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[Review] Dead Island

Deep Silver and Techland’s Dead Island became one of the most anticipated games of the year, almost immediately after the release of this trailer:

The emotion and intensity of this trailer had everyone raving about it and anticipation for the game shot through the roof. A first person, melee, open world, role playing game, with zombies, that also has 4 player co-op? This is going to be great! Well, did Dead Island live up to the hype?

Dead Island takes place on the fictional island of Banoi, near New Guinea. The island has become prey to a vicious zombie creating virus. You play as your choice of one of four characters, two male and two female, who just happen to be immune to this disease. Each character comes with their own brief history about how they came to be on the island, as well as their weapon specialty which changes the skill tree. The story goes along the same, regardless of who you choose, even going so far as to have many cut scenes involving all 4 characters, even though they are not with you while playing.

As you progress in Dead Island, you will gain experience points (XP) by completing quests and challenges, as well as damaging and killing zombies. As with all RPGs, when you gain enough XP, you will level up. With each new level, your stats rise, and you can choose one skill from the three different skill trees. The three skill trees are: Combat, Survival, and Fury, or Blood Rage for Xian. The Survival tree is the same for each character, adding more health, defense, etc., while the Combat tree is different with each character, and focuses on their weapon specialization. The Fury, or Blood Rage, tree is similar for everyone, and upgrades a special attack, that turns your character into a “zombie death machine” for a short duration. This special attack uses fury points that you accumulate while attacking zombies.

The main objectives of the game are to stay alive, help as many people as you can, and get off of the island. Dead Island’s main story is somewhat linear, but the numerous side quests greatly expand the game. Dead Island is an open world game, and you are free to travel pretty much at will, except some areas require you to progress in the main story line before opening up.

The island is pretty much in a post apocalyptic type situation. You will come across vacated huts, shops, and other buildings, as well as many people in hiding. These people are the ones who often send you on a side quest. There are also vacant vehicles, some which can be driven. The driving in the game isn’t near perfect, however it does add a lot to the game, and is necessary to cut down on the traveling time. Oh, I almost forgot. There are also zombies. Many, many, zombies, everywhere. Not so many that it seems unnatural, but there are a lot.

Some of the fun of Dead Island comes from the anticipation of running into a zombie. Many times you see them from afar, but at other times, you don’t know what to expect. When you enter a door, you’re never sure if there will be one, or possibly many, waiting for some fresh meat. Sometimes you’ll hear a growling sound, but that could be coming from literally anywhere. Once I was standing on the growler and didn’t realize it. Other times you’ll be scavenging through a group of suitcases for useful items and a zombie will plow into you, having run from somewhere nearby. While playing, I was even startled a few times.

There are also many items and weapons scattered throughout the island. Many of the items are components that you can sell, or use to modify a weapon. The weapons are, for the most part, melee based weapons, which include everything from broken planks of wood, or oars, to knifes and swords. The weapons are labeled from flimsy or weak, to reliable or strong. They are also color coded, showing their rarity.

There are guns, however they are in short supply, and the ammo is pretty scarce. The guns, honestly aren’t near as effective against the zombies anyway, and are best suited to defend against human gangs that are around the island.

Weapons are not eternal, and actually become damaged pretty quick. It is a realistic type of wear and tear on a weapon, forcing you to change weapons, or repair your favorites pretty often. This isn’t a criticism, however, because it allows for a lot of diversity in your attacks. Sharp weapons will cut off body parts, while blunt weapons will knock down and bludgeon more. Every weapon in the game can also be upgraded at a work bench, allowing for more damage and better durability.

There are even weapon modifications that you can make once you have found a recipe. For example, the first modification you actually get, is in the Prologue, and is called the Nail’d Mod.

"Thanks to a couple of nails you'll turn any kind of wooden club into a deadly mace. Just follow the instructions below and you will have a chance to put holes in many human flesh mongers."

The Nail’d Mod adds nails to clubs and maces, adding 5% damage, but slightly decreasing durability. It also changes the look of the weapon, by adding, you guessed it, nails to the weapon. After modifying a weapon, the player will actually turn the weapon in their hands admiring it for a couple seconds.

The combat in the game is a lot of “Aim and Hit” button mashing, however it fits perfectly in the game, and I never seemed to get bored with it. There is also an analog stick combat option, that allows for more specific attacks, where you swing yours arm with the analog sticks movement. It was however difficult to get used to, and I only used it enough to get the 100 kills with analog trophy. It is nice having that as an option for varied game play.

Visually, Dead Island is pretty good, and the audio is great. The music really added drama to the game, and the voice acting was varied and right on.

Dead Island is definitely worth your gaming dollars. The game easily takes 40 hours if you don’t rush through it, skipping all the side quests. The re-playability of the game is also pretty good, as you can continue playing through the game again after completing it, either continuing to level up your character, or choosing someone else to play as. The main re-playability aspect comes in the up to four-player online cooperative mode.

You can set the game to allow anyone to join your game at anytime, or join other players at will, as well. This drop-in, drop-out feature really works well with Dead Island. The more people that join, the higher level the enemies will become, scaling to the number of players, as well as their current level.

Quests are set to the hosts current quest position, and won’t count for other players unless they are in a similar quest. The game does a great job of letting you know if somebody is near your progression in the story before joining their game. It was fun, just joining with someone for a bit and helping them smash zombies. It was also fun creating a new character and progressing alongside another player, especially my son and friends.

If you like having a “bloody” good time, solid combat, exploring an open world, upgrading and collecting weapons, or just like zombies in general, then Dead Island will keep you entertained for countless hours. It was a very fun and enjoyable experience playing through Dead Island, and I actually can’t wait to get back to it.

[review pros=”Graphics are Good
Great Musical Score and Sounds
Lots of Action
Hours and Hours of Gameplay
Fun Co-op Experience” cons=”Still Some Glitches
Driving Could Be Better” score=93]

If you would like to see 20 min of gameplay, here is a good video, even though it is on the xbox.