"An Undead Co-op Paradise"
There has been a lot of hype surrounding Dead Island – and with that hype came very little information on details. With a trailer that rocked the world (tweeted by celebrities, posted on major news networks, and debated intensely across the nets) it was assumed by many gamers that with such a high quality trailer, the game would lack with sales only pushed by hype. Well, were here to give you the hands-on skinny of it all.
To get your head into the setting and story of Dead Island – it takes place on an island off the coast of Papua New Guinea, where a group of people have to survive against swarms of undead. Okay, so that won’t ring any new bells in the zombie genre, but Dead Island makes up for it in atmosphere (which we’ll get to eventually). You’ll meet plenty of characters along the way, but all of them carry with them overly cheesy dialogue and unlikeable personalities. Unfortunately for a zombie film (or game), human characters are the most vital part, as they are what drives the story and measure up morality and humanity in a world gone mad.
- Gunplay is weak in terms of controls, so it's a good thing ammo is so rare -
The best way to describe the gameplay of Dead Island is to liken it to an FPS RPG, where you are constantly running missions to progress. Unfortunately, these missions aren’t always exciting, as you travel from point A to point B braining zombies with shovels. Combat just edges on dynamic, but never reaches it. There are plenty of ways to attack and moves to pull (kicking a zombie in the face is fun, but does get old since it’s seemingly the most useful attack), but the biggest problems are controls. Without nice tight controls like Left 4 Dead, and nearly unbearable aiming and fighting with firearms, Dead Island is pretty darn weak in this area. Disappointingly, the battle is even less dynamic than a modern Elder Scrolls game, and that’s bad. The stamina bar only lets you swing so much (which makes sense), but at the same time it can get ridiculously annoying. At least there are a lot of weapons to be found and used and zombie limbs to lop off, but it all seems pretty clunky and repetitive.
Since Dead Island has the heart of an RPG, there are skill trees to boost so you can customize your characters' skills. You’ll progress pretty quickly through these trees, so there isn’t much of a grind or a challenge getting your characters up to speed. Still, it makes progression in the game a bit more rewarding.
It seemed as if a lot of time was spent creating the vast maps and atmosphere of Dead Island – both of which are highlights for the game. The developers didn’t skip on violence or gore, which is great, because really, do we want a PG-13 zombie game? Not only that, but wherever you go on the island, you’ll feel tense. You’ll never know when you might be swarmed or attacked by the undead, and things can often get tough. If you ever had experience playing Fallout 3 and wandered the wastes right into super mutant territory without enough stimpacks to get you home and loved it, you’ll feel right at home with Dead Island. Though collecting food throughout the maps brings up your energy, actual medkits are treasures.
Fortunately, Dead Island doesn’t penalize you too heavily for dying (a few bucks taken out of your wallet is all). While this may seem like it’d ruin the tension and horror of the game (which for some it may), I still felt plenty worried about zombies lunging out of the trees at me.
- Tag-teaming the undead throughout the paradise-gone-mad is awesome -
Dead Island is a flawed, but it's also a very playable game whilst going solo. However, the title's real magic manifests when you enter online co-op. Put into the world with your buddies, every mission becomes ten times as fun. Strategizing attacks, running around hoards of zombies, and rescuing or defending friends as it plays into each mission is actually quite addictive. And co-op is handled so well that you’ll feel as if playing the game alone is like trying to play Left 4 Dead as a lone gunman – it’s just not nearly as satisfying. Once you get all of your buddies in a truck or boat, one driving, while the others shoot out the sides at zombies, you’ll realize this is a game made for friends.
Dead Island isn't perfect, but it is a lot of fun. Even a few hours solo will keep you entertained, but trust me on the co-op, that’s where this game shines.
GameDynamo's Score for Dead Island (X360)
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