Published on September 26th, 2011 | by Bags Hooper2
Game Review: Dead Island (Xbox 360)
Dead Island is a simple yet bash-happy game that reminds you that the zombie apocalypse could be cool if you’re immune to infection. The game steps away from the traditional third-person undead perspective to offer gamers a varied first-person approach to zombie slaying. Close quarters melee combat dominates, along with the option to jump in a vehicle and go on a cross-island road kill rampage. However, what doesn’t dominate is the story, which feels more like filler to the slice, dice and curb stomp action. When single-player gaming gets tiresome, the fluid co-op mode can keep you locked into this title for well over 20 hours.
Dead Island captured the gaming public’s attention through an insane story driven trailer that drummed up feelings of The Walking Dead. It showed off the impact of a zombie infestation on one family. Unfortunately, the lead characters don’t utilize the rich story that could have been.
Gamers are given four character options to start with: Sam B (Blunt Weapon Expert), Xian (sharp weapon expert), Purna (Firearms expert) and Logan (Throwing Expert). All four of them are boring, generic archetypes with no vested interest in what’s happening on Banoi. The people who are suffering and who should have been more invested in the plot are the NPCs that you will go on countless fetch quests for. These missions are actually quite exciting. There are endless zombies feasting on bodies in the street, by the pool, at the bar, near the elevator, in the cabana, on the beach or at a number of other typically relaxing vacation locales. Unfortunately, it would have made for a better story if your motivation extended beyond ego or your duty as a cop. Based on the trailer, which focused on a young girl, it would have made more sense if one of the lead characters was desperately looking for their children.
Dead Island puts you in an open world setting, where you have access to the entire Island. At first you’ll run around from place to place, but eventually you get access to various pickup trucks. The pickup truck action is great. Running down zombies never gets old. You will always try to see how many zombies you can hit simultaneously. Why? Dead Island smartly gives players experience points liberally just for landing a single blow. So if you hit a zombie and run, you still see a few XP flying up in the HUD. If you land a precision blow, you’ll get more XP. If you’re in co-op mode, you can drive around Banoi like you are riding in the Halo Warthog, mowing down zombies instead of the Covenant.
The RPG elements extend even further. There’s tons of loot to grab all over the island. And, loot drops actually make sense – for the most part. Since it’s a vacation resort, you will come across luggage spread throughout the island. You can raid luggage and dead bodies for money. Zombies were once human so it’s great to decapitate them and then pick their pockets. Players can also raid gift shop, bar and restaurant cash registers as well as the dressers in each cabana.
The game offers a myriad of upgrades, each of which has three levels. Each time you level up (and to the game’s credit, you can level up frequently), you get one ability point that can be used towards an upgrade. You can get zombies to drop more money, increase your recovery rate and give yourself more blunt object attack power. The tree is pretty extensive so it’s a great motivator to find more zombies to slay.
For a majority of the game, you will fight with melee weapons. Firearms come up late in the game, but using a Morningstar (why is there a Morningstar on a vacation resort?) is much more fun. Similar to Dead Rising, gamers can find workbenches spread across the island. They can use workbenches to upgrade and fix weapons. However, while weapons are cool, they require stamina (another option that can be upgraded). When your stamina is low, you can always just kick an enemy countless times until you bash their undead brains in. This is the only attack that can’t be interrupted by your opponents. Truthfully, the undead aren’t the only baddies on Banoi. Frequent on-screen updates will reveal that the humans on the island are just as bad.
Running around Banoi in multiplayer mode is an instant joy. The game has several missions so to unlock everything it’s better to just jump into another player’s game and quest with them. Whenever an online player is close to you, Dead Island will ask you if you want to join that player’s game. So 20 hours of gameplay can quickly become 30. And, playing again is just fun with a mic, headphone and friend.
While there are a few varied locations in the jungle and tunnel system, Dead Island’s scenery is mostly forgettable. You kind of want this island to represent the “every vacation” spot, mixing in a little island, a little Vegas, a little ski resort and more. However, it’s just an island with a few pools, jungle and slightly varied hotel locations.
Dead Island isn’t the genre redefining game most gamers were hoping for after Deep Silver’s first trailer dropped. With a little more attention to story and character motivation this could have been one of the more memorable zombie slaying games. Still, Dead Island is a zombie slaying fiesta that will keep gamers fully invested in taking on the zombie apocalypse head on.