Techland -Deepsilver – 360/PS3/PC – Out Now
Reviewed by Juanvasquez, Videogames Editor
Remember that trailer those many months ago? You know, the one played in reverse with the family trying to fend off a band of hungry zombies? Well I’d hope you do as it was the most talked about game on the internet for some time afterwards. Does Dead Island live up to excitement and curiosity generated by the original teaser trailer? Let’s find out…
To paraphrase the press release description, this is a first person action horror with a little bit of RPG thrown in for good measure. Now unless FPS’ have gotten a little too quest-y these days, there is more than just a hint of RPG, it’s practically the main staple of the game. Yes you can cave a zombie’s head in with any melee weapon that comes to hand, but with experience points, side quests, weapon repairs/upgrades/mods, items and heck, even the menu screens look like they’ve been lifted from the recent Fallout games. Infact, you’d be forgiven thinking that Fallout and Left 4 Dead abandoned a love child on a tropical Oceanic island!
The game starts off with a video not too dissimilar from that of The Prodigy’s ‘Smack My Bitch Up’! This subtly introduces you to each of the characters you can choose from, and shows what appears to be the beginning of the zombie attack. You have the choice of four characters, two male (Sam B – a faded rapper and Logan – a former NFL star) and two female (Purna – ex cop and Xian Mei – resort employee), each with their own classes, which overall aren’t really relevant as the games main emphasis, combat wise, is on melee weapons. Like a first person Dead Rising 2, in that sense. As well as the majority of weapons available being for close range melee combat, all weapons, provided you have the correct parts, are modifiable, meaning you can pummel a zombies head in with a nail bat, or blow them to pieces with a deo-bomb.
Once you’ve got your character, things pick up from your hotel room. As you try and escape the complex, you are assisted by a security guard over the hotels PA system, guiding you to safety. After a while, a cut scene occurs with you apparently dying, but you wake up in a shack on the beach with several other survivors. By this point you will have realised that there is no dialogue in the game for the female characters. You are always referred to as ‘he’ or ‘him’! Also, at a certain point in the game, even if playing solo, the cut scenes will start to feature all four characters, which came as a surprise as there had been no sight or mention of them since the opening video, and this was a good few hours in! Once you’ve woken up in the beach shack, you meet the leader of a band of survivors, Sinamoi. He’s the main go to guy for the quests you embark on. Unlike the comparative Fallout games, these quests just seem to be A to B to further the game with no real story progression other than survive and escape, although if you’d take endless zombie slaying over a good story, you’re in good hands.
So far it sounds like I’ve done nothing but complain, but don’t worry, the gameplay more than makes up for what the game lacks, in the first act at least. There is nothing quite as satisfying as taking a stroll on the beach and clubbing in the heads of the walking dead with a mace or, for example, I threw a hammer at one of the infected running towards me. Given the speed of both things hurtling towards each other it exploded the zombie’s face and limbs off. Very satisfying! There are several classes of zombie. These range from the ambling Walker, the extremely fast Infected, the very tough and loud Thug, as well as several other monsters you’ll encounter in your quest for survival. All the foes you come across level up along with you, so don’t go expecting an easier ride once you’ve levelled up a few times against the lower class of zombie, as the tougher you become, the tougher they become.
Another feature of game play is the driving. Rather than having to wander around the vast area of play, there are cars at your disposal, making it easier to get to certain areas, and allowing you to plough down your festering nemeses in the process. Again, just like Fallout,Dead Island has a levelling system where you are awarded experience points for kills, certain actions and completing quests. Each time you level up, your health increases and you get to choose from a catalogue of skill upgrades, which tend to be a staple for RPG’s, with upgrades such as increasing abilities, stamina, weapon durability and effectivity as well as various other traits.
The first part of the game takes place on the beach side resort of Banoi Island, which for the most part, looks really nice. The missions range from very easy to very difficult. After a few hours gameplay, things move to the towns. Here’s where the game starts to drag a little. As well as things becoming overly repetitive, the visuals take a turn for the worse too. The cut scenes in particular were the worst culprits, with one in particular being so bad, that they were no backgrounds, just a mess of graphical break up, making it difficult to distinguish what’s going on. However, where this game really thrives is in its co-op mode. You’d be hard pushed to find a more fun multiplayer this side of the Left 4 Dead games. As entertaining as it can be playing solo, nothing beats the fun of playing with a few mates online.
Overall, it’s quite a solid experience, which can on occasions, particularly on the town sections, feel like a grind. A decent single player made better by the assistance of friends. Hopefully there will be some patches released for some of the terrible graphical break up and the other niggles, but if it’s a decent zombie slaying romp with a difference then you need look no further. Just don’t go expecting a compelling story line.
8 out of 10