (or vice versa); regardless as to whether or not you are in the same Chapter/Area/Level Range.

30+ hours of fetch quests. The vast majority of the missions (at least in the first 15 hours of play) involve an NPC telling you they need something (or 5 of something) and that they expect you to fetch it. This is fun for the first hour or so, but it's novelty wears off very quickly. Especially considering the amount of time that you will spend backtracking through familiar and well trod areas to turn in quests.

A narrative that does not immerse you in the world. You stumble across an NPC that is dying of thirst. They ask you to fetch some water from across the island. You scratch your head and wonder what is wrong with the six cans of "Energy Drink" at their feet (or, for that matter, the bottles of water across the room). The game is rife with idiosyncratic narrative elements that absolutely destroy and suspension of disbelief.

Game mechanics that depend on you feeling as though you're low on resources to make any sense at all. All the items that you can pick up in the game, be they weapons, money, healthpacks, crafting components etc respawn very rapidly. When your weapon takes damage over time (which is does very rapidly) You don't have to be concerned as You have more than enough money to repair it, a new weapon to replace it with and enough snack bars and energy drinks lying around to make it very hard to find yourself in a situation with any tension related to the "Survival horror".

Laughably terrible voice acting. To the best of my knowledge, some of the worst in the last 5 years of video gaming.

Enemies that respawn in exactly the same number/location/configuration every time you pass through an area. Since you'll spend a lot of your time on the island backtracking to places you've already been it won't take long for you to know which bodies are dead and which are zombies, where the super zombies spawn, and how many times you need to fight the exact same three zombies before you're ready to cry yourself to sleep.

Inconsistent graphical presentation. The Chrome engine that Techland employs in this title is terrible at rendering shadows and vegetation. This makes it especially terrible at rendering tropical locales. When you combine this with the overabundant bloom, inconsistent texture resolutions, and last gen environmental effects it makes for a game that is at times pretty; and at other times so ugly that I would gnaw my own arm off to escape were I to wake up next to it in the morning after a night of heavy drinking.

Terrible, stilted animations. While not readily apparent on the zombies (as they are supposed to look unnatural when they move) this becomes quite atrocious when watching any NPC perform any animation whatsoever. I would be surprised if motion capture technology was used at all in this games animation process.

Broken collision detection. For a game where the primary focus is beating zombies to death you figure that they would have spent more time refining this core element of gameplay. Sometimes your swinging weapon will decapitate a zombie that was clearly out of range of your attack and other times it will pass right through a zombie torso (allowing them to close the distance and attack). Lots of frustrating combat missteps as result of this.

The game engine seems to be unable to handle more than 10 or so zombies on the screen at any time. While this is more than enough to keep you occupied in a fight, it is a far cry from the vast hordes of many of the other games in the same genre.

Final Thought

In closing, I would like to say that a lot of people are going to enjoy this game. It is a mindless open world beat 'em up and a lot of people don't play games for style or substance. If you're looking for a way to kill some time and don't care about polish, Dead Island just might be for you. If you were expecting a AAA title in line with some of the other releases this coming this fall, you'd be better served not playing it, renting it, or waiting the month it will take for this to find it's way into the bargain bin.

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