Dead Island Reader Review
Zombies. We just can't escape them right now, can we? From being chased around a gigantic Super Mall, through theme parks, through city streets, police stations, sewers, schools - they've been just about everywhere the last few years.
So you'd think a nice, relaxing break on an idyllic island paradise would be a welcome change from proceedings - but no, Dead Island has zombies chasing you around an idyllic island resort. No rest for the wicked, so let's crack this nut - and what a nut to crack! With the amount of hate being leveled at Dead Island in the media you'd think it had eaten someones baby!
I'm not going to address THAT code blooper (because there's far worse in the game than that Feminist Whore line), but I will address the comments saying Dead Island is ugly. Ugly? Really? No, I mean, it, REALLY?! This is ugly to you guys? I mean, I have as much as anyone been spoiled by that Epic Games tech demo the last few months but seriously, some people really need to go to Specsavers... the game is more often than not beautiful and believable, sure some textures are a bit low-res but if you're standing around looking at the textures, may I suggest a new hobby? Like perhaps watching paint dry?
Anyway. Dead Island is your a-typical zombie plot. You're a survivor who happens to be mysteriously immune to whatever the heck is doing the rounds, and as such you end up doing all the heavy lifting because everyone else would become brain-dead Big Brother contestants if they stepped outside their respective safehouses. There's nothing in the plots that hasn't been done elsewhere - in games, books, movies and TV shows. So it's not going to win awards for narrative originality.
Nor will it win awards for the gameplay. To say this owes much to Dead Rising would be the understatement of the millennium - Dead Island is, to many extents, a carbon-copy in a first-person viewpoint. From making customised weapons, to the levelling up system (although here tree-based, hello World of Warcraft!) and the annoying inventory restrictions which dictate I can carry around twelve car engines but only a handful of molotovs? I mean, I can suspend disbelief but that is pushing it a little...
The raft of zombies is a bit bereft of originality - it's a bit Left4Dead in many ways, with the slow Walkers, the super-speedy (and super-annoying) Infected, to the strong and slow Thugs, to the heavily armoured Rams and the highly explosive Suiciders and more besides, it owes a lot to this. And aside the option to have single-player, Dead Island seems to also actively encourage four player co-op. And whilst I've had a few good co-op partners, I've also had a few who would rather play "Hide The Explosive Barrel and Wait For Person To Walk Nearby Before Blowing Them Up". Taking out friendly fire just encourages a higher level of douchebaggery than seems appropriate for an online game.
It's at times wonderfully amusing, with corpses posed in some areas in amusingly raunchy poses, and watching zombies consumed by toxic gas spewing their guts up (literally), and some brilliantly amusing characters. Many of the NPCs and the player characters play up to some sort of stereotype, sure, but Dead Rising was never above this either. Nor is Resident Evil - actually, neither is Gears of War, so complaining about this is kind of a moot point. This is an exotic island - the lack of white people didn't exactly register for quite a while, because I wasn't thinking about it - and it didn't bother me in the slightest.
But it does have its own issues. The inventory management system drives me crazy - look, I'm picking up booze to make molotovs, please STOP replacing my weapon with the booze I just picked up! Switching between weapons isn't as reactive as intended, with the mouse wheel not really performing the job intended (more often than not, oh yes, it picks the booze). Durability in some regards seems a little off - metal poles weaker than wooden sticks? Oh, and then there's the amusing moments when it tells you that you can't use that Flimsy Stick because it's level 28 and you are only level 25. No offence to Dead Island, but by this time, I think I know what to do with a flimsy stick...
And it really isn't original - but with the greatest of respect, this is much what I expected - and it's exactly what the teaser video promised. No, it is not original. But Dead Island seems to know this - and it's that it knows it that it starts pushing some boundries.
Each survivor tells a bit of a story - from a super drugged-up woman demanding champagne to reuniting two brothers, and the absolute power of a Mayor who can't do the right thing despite the pleas of his own group, the human element is much stronger here than it is in most zombie media, and deserves to be applauded for trying a lot harder than the industry norm. It's a little boiled down to quests, sure, but that is as much an incentive to do the quests as anything.
So I don't see the reason this game gets so much hate right now. I've enjoyed my weekend thoroughly, online and offline, running and gunning as well as sawing and clubbing my way through Banoi and its many facets. It's a big, expansive zombie-slaying open-world RPG with a lot to do, and a lot to slay.
And the comparisons with Dead Rising and Left4Dead will never go away - but Dead Island is a far more ambitious game than Capcom's seminal zombie slayer. It doesn't tick all of the boxes, and it doesn't quite have direction at times, but the open nature of Dead Island trumps the comparative linearity of Dead Rising by a long shot. It's a game not to race through, but enjoy and explore - the cash penalties for "dying" a reminder that it isn't intent on punishing your mistakes too hard - a gentle slap on the wrists and you are sent on your way.
And being able to just wander around looting for mods and money on your own makes it a much more gentler-paced game than Left4Dead, and it is nice to be given the option to go off on your own - dividing and conquering is often times as rewarding as being forced to stick together.
Dead Island is ambitious - but it's certainly far from rubbish, and in many ways, a far more pleasing zombie slayer than anything Capcom have pushed in recent years.
And that is as fantastic as it is depressing...