reviews\ Sep 18, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Dead Island Review: Despite Flaws, Dead Island Is Still A Fun Play


Dead Island had, what many consider, the roughest launch in gaming history. From the accidental Xbox 360 developer build release on Steam to the “Feminist Wh*re” code to the PS3 trophy bug, Dead Island has had quite the rocky start.

Looking beyond that, Dead Island is still a fun play. Dead Island strands you on a “small” vacation island off the coast of Papua New Guinea during the midst of a zombie outbreak. Though labeled “small”, the island is actually quite large, featuring lavish environments filled with side-quests and hordes of zombies. The game begins with you selecting one of four characters, each equipped with a unique skill-set that takes advantage of the types of weapons you'll find scattered around the island.

Though Dead Island borrows features from other successful zombie games, like Dead Rising's weapon creation and Left 4 Deads first-person, co-op action gameplay, Dead Island really is a totally different beast. Though it's a zombie game, the primary focus isn't about the blood and gore. At its core, Dead Island is a game about survival. From the strategies you'll use when playing to the side-quests you'll pick up in your journey, the main goal is survival.

In most zombie games, you survive by shredding through the hordes of zombies. Not in this game. You survive by using what you find, and what you find is scarce and with limited durability.

You must pick and choose your fights carefully. Strategy is a key element in this game; and sometimes, it's smarter to just run from the wave of zombies than trying to bash your way through them resulting in a broken weapon. These constant decisions you are forced to make is what sets Dead Island apart from other zombie games.

Check out the Dead Island Launch Trailer

Dead Island does a great job of making you feel like you are in the midst of a zombie outbreak. The constant worry about lack of weapons, few med kits, and a limited stamina bar leave you with an unsettling feeling. It's a zombie game; you should be scared. You should be worrying about zombies lurking around the corner. You should be worried about scavenging for weapons. You should be worried about finding a workbench to keep your weapons repaired.

Unfortunately, the fear of dying is somewhat diminished by the lack of real punishment. When you die, you must wait five seconds before resspawning in another location with slightly less money. Any zombies you killed and the damage you inflicted before dying remain. If you're like me, and rush into fights resulting in death, you'll appreciate the leniency.

The strength of Dead Island lies within the environment created and the open world RPG-element that results from it. As you explore every nook and cranny of the massive world, you will run into plenty of survivors begging for your help. There were so many side-quests that I actually found myself getting annoyed and asking why I'm the only person who could help them. While you don't have to, helping these survivors will result in rewards that will only make your main objective easier to achieve.

The great thing about Dead Island is you really become the character. As you complete quests and kill zombies, you'll be rewarded experience which you can use to level your character. As you level, you unlock different skills by investing your XP points into them. All of the characters each have unique skills that take advantage of the various weapons you'll find. There are three skill trees for each character so even if you're playing with a friend who is the same character, you might have different specialties.

An extended, 20-minute gameplay clip

Speaking of multiplayer, Dead Island plays better when you have a buddy with you watching your back. Not only does it give you a sense of camaraderie in a game where you're constantly alone, but they can help with the more difficult quests. Even if playing alone, you are given the option to join a player who is close to you via a pop-up message notification.

Dead Island is not without flaws though. The combat is entertaining, though somewhat hindered by poor collision detection. There are times when you can be aimed right at the zombie, swing, and still miss. Though it isn't game-breaking, it takes away from the enjoyment of zombie skull-bashing. Don't fret, there are plenty opportunities to make blood spurt out the top of a headless zombie in the game with the game's dismemberment system. The story, which offers 20-30 hours of gameplay, is pretty flat and filled with bland acting.

Dead Island may be a little rough around the edges, but it offers enough good things to make up for some of the more unpolished gameplay you'll experience. It does have some replay value when playing with friends and the announcement of DLC should add additional hours of gameplay. It's not a perfect game, but it's a fun game.

[Reviewed on Xbox 360]


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