• Dead Island Ė Review

    I never liked sandboxes as a kid: the sand got everywhere, I was never any good at sand castles, and every hole I burrowed only achieved to surface cat turds and bird carcasses long thought lost to society. Until recently these memories lay happily dormant in the depths of my brain, but as I played more and more through Techlandís first person zombie sprawl, Dead Island, my annoyance at sandboxes once again awoke inside me Ė but Iíll get to that later.

    Before your zombie bothering adventure begins a cinematic rolls of a high-profile party, seen through the eyes of an unknown attendee who looks to have had a few too many dakaris. Throughout the cutscene weíre introduced to Dead Islandís four playable characters: Logan, a mohawked football player (good at throwing stuff), Xian Mei, the hotel receptionist (good at stabbing stuff), Sam B, one hit wonder rap star (good at bashing stuff) and Purna, a former police woman (good at shooting stuff). I went for Sam B. Guns, grenades and knives were more than likely to be a rarity on a holiday resort infested with undead, but anything can be classified as a blunt weapon if you try hard enough: pipes, bin lids, chimney pots, you name it you could probably hit a zombie with it.

    To itís credit, I found the melee combat in Dead Island to be superb. Many games that have attempted to focus on melee combat have failed massively, leading to a situation where your left madly waving your weapon in an opponents face in the vain hope heíll eventually fall down (Iím looking at you Oblivion). Dead Islandís melee combat however, feels visceral and intense and is often very reminiscent of the Condemned series which, believe me, is high praise. The gun-play and thrown weapons however are a little more average, many a time I found myself accidentally lobbing a grenade way over a targets head or missing what I thought was a sure fire shot, giving fast approaching horde a nice little chuckle before they gnawed off my clumsy hands.

    Scattered throughout Banoi youíll occasionally encounter weapon mods used for Dead Islandís extensive crafting system. Theyíre normally picked up through quests and can help turn those pipes, bin lids and chimney pots of yours into fine tuned killing machines. The upgrade system works well and in fairness if thereís one thing more satisfying than clocking a zombie with a baseball bat, itís clocking a zombie with a baseball bat with nails through it.

    Despite popular opinion on vehicle sections in first person games, I personally think theyíre a great way to keep a game fresh Ė as long as theyíre implemented properly. When it comes to Dead Islandís vehicles though, my opinion is a little more divided. On the one hand, with such a vast area to explore, vehicles are a necessary means of getting around. Letís face it, running down a zombie will always be satisfying and will always remind me of this. Dead Islandís vehicles do however have the nasty habit of handling like a canal barge and reversing out of hedges, wrecks and old couples apartments is painfully inevitable.

    One of Dead Islandís unique selling points is itís beautiful island setting. Something Techland and Deep Silver were more than willing to promote throughout the games development. The game is undeniably pretty but itís not just zombies that stalk the island of Banoi. A far greater enemy lays in wait, ready to pounce whenever it can Ė the cruel predator known as texture lag. One moment your game will look as though itís running on a pissed on Dreamcast when suddenly itíll spring in to life. Somewhat like a senile grandparent finally remembering why they walked into a room.

    You may recall that earlier I brought up a certain gripe about sandboxes. Donít get me wrong, employed well a sandbox setting can increase a games playtime by hours. The problem though, is that you have to wantto explore, and in Dead Island I just didnít. Take Fallout: New Vegas as an example, the Mojave wasteland is so diverse and full of such interesting landmarks and characters that finding them all is fun in itself. Wondering around Banoi I just felt like an errand boy (ironically, what you actually were in New Vegas). I felt like the sap, contracted in to do everyoneís busy work. I after all, was the only one really risking my life here, I was the one getting lazy ass survivors juice and news of their loved ones. All they did was hang around the quest hub in their swimming gear eating at all tinned food and laughing at how stupid I was. Frankly, it all reeked of MMO: go here, kill however many zombies, save guy, back to quest hub. Sound familiar? Thought so.

    To be honest Iím not really sure if I liked Dead Island, all I seem to recall is intermittent bits of fun juxtaposed to almost constant visual glitches and bloody escort quests. Do you remember the trailer that came out prior to release that sent out masses of positive internet buzz? Itís almost as if that trailer was made for an entirely different game. The emotion the trailer portrays never really comes across. Sure the quest givers sob dramatically over there lost oneís but nine out of ten times youíll just want them to shut up and hand out their god damned escort quest already. Itís not quite a freshly dug up cat turd, but by no means is it perfectly crafted sandcastle either.

    Or maybe Iím just bitter there was no local co-op.

    Developer: Techland
    Publisher: Deep Silver

  • Rating: 55%
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