Upon seeing the first trailer for Dead Island back in 2007, I couldn’t help but be excited for the title. At that point in time, the “zombie” phenomenon had yet to be as widely abused as it is today. The initial trailer stated that the game was set to go live in 2008, but that soon came to pass. As time went on, the game slipped into the back of my mind just as it did with the majority of gamers.
In steps February 2011, and one of the most memorable trailers of all-time hit the video game industry. Just when it seemed that all hope was lost, a single trailer restored all faith in Dead Island. An impressive trailer lead to unbelievable expectations for the title, but could it hold up?
To get it out of the way, if you’re looking for a heartfelt story involving zombies, then you’re looking at the wrong game. Dead Island won’t be a tearjerker. What Dead Island brings to the table is simply one of the most enjoyable zombie cooperative experiences you’ll find on a console. While Techland didn’t craft the “zombie story of your dreams”, if you’re looking for a heartfelt story similar to the trailer, then I question your love for zombies.
Dead Island is a fun game, simply put. We’re not saying that it’s a perfect game that you won’t run into various bugs or exploits, but upon starting the game with a friend, it’s hard to put the controller down. From the first swing of a blunt object that makes contact with a zombie cranium, you’ll be hooked.
The game is built quite heavily around RPG aspects, allowing you to create, upgrade, and repair your weapons. From basic weapons such as baseball bats, hammers, and knives, to ridiculously fun weapons such as an electric machete, managing your weapons is an important part in the game.
Along with the ability to modify your weapons, you’re presented with a skill tree for your character as well. Each character has a certain skill that they excel in, however, you’re still able to cater them to your liking as you progress throughout the game. The sense of leveling up in the title always puts a smile on your face, and it’s rare that you can quickly decide where to spend your next points.
While there’s a lot of “good” in the title, there’s definitely a fair share of “bad”. Bugs flair up, weapon duplication exploits are there, and the driving can be quite frustrating. Glitches can run from audio, to weird zombie animations, but they tend to be more on the hilarious side than the actual “game breaking” side. While the animations do appear solid, examining your shadow in the game can induce laughter. Techland has been rather good about patching the title or announcing that they’re working on a fix, so we commend them on being quick to respond.
You’ll find that there is not a traditional save system in the game, which can be both good and bad. At times, it’s great that the system will randomly save for you in a case where you may have forgotten to. However, the system may also not save for you in the most opportune time. If you’re in a time crunch and need to leave, you’ll have to attempt to finish a quest in order to ensure that the game does in fact save for you.
Two of the most refreshing pieces of Dead Island are the heavy focus on stamina and melee combat. In a generation that seems to not be interested unless there are guns and unlimited sprint involved, Dead Island succeeds. The stamina system keeps you from spamming your melees, and rewards you for playing each scenario “smart”. Each swing of your weapon or run that you initiate will drain your stamina. Upgrading your skills as you progress in the game will allow you to have other ways to build your stamina back, however.
While guns are available in the game, you don’t unlock them for quite awhile. The game keeps you focused on melee combat, and it makes the game just that much more rewarding. When you do happen to stumble upon weapons, ammo is limited enough to make you rely on melee weapons. The gun mechanics won’t set any new standards in the industry, but they’re strong enough to not take away from the experience.
You’ll receive a range of quests in the game, with most not being too tedious. When being presented with the quest, you’ll receive a quick description of it along with the apparent difficulty. Missions can range from getting supplies for survivors, rescuing individuals, or the typical “save us because you’re our only hope” mission variety. While there’s a ton of missions and quests, the only missions that can be frustrating are the driving missions. They’re extremely fun while you’re mowing down zombies and earning XP, but if you happen to wreck or take a wrong turn, it’ll take an 18-point turn to get back where you need to be. Still, it’s a small annoyance that doesn’t happen to terribly often.
With a map as huge as the one presented in Dead Island, it’s great to see a “fast travel” option. Certain areas in the game along with “safe houses” can be used to fast travel to, allowing you to save quite a bit of time. Even with the fast travel option, it’s hard to believe just how massive the area to explore in the game is. You’ll find that you’ll want to just roam around with friends at times mowing down zombies, and you’ll rarely get bored.
The game is jam packed with zombies in every single corner. Open a seemingly safe outhouse to find some loot? Nope, there’s a brain eating zombie inside that you’ve now pissed off. The fact that you’re constantly on the edge in a beautiful “paradise” island adds to the “cult classic” feel that you’ll receive from Dead Island.
As you’re swinging your weapon wildly trying not to die from a zombie attack, you’ll notice that there’s a targeting system involved. The system is brilliant, allowing you to target limbs to take down each zombie to your liking. With certain zombies doing damage with certain attacks, you can use this system to eliminate their strengths to make it a much easier attack. Tired of the “Hulk” looking zombies punching you and taking your lunch money? Target their arms with a sharp weapon until you cut them off, and your task will be much easier. Scared from the zombie sprinting at you screaming violently? Slow that attack down by launching your weapon directly at them!
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned with Dead Island, it’s that talking about the game simply doesn’t do it justice. It’s not perfect, doesn’t have a great story, but I’ll be damned if it’s not just fun. If you’re looking for a title to play with friends, or you just need a new experience on your system, then we can definitely recommend Dead Island. Grab a few friends, a melee weapon or two, and come visit Dead Island.
Dead Island was developed by Techland and published by Deep Silver. An Xbox 360 version was provided for the purpose of review.