Updated Wed, Sep 14, 2011 by Stow
I didn’t know what to expect from Dead Island when I was installing it. I’ve heard good things, bad things, and then there’s this video with ridiculously broken physics. To some that might be a huge turn-off. Me, I knew I had to play this bloody mess. So I set forth for adventure and a nice relaxing tour in paradise. Well, about as paradise-like as Zombieland, minus Bill Murray.
It's every man for himself out there. See that civilian fighting for his life? He's about to be collateral damage from my molotov. Better him than me.
Well, someone spiked the punch at the party, and the whole island is now a mess. People are getting infected like your standard zombie movie, and like your standard zombie movie, your best weapon of choice is the headshot. Or in this case, headsmack, with all the melee combat involved in this game. Welcome to Dead Island!
Dead Island is a melee FPS at heart. You might balk at that and talk about the guns and driving in this game, but with ammunition and driving parts so scarce, it’s down to your fists and anything you can get your hands on or around.
Each of the four characters is a specialist in one of the ways of combat (throwing, slashing melee, blunt melee, firearms) and has respective talent trees ala WoW. You gain experience via killing, and leveling up gives you a skill point to put into these trees. Nothing out of the ordinary for personal progression here, so you won’t be puzzled when it comes to how you grow over the course of the game.
Most of the game is spent delivering right hooks and cross cuts with a variety of weapons. You’re welcome to bash the hell out of someone’s skull, deliver a sick front kick, and dismember their upper body…. But why the hell can’t you wreck their legs? That’s right folks. Taking a sledge to the leg of a zombie has the same effect as one to the torso. You can break the arms off the super zombies, but when it comes to movement, you just have to deal with it. No Dead Space style limb kills here.
Unlike most zombie games, getting surrounded is basically instant death. You have to watch your back and keep an escape route open if you get overwhelmed!
The weapons themselves are flavored with all kinds of nonsense ala Diablo and its kin. Unfortunately, one of those traits is durability. And the durability of your weapons is pathetic for most of the game. Nothing is fun about having to constantly switch in and out weapons because your club busted after quite literally 15 strikes. Money grows on trees, but it’s a stupid anti-fun inconvenience in an otherwise brutal melee game. At least you can lob the busted weapon at the enemy out of spite.
Quest progression is simple enough—talk to npc, find item, return for the vast majority. With cash and crafting rewards as well as XP, there is a reason to deal with the other survivors. Some of the quests have little to no help though on the quest tracker, so unless you enjoy wild hunts for alcohol or other uncommon items, I’d advise skipping these. The game isn’t exactly fun to explore, as the entire game is scaled to your level ala Dragon Age, and the environment tends to reuse a ton of models. The zombie variety isn’t exactly stellar either.
So we have a huge variety of weapons, a lackluster variety of terrain and enemies, a quest/talent system out of WoW, and a first person shooter with four characters. Zombie Borderlands, for better or for worse, is what you are getting out of this. To be honest, that should be enough to turn on to a purchase, or off right there, but read further for some more dirt on beyond the gameplay.
Dead Island has beautiful scenery. You really get the feeling that it is a vacation isle gone to hell, and those lovely streaks of red that end up everywhere look great.The character models leave something to be desired, but you’re not seeing a lot of those. The zombies themselves look pretty good, and while the actual gameplay variety may be low, the variety of zombie models charging at you as a Walker, Infested, Thug etc, are quite high and varied.
As they should, melee weapons get appropriately bloodier and bloodier as you beat the gore out of things. Like any good B horror movie, you must end up covered in blood at the end of a fight or you’re doing it wrong.