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Dead Island Review
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Sep 06, 11 (released)
|» All About Dead Island on ActionTrip|
The history of Poland-based developer Techland is filled with near-successes or utter failures. They've had some pretty good ideas for games over the years, but have mostly come up short. One of their most recent major failures is the bland Call of Juarez: The Cartel. And it's a bloody shame too, because the previous installment, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood was a pretty solid shooter. In fact, The Cartel is so awful I couldn't stand playing for more than five minutes, which is why I never reviewed the damn thing. It also had the misfortune of being released when I was on holiday, so there. Seriously though, don't waste your time with that one. Oops, looks like we drifted away from the topic.
Techland's latest venture, Dead Island, takes a bash at the survival horror genre. The story begins on a tropical island where a sudden surge of violence and major bloodshed broke out. People are mutilating each other left and right and nobody seems to know why. The once peaceful resort has become overrun by hordes of mindless human-chewing zombies. It appears that a deadly virus, or whatever it is, seems to be the cause of all this. It's spreading like wildfire all over the island. That's great story-telling, right there. Anyhow, survivors managed to regroup here and there, but a very small band of people continue to elude the symptoms of the virus. You can play as one of these four lucky bastards who are for some reason immune to this infection.
Leave my PC alone, zombie scum!
One by one, c'mon!
It's not the best of plots, but some would say it's really all you need for a game of this type. Now, while Dead Island does offer a substantial amount of content for single-player enthusiasts, the core experience lies in its coop mode. Take it from someone who finished the entire story on his own - I just had to try it. Besides which, those zombies were pissing me off, so I had to kill them, slowly and painfully, one by one... Ah, that's better. For those of you with similar zombie-related fetishes and for those keen on single-player, Dead Island has a huge, open world, where you have the freedom to explore, meet people and survive as best you can. In all fairness, I really have to commend Techland for creating an engaging survival mechanics, which revolve around two simple things - custom weapons and tons and tons of quests. Yes, this game is a quest factory, a fucking quest whore. No matter where you go or who you talk to, you'll be besieged by quests. Apart from the typical tasks that involve fetching all sorts of items, there's also a range of story-related objectives that keep things a bit more exciting. Furthermore, the AI is not to be underestimated in this game. Zombies are persistent and resilient fuckers, I tell ya. Good job on that one.
Okay, if you're looking for any parallels, I'd say Dead Island is a mish-mash of Fallout 3, Left 4 Dead (1, 2), Resident Evil 5 and similar horror themed franchises (there's even a bit of Borderlands). However, it doesn't quite deliver the smooth multiplayer ride we've come to appreciate in games like L4D, nor does it boast the spectacular atmosphere of Resi 5. It's also far behind the sheer freedom and the choices we've seen in Fallout 3.
Be that as it may, Dead Island somehow manages to stand on its own. It features well-balanced gameplay mechanics, which provides a very addictive experience. In addition, weapon customization options allow for a staggering amount of melee and ranged weapons, all of which have different characteristics (damage, durability etc.). The key word here is "mods." You can search the world to locate various weapon blueprints and then use them to make your favorite weapon, by using scattered material and objects. Each weapon deteriorates, so you're gonna need more than one. You'll also be using workbenches almost constantly, in order to fix, upgrade or create custom weapons to your heart's content. Next to the weapon upgrades and mods, players can enjoy other RPG elements. Collecting experience and improving a variety of skills is also a crucial ingredient. Upgrading may improve your damage and increase your chance of crits. You also unlock numerous abilities that will prove more than useful in combat, no matter what you prefer using - pistols, rifles, machetes, baseball bats, brass knuckles, knives, etc. You can also kick, stomp or behead zombies, assuming you've leveled enough.
Playing Dead Island on your own brings the game's greatest weakness into the spotlight. There's a very feeble and underwritten plot beneath it all, not to mention the lack of characterization; basically, anything to immerse the player into the game world (apart from zombies and quest-givers, that is). The scarce cut-scenes and poorly written dialogue don't make up for this. In no time at all, you'll be screaming your lungs out, while uttering these words: "I want a freakin' story!!!"
6.8 Above Average
An addictive coop survival horror experience that may keep you and your friends up to your necks in zombie blood for hours and hours, vast areas to explore, detailed weapon customization;
No local coop (wtf?), some bugs remain even after applying the patch, single-player lacks more interesting story and characters.