"Dead Island is a unique, intriguing experience merged with a few annoyances that occasionally drown the potential."
- Beautiful island that is strangely unsettling and fitting for a horror game
- First-person melee action is tense and fun
- Brilliant sound design allows you to know the presence of the enemy
- Story fails to deliver any form of drama
- Unmemorable protagonists and side characters
- A ton of meaningless running around
Dead Island is quite an intriguing game. Judging from the setting, Dead Island puts you in a sunny, relaxing resort, and successfully infuses tension that may only be expected of dark caverns or creepy houses. The capable and ever-tense melee combat gives Dead Island’s lack of gun-reliance an interesting flavour, setting it apart from other zombie and first-person games. But other factors, like the underwhelming story that forces you continuously on dangerous quests for uninteresting characters damage what the game could have delivered in terms of psychological, tense drama.
At a beautiful resort island, a contagious disease has gotten to countless people, turning them into flesh-hungry creatures bent to attack anything that moves. As either Rapper Sam B, Xian Mei (Chinese government spy), Logan Carter (former football star) and Purna (ex-police officer), the few ones immune to the disease are aided in getting out of the hotel room, and instructed how to arrive at their first destination, with other survivors. The initial trailers of Dead Island showed drama and trauma, but the final product delivers none. From then on, you are tasked practically as an errand boy/girl, to go get this and that, for him and her. Main story missions make you fetch important survival items, while the side-quests take you on more miscellaneous tasks, which often feel forced. Go get this for me, because the main cast are immune, but seriously, most tasks feel like filler. The unmemorable characters make the obligation felt more. Character interaction is weak as well, and at some point in the game I stepped in an area, where suddenly all 4 characters appeared whereas I had always played alone. Not to talk about terribly uninteresting development.
Dead Island is a first-person melee action game, and it succeeds in giving you a hammer, baseball bat, coat hanger, and many other things you can swing and hurt a zombie with it. No other horror game has ever used a bright, lush setting as its setting, but Dead Island astonishingly succeeds, and manages to create suspenseful exploration, and prevents combat from being simple hack-and-slash. Zombies are aggressive, and your short-ranged and fragile weapons may allow them a hit, unless you can await them being close enough to kick them away, and carefully bashing them in the head. There are some accurate dismembering of limbs, and serious head smashing in the game, and a focus on one-on-one. Fighting a group of zombies alone can be an ordeal. Luckily, Dead Island gives centre focus to playing up to four players. Also, playing alone can sometimes be seriously terrifying and some sewers create a mild claustrophobic feeling, but some tension and fear is lost when playing with others, as not all your co-op partners would try to play the game ‘naturally’.
There are plenty of weapons to use, and for that fact, most will break after repeated use. You can choose to spend money to repairing and upgrading weapons, or perhaps fancying your luck in finding a new toy to swing about. The repair system ask for money, despite doing it yourself which is illogical, but at any rate, it is an interesting system that forces you to use different weapons, and has you prepare before leaving the safe house. There are some guns in the game, though naturally a bit scarce on ammunition and never feel very effective against walkers, or humans for that matter, unless you can hit the latter in the head. Human enemies are generally dumb, despite taking cover, sometimes letting themselves be exposed too much. The zombie AI varies from bizarre to expectable, relentlessly launching themselves towards you. The normal walkers are slow but numerous, outnumbering the other classes, but the Infected class are terrifying psycho maniacs that run at full speed towards you, the Thugs are larger, tougher but slower zombies, and then there are other classes, like the Suicider, the questionable giant which is the Ram, and then the seriously bizarre sewage-spitting zombie.
Dead Island is technically an RPG, giving you experience with each kill. When you level up, you can upgrade a variety of skills, and handle higher level weapons. With skill points, you can upgrade the fury, which is like consistent rage attack, and you can alternatively upgrade survival and combat skills in the skill tree, which can give you some advantages in combat. Dying in the game means you lose cash instead of repeating everything from the last checkpoint. And my experience in Dead Island made me grateful for that. Combat is repetitive, but constantly tough where you can’t lower your guard even against weaker enemies, as enemies level up according to your level. Having a lack of powerful and robust weapons, and especially sharp weapons can easily make fights longer and more tedious. And Dead Island is quite hard, speaking as a single player experience, and as a solo player, there were moments I tended not to stray from the allocated path to my destination, featuring an unexpected attack. The island is quite big with plenty of areas for exploration that may hide survival items for characters and even new weapons.
Dead Island is impressive looking, even if it is a bit over lit. Needless to say the setting is absolutely impeccable, from the resort, to the sewers, to the city and later on the jungle, so it offers a decent variety of locations, despite having to thread through the same path over and over again. Cutscenes vary from average to poor, thanks to poor character dialogue, interaction and motivation. When roaming and facing characters in first-person perspective, some characters avoid entirely eye contact, somewhat reminding of the psychological trauma they might be experiencing, but not all characters are convincing, The sound is throughout brilliant and memorable, and severely adds to the tension of exploration. The sound of a walker, or worse, the sound of a thug or a Ram can seriously keep you on your toes, whether you’d want to get around him or fight him.
Dead Island nails the gameplay possibilities of wielding a potentially breakable instrument instead of a blazing and firing gun and offers a strangely mystifying alternative to the usual zombie settings. The story fails to deliver on the chance of being a brilliant, desperate and hopeless. It is disappointing that Dead Island couldn’t deliver what it showed in its trailers, but it is still an impressive game full of thrills and chills, in-your-face zombie brutalizer.
Graphics = 8.0
Sound = 8.7
Presentation = 7.0
Gameplay = 8.2
Story = 6.5
Recommendation Level = Medium
Dead Island is nice as a four player co-op if you can accept the lower tension. Combat is brutal and cool and if you are here for the gameplay, it makes for a pretty good experience.
Level of Difficulty = Hard
I spent my playthrough playing solo, and it was quite challenging throughout. Hordes of zombies are hard to handle and I thought twice before engaging tougher enemies without a grenade or limited space to move in. Playing with on over-levelled player somewhat intruded on my fun.
Play Time = 20 Hours
Fun game, but it’s more fun but less tense as a multiplayer experience.