Dead Island Review
I am sure you have heard by now all of the issues that have plagued Dead Island since its release. Namely, the number of bugs and glitches that people have had to deal with. A couple of patches later, and problems still continue to complicate things. Unfortunately, this is clearly nothing new when it comes to the state of modern gaming: developers and their publishers continue to rush out games without taking the time to go through extensive alpha and beta testing to ensure a polished release. Putting that aside, Dead Island still has a lot going for it. When you're not competing for one of a laundry list of quests found within the game, you'll be exploring the farthest reaches of the gigantic island alone or with three of your friends online, beating zombies into bloody pulps, and becoming fully immersed in an intense and fun-filled adventure on this pre-Armageddon oasis.
The story is your typical grade-D nonsense. The game opens with a prolog set on the resort island of Banoi near Papua New Guinea, where its patrons are partying inside one of the club rooms inside a hotel. Our unknown "hero" appears to have one too many jager bombs in their system and, after leaving the party, collapses on the bed in their room. Overnight, the proverbial shit has hit the fan and would you know it, an infection has spread and the island is covered in thousands of zombies. From there, you can choose between one of four survivors, each with their own weapon proficiency and who are all immune to the zombie's deadly chompers. They have each been tasked with finding out what the hell happened in the first place, and ultimately finding a way to get themselves and the rest of the island's remaining living souls off of the island and back to civilization.
The plot gets rather hamstrung towards the end in its explanation of why the zombie outbreak happened in the first place, which I guess you can say is a characteristic of any zombie game. Also, no matter which of the four survivors you choose, the only difference between them is the paragraph you get on the Character Select screen; otherwise, it's the same story path. However, it will always bug me that the developers didn't focus on the events of that family in the first trailer as many had hoped for, but rather chose to focus on this boring cliche of a narrative. Thankfully, the dozens of quests keep things fun and enjoyable.
For what it's worth, the world is well-realized. It's as if someone showed you a postcard of Paradise, with its clear blue water, beautiful palm trees, and amazing sandy beaches, then dumped a bucket full of blood over it. That's Dead Island in a nutshell. Getting from Point A to Point B can be done either on foot or in one of a small number of trucks that you and your buddies can get in. Landscapes range from the sandy beaches and grimy sewers to a city overrun with bloodthirsty creatures hiding in dark alleys and defaced buildings. Where the engine falls flat are the very noticeable texture pop-ins, badly-done cutscenes, and just plain awkward character animations. I thought we had gotten past the point of wooden faces, stiff bodies, and a heavy amount of clipping, but you'll see plenty of that annoying garbage here.
Where things begin to really shine is its very entertaining gameplay which takes most of its cues from the juggernauts of Borderlands and Dead Rising, and definitely in the most positive way. Scattered around the environment are different weapons to be picked up, looted, or obtained from quests. These weapons fall into a few different classes: blunt, sharp, and projectile. These weapons can then be modified using scrap pieces or upgraded using one of the many different workbenches scattered around the island, typically within a safe zone - so, there's your Dead Rising inspiration.
Where the grace of Borderlands comes in is with Dead Island's leveling system. Killing the different classes of zombies and completing quests nets you experience points that allows you to level up and deposit points into the game's branching skill system. These skills include becoming more adept in a certain weapon category, increasing your instrument's durability, dealing heavier damage, increasing your character's health, unlocking character-specific "Fury" mode abilities, and much more. The weapons you find are also color-coded in terms of their rarity and bonus attributes.
You'll certainly need these upgrades because the act of surviving on this island can get rather difficult if you aren't careful. with the different classes of zombies found in this game. Fortunately, if you do happen to die, there's only a short wait until you respawn and all you lose out of its some of your pocket money.
The best experience Dead Island provides is its seamless online co-operative multiplayer mode. At any time during the single player mode, a pop-up may appear that shows that someone else is playing nearby and you can join their game by simply hitting left on the directional pad. You can then help that person on whatever quest they may currently be on. You can also join your friends and just appreciate goofing off. Our idea of absurdity: each of us hopping into a separate truck and ramming the shit out of each other until one of us was left standing. Of course, this comes with some stipulations: you can only join the game of someone who has the same level as you or below, and there is no local co-op.
For all of its flaws, Dead Island succeeds at what it clearly set out to do: deliver a game with an exciting, if not downright hilarious co-operative multiplayer experience. The story was barely surmisable, the character animations were janky, and there were texture pop-ins aplenty, but there are enough key ingredients in the pot to keep gamers coming back for more, especially with Techland promising more DLC (after it fixes all the problems the game currently faces, of course). Plus, it's just so much damn fun breaking each and every single bone on a zombie's body before delivering a flying boot to its face off the nearest pier. With nearly 30 hours of solid gameplay to be had and a character progression system that adds plenty of replayability, Dead Island is a rough but amiable affair wrapped around a fascinating experience that is well worth your time. All it takes is the wherewithal to endure the game's many technical headaches until things can be smoothed over by the developers.