Sun, sand, beautiful women, late night parties and tons of alcohol are some of the things you’d associate with an awesome holiday. Now imagine zombies crashed in on that party, uninvited, eating pretty much everyone around you, beautiful girls included. Would you get real mad and start smashing their skulls in or would you stay locked in your room crying like a little girl at your misfortune? Dead Island encourages you to go in for option A after the undead bust up your holiday at a swanky resort on the fictional island of Banoi.

 

Dead Island: Reviwed on Video

Dead Island may play out from a first person perspective but it isn’t like the Left 4 Dead (L4D) series. In fact the only thing it shares with L4D is its cannon fodder, the living dead. Dead Island is more reminiscent of Borderlands in its open world approach to gameplay where you could find out what caused the zombie outbreak through the plot or roam around, exploring the resort, undertaking side quests, looting the undead and upgrading your skills. As you level up, the world levels up with you which means you can't be a level 10 character and fight against level 1 zombies because let's face it, that would be boring as hell.

Come at me bro

Come at me bro

Dead Island also shares a lot with another first person survival horror game, Condemned, in the form of its first person melee combat system. As opposed to most games that hand you a pistol or shotgun at the outset, Dead Island encourages you to get up close and personal with the undead by restricting you to blunt or sharp objects throughout the first act. While the thought of smashing someone’s skull in with a bat does sound terribly satisfying (and it really is), you need to know that every weapon in this game degrades over a period of time. Thankfully there are workstations spread out all over the island where you can repair or even upgrade these weapons.

Taking a page out of Dead Rising 2, the game even allows you to forge your very own weapons, if you possess its blueprint (rewarded mostly for completing certain quests). Obviously what you can create is limited to the blueprint so you can't create machine guns from sticks and stones. Don’t worry though; you will eventually get your grubby paws on some serious firepower but even then, don’t expect boxes of ammunition lying around since this isn’t Island of Duty. While this may sound like somewhat of a buzzkill, lack of ammunition and dependence on melee combat add a level of intensity to this game not found in most first person titles. Roaming around the island of Banoi alone, even in broad daylight can be a pretty terrifying experience as you could get rushed by the horde in the blink of an eye.

Off with their head

Off with their head

The horde in Dead Island comes in different shapes and sizes. While most of your time will be spent slaughtering run of the mill grunts called Walkers, you’ll come across special infected from time to time. Yes, once again, the comparisons to L4D are inevitable so let’s get that out of the way. You have the bile spewing fat dudes, tanks that can withstand a ton of damage and suicidal zombies that explode upon contact. Sounds familiar right? Taking them down however isn’t much of an issue thanks to the rather large arsenal at your disposal.  And let’s say you aren’t in the mood to dance with the undead, you can simply sneak by a group of zombies or try and outrun them. In that respect I like the fact that the game doesn’t shove battles down your throat.

Playing the game in co-op takes away a lot of the game’s tense atmosphere but it also ramps up the fun tenfold. Dead Island can be played co-operatively by up to four players and honestly speaking, co-op is the way to play this game. Players can choose characters that not only reflect their play style but are complimentary to the team. For example if I choose someone who's proficient in blunt melee weapons, my partner can choose to play as someone who’s good at firearms or is good at throwing stuff. Unfortunately the game doesn’t sport drop in, drop out co-op we’re so used to today. This means if a mate of mine needs help on a particular quest, I can’t just hop in, help him out and then leave.

While the game sounds real nice so far, it is not without its problems. The first issue that hit me like a ton of bricks was the game’s awful control scheme. Controlling my character in Dead Island never felt fluid and responsive like most first person shooters. Instead it felt clunky, unresponsive and for some reason my strafing speed was severely nerfed. Maybe this was an intentional gameplay design to further enhance intensity but that doesn’t really justify such a crappy control scheme.

Bloody mess

Bloody mess

The next problem I faced was with the game’s inventory that basically screamed “shoddy console port”. Selecting the weapons you choose to equip is a long and unnecessary process where I have to click on a weapon, choose ‘Equip”, and then click once again on the free slot in my wheel. Why can’t I simply drag the weapon I wish to equip? Why is there no hotbar that allows me to switch weapons on the fly? Why do I have to press my middle mouse key, bring up the radial menu and then select my weapon. This wasn’t a deal breaker per say but it was terribly annoying.

As you can see by the screens, Dead Island is not a very good looking game. It's not ugly by any chance but given its gorgeous tropical setting, we expect better visuals after being spoilt silly by the likes of Crysis, Far Cry and Just Cause 2. Zombie models aren't as detailed as the ones found in Left4Dead but the dismemberment is just as satisfying. Smacking their skulls in with a lead pipe or lopping their parts off with a sword is very rewarding, both visually and mentally.

Dude I think you need a doctor

Dude I think you need a doctor

I won’t lie to you – Dead Island is not without its issues. The game is quite buggy (froze and crashed on me multiple times), suffers from a ton of glitches and takes some time to grow on you but once it does, you won’t want to leave the island of Banoi till you figure out the cause of the outbreak. And even then, you’ll be back for more. The game’s weighed down by a clunky control scheme, shoddy inventory system and weird gameplay choices like the fact that I can continuously kick zombies without breaking a sweat but every other act from sprinting to jumping to swinging my weapon takes a chunk of my stamina bar. It’s also not the best looking game on the planet and for some reason death penalty in this game is painfully lenient but trust me, once you find your rhythm, the game is an all out blast fusing zombies, first person action and role playing elements effortlessly into one entertaining package.

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