Ya'ver drink Brazilian bold from fkn dunkn donuts!
It's a mad mad mad mad mad mad mad mad world
Techland sparked some furious debate with their stylistic teaser trailer, people got all uppity around the child violence, and the artsy fartsy nature of the sequence of events, all of which gave no real indication of what the game would be like. While it certainly drummed up a lot of attention, it didn't really help in exploring what kind of game Dead Island really is, even with all the previews I saw I still didn't completely understand what I was getting myself into. All I knew was that this was a zombie survival game set on a tropical island, with four different classes to play as, that's all I really needed to know so I dove in head first to see what all the commotion was about.
Guts and glory
On the fictional holiday island of Banoi a zombie virus has been unleashed, and after one of our four unlikely heroes wakes up hung over inside of their hotel room, they have no idea of what's going on and must try and find out why the hotel has become deserted. Moving through the hotel they come under attack and a mysterious voice comes over the speakers leading them to safety. After being knocked out by one of the infected our heroes wake up inside of a bungalow with other survivors with zombies banging on the outside, Sinamoi the leader of this group is caught outside trying to fend them off, this is where the real combat begins.
The Ministry of Sillywalks strikes again.
Leaping outside to his defence at the begrudged acceptance of the survivor guarding the door, grabbing the nearest wooden paddle you spring forth to witness Sinamoi being assaulted by a group of zombies, this is where the real game begins. Hitting the attack button initiates the main assault and will hit in specific seemingly predetermined areas of the zombies body, with the reticule snapping to either the head, arms, body or legs, swinging away will do damage, and what damage it does. Hitting the first zombie in the face caused it to go flying, the next one's head exploded into a gory, bloody, the next one lunged at me, however using kick kept it at bay and cancelled its grab attempt at me, after clearing out the infected back into the bungalow I went.
Even though it is a brief encounter, it provides everything you everything you need to know about the combat, striking is the main method of damage, there are no light or heavy attacks as the weapons you pick up determine the method of damage delivery, heavy two handed blunt weapons have more potential to clear zombies out of your path by sending them flying, using blade weapons has the chance to cut off limbs or heads, slowing them down and guns have the potential to stop zombies from charging at you. If all of this doesn't suffice you can always throw your weapons to stop them from advancing towards you.
brains..and so on and so forth
Attacking will cause your stamina to drain away, as will running, the lower your stamina, the less effective your attacks will be and you will eventually have to stop to catch your breath, this is where you will be most vulnerable, especially if you don't manage your stamina, and this is where the most vital offensive tool will come into play; kicking. Kicking does not drain your stamina and is the only form of attack that can really stop any form of zombie assault dead in its tracks. Neglecting to do this will cause many problems in combat, and plenty of inherent issues are something that every player will become annoyed with.
As you kill more zombies you gain XP which can then be spent on unlocking special skills. Each character has 3 special unique skill trees to enhance their combat abilities, all four of them have a rage mode, when activated makes you super powered and able to do tremendous amounts of damage and makes you less susceptible to damage. The second combat tree will enhance the special abilities of that particular character, Xian for example is an expert in blade weapons, so most of her combat tree focuses around the enhancement of damage, durability and additional attacks for sharp weapon styles, Sam B has the same thing but for blunt weapons. The third tree features miscellaneous features, such as lock picking, health regeneration, damage resistance and a bevy of other skills. You might not be able to unlock all the skills, but you can definitely make your character more dynamic in battle.
Come at me bro..ooo....ahhhhh...ruuuuuuuuuuuunnnnnnn!
From all the previews and reports I heard about the game I was lead to believe that this was a survival horror type game, however after the initial combat sequence, and activating a few quests I discovered that this was not the case at all. The game is more along the lines of Borderlands and Left 4 Dead, weapons that you find have special attributes, be they damage, durability or weight, and can be modified for extra damage, or repaired for continual use. Repairs are what you tend to spend a great deal of the cash you find in the world on and is the most glaring feature that makes this game anything but a survival horror game, instead it creates a supreme co-op hack and slash first person game with some strange mechanics, RPG elements and odd quests to complete.
Quests ultimately give way to some strange story progression and in a way makes the whole process feel more like micromanaging and babysitting rather than saving the world. For instance, you have to go out into the world, risk your life so that you can get some lady's necklace that she left in a bungalow, along the way you find a grown woman who can't sleep, not because of the apocalypse occurring outside, but because she doesn't have her teddy bear. Then, after finding food and water for the survivors, you have to go out into danger again to find three cartons of juice so they have something to drink. It's boggling to think that with the incredible setup the developers have gone through to make this incredible island resort, you spend the first third of the game acting like some day care official, getting them drinkeys and toys so they can feel safe and happy, the only real sense of survival is not being killed and scavenging for scrap items to enhance your weaponry.
At first this really bugged me, I was hoping that Dead Island would be a fantastic survival game where you do your best to keep yourself and anyone else you care for alive, with a good serious plot to keep me interested, what I ended up with was something so much better, an arcade style slasher with a really B-Grade story. Although cheesy, there are some glimmers of realism that keeps the game at least somewhat grounded and delivers some quite mature and ugly themes and that surrounds the events that happen to Jin, a young girl. Although it's been done many times before that a person has to kill a family member, the effects of what happens to Jin as a repercussion as she tags along with the group range from being rather depressing, to the downright horrific and amongst all the video game logic and lunacy surrounding the story, the violent dose of reality which surrounds her does lend some credit to the writing and I highly praise the effect it had.
Which is why everyone is a zombie.
Blood and bones
Bloomtastic is how I'd describe the island of Banoi, the engine which is an updated version from the Call of Juarez series beautifully encapsulates the lush tropical island scenery, when you aren't focusing on it too much, but the weapons and enemies have a very waxen look to them, combined with the texturing, which at times is quite blurry makes the game look surreal at times. The copious amounts of bloom give it a very stylistic and occasionally legitimately beautiful look, however at times it can be quite off putting.
For starters walker class zombies have the habit of lunging towards you, if you try and attack them it will not be enough to slow them down, even if you hit them, this locks you into a canned quick time sequence where you must hit the enemy away with two button presses, the sequence is always the same, but being locked into it, and subsequently vulnerable to other attacks gets old over time. The worst however is being stun locked by certain infected, most notably the butcher and infected will run at you, swinging their arms with which can stun you, factor in that there are always 2 or 3 more infected class around you it is not uncommon to have them continually swing at you, rapidly draining your health where your means of escape are completely gone, thus you die, having to respawn nearby with 10% of your cash reserves gone as a penalty.
New York is that a way man!
It also doesn't help that the controls feel a bit janky, while dodging by hitting a direction and jump adds a degree of manoeuvrability, the rest of the time moving around feels a bit laggy and unrealistic. While I'm sure the attempt was to give the player a sense of weight and realism, it adds a great deal of frustration, especially how different this feels from other games in its class. You eventually have to come to grips that the heroes feel slow and aren't super agile, and considering the buggy nature of the game the entire time I played I was never really completely comfortable with the control scheme.
Despite the wonky controls, the strange mechanics regarding cash, the repair system and the brief disappointment that this wasn't the survival horror game that I was hoping for, it turned out to be an experience that I didn't know I was really looking for, but was elated when I finally figured out what the game wanted to be, a supreme 4 player co-op first person zombie annihilation shooter with a surreal story and hyper violent themes.
With a single player campaign running in at around 20 hours, and the option of a new game + to keep all the inventory at the start of the new game, there is so much to see and do with Dead Island. Going outside of the main story and exploring the island is half the fun, encountering unique one off events, fighting off hoards of infected, drinking all the soda you want, the game was highly entertaining and I highly recommend it, especially for multiplayer. If you liked Borderlands, enjoyed the type of quests you get in Fallout, find sadistic pleasure in giving zombies the mighty boot in groups of four and exploring 3 massive open world maps then this is the perfect game for you.
Reviewed on PC. Screenshot gallery.