Dead Island: Game of the Year Edition review

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Last year, Dead Island landed on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC to a mixed reaction. There were certainly some folks who loved it, while there were others who didn't. Others still were accepting of its strong points (which there were many of), but didn't ignore its flaws (which it also had a few of). Now, Deep Silver and Techland have released Dead Island: Game of the Year Edition, and while its game of the year status may be questionable, ultimately, this version of the game, which features the main campaign as well as post-launch DLC, is still a hell of a lot of fun and worth the $30 price tag.

Dead Island takes place on the island of Banoi, which is suddenly struck with a zombie outbreak. You play as one of four characters who are stranded on the tropical deathtrap. Your character is immune to the virus, so because of that, the other survivors on the island think it's best to just send you out to do their dirty work, run their errands, and scavenge for supplies. Hey, makes sense, right? I know I'd be sending out the guy who won't turn into a zombie if he gets bitten. Unfortunately, the story is largely uninteresting, and the characters aren't very likable. There are a few interesting moments, but overall, you shouldn't go into Dead Island expecting some gripping tale.

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The bulk of what you'll be doing on the island of Banoi is looting and, obviously, killing hordes of zombies. Combat is satisfying and brutal, and I can't stress enough how good it felt using a nail hammer to bash a zombie's face in. Weapons are an integral part of survival in Dead Island, and throughout the course of your quest for survival you come across everything from flimsy wooden paddles to powerful machetes. Along your journey you come across different weapon mods, and by combining seemingly useless items you've looted (duct tape, wire) with some of the sturdier weapons you come across, you can create something as impressive as a nail bat or an electric crowbar.

As much as I enjoyed the idea of the crafting system in Dead Island, there were a few times where I would create a powerful weapon only to come across an unaltered mace or machete that was much stronger and more durable than what I had concocted. Speaking of durability, that's one of the elements that shines in Dead Island. You can't just create a weapon of mass destruction and breeze through the game. The more you use a weapon, the more of its durability you expend. You can fix up your items at workbenches, but you need to be mindful of their condition as you go on quests, which is absolutely brilliant because it keeps combat interesting.

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The most fun I had in Dead Island was during the first few hours. Collecting weaker weapons and having to dish out punishment to take out zombies was a lot more satisfying than simply severing their heads off with the modified ripper weapon, which features spinning blades and looks really cool. Personally, I like the fight, and having to work for survival was more intense. Aside from that, encountering human antagonists was also remarkable, as these bouts featured some heavy gunplay that required patience and a steady trigger finger. Additionally, the RPG elements that allow you to level up and enhance different skill trees add a nice touch to the experience. And for gamers who want to play alongside others, Dead Island's co-op is still intact here.

The Game of the Year Edition features all of the cool gameplay that was released last year in the main game, warts and all, but it also fixes the glaring bugs and features some neat DLC extras. The aforementioned ripper mod, for example, was originally released as an add-on, and now it comes bundled with this edition of Dead Island. There's also the Bloodbath Arena, which is a new area that allows you to take on hordes of zombies and hack your way up a few levels. It's not the most amazing distraction, but it can be fun when played with others.

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The most notable inclusion in the Game of the Year Edition is the Ryder White Campaign. This DLC will take you roughly three hours to get through and offers a different perspective on the tale of Dead Island. That said, because the story in the base game was never that enthralling to begin with, it's hard to care about the plot here. Still, the Ryder White Campaign does feature a lot of awesome shootouts. There were also a few cheap moments where gangs of running zombies ambushed me, and as you can probably guess, those sequences weren't very fun ... unless I had an assault rifle to mow 'em all down.

Dead Island: Game of the Year Edition is a nice package for gamers who want to destroy legions of undead monsters. Is it worthy of the title Game of the Year? That's debatable. But at $30, it's tough to pass this game up. You get a 20-hour main campaign rife with side quests and fun albeit flawed gameplay, a powerful weapon mod, an arena where you can level up and kill even more zombies, and a brief add-on campaign. At the end of the day, Dead Island is a really fun time, and you should definitely check it out if you've got that zombie huntin' itch.

[Reviewed on PlayStation 3]

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