Dead Island review
The zombie survival game has evolved over the years, from epic to worse, to even worse, and then back to epic with Left 4 Dead which has brought a revival to the zombie genre. And with the zombie theme, it appears Dead Island intends to take that ‘So you think you can survive a Zombie Apocalypse?’ challenge and make it more real.
First off Dead Island uses the Chrome 5 graphics engine which you may be familiar with if recently you played Call of Juarez: The Cartel. This means that straight away the graphics feel outdated, as games have come a long way in a short space of time.
The game’s introduction begins by focusing on a drunk person walking through a party, bumping shoulders with the games four main protagonists. The introduction plays out as you’d expect, along with an Easter Egg featuring the family from the FMV trailer promoting the game, a very nice touch. It is from here that you slowly make your way through the hotel floor to the elevator, ‘acquiring’ cash from baggage, raiding other miscellaneous items including fridges and PCs for items that just might help you later on. As you reach the elevator a cliché teaser plays introducing you to the zombies, but you then get into a cutscene where you are bitten by zombies right out the gate so to speak.
Yes you are immune, we get it. However so do the NPC’s as they treat your wounds, which brings you nicely into fetch quest hell. From the moment you pick up the introductory paddle, until the conclusion itself, the game is nothing but fetch quest, fetch quest or even help random ‘survivor’ who then sends you on… a free safari weekend? No you wish, another fetch quest. Where are the ‘story triggered’ quests? There isn’t anything beyond random NPC survival quests which disappoints me severely. There are a few situation based quests triggered by survivors that you will come across during your travels, but there are too few of them throughout the game to really quench the appetite.
There are also moments that are so stupid all you can do is laugh. One example during a fetch quest which briefly turned into a survivor escort mission, I had to drop down into an area filled with zombies. To machete them all to death would have been tough, but luckily the zombie’s don’t climb beyond a certain height, so I decided it would be much faster to Molotov them all which worked a treat. Job done I thought. Sadly not. As they all die simultaneously, the survivor runs its protocol making sure the zombies are dead, but jumps into the inferno still blazing a second afterwards and burns to death. MOTHS have a higher IQ than this AI! It was Darwinism at its purest.
Dead Island sadly ruins itself in a multitude of other ways, so many I can’t possibly list them all in this review. However my main annoyance is directed at the items that periodically respawn – Dead Island is a survival game and respawning items completely defeat the purpose and challenge of the game. I can forgive the respawning zombies, just, although it’s no longer 1998 and the gaming industry has long since passed this milestone, but respawning items which dumb down the experience is unforgivable.
Melee weapons are the main resource of weaponry that you will rely on, and early on it makes sense, but it is only after you have lost all hope do you finally get your hands on projectile weaponry. You will then be tempted to use all the ammo you come across within seconds from the elation of finally having a decent gun. The only problem is everything in the melee class has a degradation system attached, and no matter the quality of your weapon, it will burn down and cost you more to repair or upgrade it. And this is where another strange development decision comes in, as a $1000+ to repair a baseball bat with nails in it seems to tip the scales of being a bit excessive. You could buy hundreds of them, but the best part is you need to pay the same again in twenty minutes or less if it is your weapon of choice.
I can understand the idea however if some sense of realism was applied. But these weapons might as well be made of tinfoil at the rate they degrade. It’s not that Dead Island is fundamentally bad, it is just all of the ideas have been done before, but better.
The concept and idea surrounding Dead Island is pretty unique, and on paper appears to be very good. Think Left 4 Dead meets Dead Rising while on a holiday resort. Throw in the jungle and it felt like LOST, but with zombie’s rather than polar bears and mystical smoke. Yet this game is proof if nothing else that it takes more than just a good idea to make a great game. I for one won’t be surprised when someone makes this entire island into a Left 4 Dead fan mod.
I so wanted to fall in love with this game, it had all the right ingredients to make it the best zombie outing ever burned onto a disc, and I genuinely mean that. But I keep wondering what would the game be like if the original Left 4 Dead guys did it? Sadly they didn’t and it feels like the developers systematically thought “that’s good enough” throughout the development process. Either that or too many people have tinkered with Dead Island and argued over what the game should ultimately be like.
Dead Island was a fantastic idea but sadly does not deliver. Features of the game can be found elsewhere and in better form, meaning Dead Island leaves a feeling of disappointment that you only get when it throws it down during your two week holiday to Majorca, as well as a wondering of what could have been as you look at the decent aspects of the game through the rain clouds.