Review – Dead Island

By: Louis Edwards

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Techland’s Dead Island has finally been released and the Island of Banoi awaits you. Is it worth the trip, or should its residents be left for dead? Read our review to find out.

 

Zombies seem to be everywhere these days. Whether it’s The Walking Dead on AMC TV or games like Dead Nation for the PS3, zombies are a very popular topic. Add in a remote island in the South Pacific, and four more-than-capable playable characters, and you have Dead Island, Techland’s much anticipated, much hyped, zombie slashing/smashing/shooting action RPG published by Deep Silver.

The story opens with you partying it up in first person. Stumbling around the resort drunk and almost completely incoherent. From the dance floor to the bathroom, everything passes by you in a blur until you finally pass out and are escorted back to your room. Upon awaking from your drunken stupor you are faced with a terrible reality. Almost everyone on the island has succumbed to a deadly virus, and they have been resurrected as zombies. You and a few others are somehow immune to this virus and it is up to you to find a weapon and fight your way through the zombies. The story has more than a few twists and turns and will keep you busy for quite a while. The plot is well thought out, well detailed, and you will feel sympathy for some characters as you progress along.

 

Each character has their own unique skill set and each also has their own area of expertise. Whether they are good with guns or good with blunt objects, each player has their own skill tree that is upgradeable as you earn experience points. Leveling up unlocks skill points which can then be applied to a player’s skill tree. Each character has a unique column that only is available for them. Max level for a character is 50 so you won’t be able to fully upgrade them. You may want to keep that in mind and try to balance them out.

Skill Tree

The weapon system in the game is very deep. Almost all weapons are upgradeable and some are even customizable. A basic weapon like a baseball bat can be turned into a bleeding baseball bat (also known as The Ripper) by adding saw blades, a belt, a few metal scraps, wires, a battery, and some duct tape. Once fully assembled this weapon can take a head off in one swing. Talk about a home run.

The Ripper

There are guns available in the game, but this clearly isn’t another shooter. Ammo for these weapons is very hard to find, so use sparingly. Zombies are best dealt with using your other weapons, while regular human foes are best dealt with in lead. You can always use your other weapons on humans, but who wants to bring a knife to a gun fight? Level the playing field with a nice semi-auto rifle or a pistol.

Since this is an action RPG, there are side quests to keep you occupied apart from the main story. These side quests can be key to being able to finish the story, as you will earn rare weapons and weapon mods that will make your weapons much more deadly and effective against some of your tougher zombies. Side quests aren’t mandatory, but if you plan to go it alone, you’ll probably need to complete a few so as to acquire some of these more effective weapons.

If you are expecting to just smash/slash/shoot through zombies with reckless abandon, you may want to rethink that. A stamina bar limits the amount of energy available for jumping, running, and fighting so you’ll have to use your energy wisely. Running into a large group of zombies with out any energy remaining never ends well. No matter how great a weapon may be, it is useless if you have no energy to swing it.

Dead Island isn’t a game designed for you to go it alone. With online co-op, you and up to three others can band together to take out the zombies, and a few missions almost require help. The multiplayer system has the ability to know when someone is close to where you are and, when enabled, will announce this on your screen. A simple press of a button on the controller will connect you to the person, or persons, and off you go. Once connected you can also trade items with the other players. Completing quests in co-op can help you to finish the story, or just earn experience points and the almighty dollar.

The graphics for the game look great. The island detail, along with the detail of the bungalows, pools, poolside furniture, etc. are top notch. Grass, trees, rocks, etc. are also detailed. The zombies are detailed as well and vary by type of zombie. From the walkers to the butchers, they all are gruesome to see, and even more gruesome to kill. Dismembering, decapitating, or just downright smashing, all have their own death animations. Chopping off a thug’s arms is a great way to keep him from smacking you upside the head. Smashing in a zombie’s head with a pipe is one of the most gruesome (awesome?) things to see. Half a head smashed in and the body just twitching away.

Head Smashing is Fun

For all that is good with this game, there are still more bugs than you would expect from a finished product. We actually lost more than 5 hours of playtime because the game decided to quit saving, even though it clearly stated on the screen that it WAS saving. This is an issue that the developer is aware of and is currently trying to fix, but a word of caution here is warranted.

The game tells you when you earn an achievement or trophy, but if your game is glitching out, you won’t actually unlock it. For the PS3, check your XMB to see if the trophy unlocked. If it didn’t, quit immediately since the game will no longer save your progress. We came across the glitch when leaving an online co-op game and then continuing on with single player. One work around is playing with the LAN option active, but then again you won’t actually be able to play with anyone else online.

The PC version of the game had a day one patch ready to go but the console versions have had their patch removed from the servers. It apparently did more harm than good and had a tendency to wipe your stats completely.

Without all of the bugs and glitches this game could have approached a perfect 10. All of the elements are there. Intriguing story lines. Intriguing characters with great back story. A large, free roaming map that can keep you busy slashing, smashing, and shooting till you are blue in the face. Graphics that are easy on your eyes and, as long as your game isn’t glitching, runs smoothly.

With the bugs and glitches we found ourselves very disappointed with a large number of lost hours and the game getting choppy and freezing. The game should have been put into heavy open beta testing on several different platforms so that these things could have been worked out prior to launch.

Dead Island is clearly a fun game, with more zombies than you can shake a stick at. The depth of each character’s skill tree, and their unique areas of expertise, give the game quite a bit of replayability. The side quests number around 80, so completionists can easily invest a large number of hours into the game. Add in collectibles like ID cards, fact envelopes, and recordings, and you not only add to the replayability, but you add to the story as well.

Dead Island could have been so much more, if only those bugs had been squashed before release.

7

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