Dead Island is one of 2011’s most eagerly awaited titles. A chilling, unbelievably affecting trailer, featuring a pair of parents tossing their living-impaired little girl out of a hotel room window created waves of anticipation on the Internet earlier this year. Pundits were quick to point out that if the actual game could provide even one-tenth of the emotional impact of its trailer, then gamers were in for quite an experience.
Tragically, a good trailer does not a great game make. If wishes were horses, French people would be a lot fatter. Dead Island is a huge disappointment, never quite managing to overcome the huge hurdle created by game-killing bugs, poor controls and immensely repetitive, not to mention boring, melee combat. A series of patches released since the game’s launch date have struggled to fix some of these issues but, as a gamer myself, I categorically refuse to review patched products. The game that a company releases on launch day is the game that’s going to get reviewed. Sorry, Techland. I’m getting paid to write, not to be your beta monkey.
All hope is not lost, despite its many, many problems, there’s still some gold to be mined, hidden deep underneath Dead Island’s rocky, flat, boring exterior. There’s a gigantic open world to explore, though it lacks for meaningful things to do. The game’s spawning system is good for some sudden, unexpected thrills, though it will more often than not lead to having to clear the same area several times. There’s a wide variety of environments to explore, though props, characters and entire areas are repeated ad nauseam.
“Honey, did our last five rooms come with a complementary zombie or just this exact same furniture?”
This is Yell! Magazine’s review of Dead Island, available for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. For review purposes, the PC version was used.
It takes Dead Island roughly two minutes to toss you into the deep end of a zombie-filled pool. Story isn’t the name of the game here. The amount of actual story telling featured in this title is equal to that of any Left 4 Dead entry you care to name. Basically, there are zombies, grab something sharp and swing away. Oh sure, Dead Island attempts some late-game plot revelations concerning the origin of the zombie infection and the occasional survivor you rescue will have some SOB tale about his dead wife and kids, but since you spend most of your time interacting with the recently deceased, you can’t exactly expect much in the way of stimulating conversation here, aside from the occasional “brains!” or “aaaarrrrgh!”
You play as one of three possible characters, each with their own strengths and/or weaknesses. Some are stronger with bladed weapons while others do more damage with firearms. You can choose to play as Xian Mei, a painfully and stereotypically voiced Chinese hotel worker; Logan, an ex-NFL player; Sam B, a broken-down rap artist; or Purna, a police officer. But, honestly, who gives a crap? Aside from minor differences in play style, you’ll quickly figure out that each character’s starting stats mean jack squat. Each player character is as capable as the other. I think that even the game’s developers figured this out too since NPCs hilariously refer to you as a male or “mate” or “the guy” regardless of your choice of gender. Yep, even the recorded dialog in Dead Island feels rushed and incomplete.
In any case, your chosen zombie slayer wakes up in his or her… well, his according to the game script, hotel room only to find that he’s slept through a minor apocalypse.
Excuse me, I seem to have overslept, can one of you kind folks point me to the all-you-can eat buffet?
Once you awaken, you’re almost immediately guided to a ramshackle lifeguard shack on the beach where you’ll hook up with fellow survivors, after the usual tutorials in movement, combat, and how to interact with the environment. As is par for the course in this type of game, NPCs are entirely useless and any tasks or missions that need doing are somehow expected to be done by you and you alone. You may be playing as Xian Mei, lowly hotel maid, but you’re stupidly expected to clear areas of infected, firebomb hordes of zombies, hot-wire vehicles, scrounge for supplies by your lonesome and generally get your Rambo on, despite the fact that you were cleaning garbage cans a day earlier. I’m all for finding new strengths while under pressure but this is a bit much.
Bring it, motherfuckers! I’ve got a broom and a spray bottle filled with Windex and I’m not afraid to use them!
There isn’t a single compelling character to interact with in the whole of Dead Island. Early on, I encountered a distraught man cradling the bodies of his loved ones inside an empty pool, completely bathed in blood. This scene should have been affecting, instead a combination of poor graphics, unpleasant voice acting and a general feeling that the game hadn’t earned this moment left me feeling underwhelmed. This is a big problem in general with Dead Island, its reach far exceeds its grasp.
BAWWW! My wife… is… DEAD! Oh… OH! NO! Uh… uh… LINE?
Read about the gameplay, presentation, and verdict after the jump…
- Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
- Published by:
- Deep Silver
- Developed by:
- Techland (Poland)
- Year Released:
- 6 September 2011
- Also Available On:
- PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
- First-Person Action
- Official URL:
- Dead Island
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