At the beginning of the year I saw the preview trailer for an upcoming zombie game that just blew my mind. Shot in reverse it showed the destruction of an entire family in a hotel room full of blood thirsty undead. In an instant I knew I had to play the game. Here we are some nine or so months later and I have just completed the main story campaign. After numerous deaths at the hands of the undead and more than a few swear words was it worth all those hours of my life?
Dead Island is a role playing first person zombie survival game. At the beginning you get to chose from one of four survivors stranded on the beautiful but deadly Island of Banoi. After a near fatal encounter it turns out that you are in fact immune to the virus but the bad news is that it’s up to you to go out and find a cure and ultimately escape in one piece. Using melee weapons that are strewn around the environment you must carve a path through an almost endless onslaught of zombies and help out fellow survivors who will in turn offer you better weapons, vital ‘XP’ to spend on strengthening your character as well as information essential to the plot. The vast majority of tasks will involve you travelling from A to B to kill something or collect something to return to the character. On paper it doesn’t sound like much but you will be having too much fun killing zombies to worry about little things like repetitive game play! The combat works quite well and is superbly violent throughout. You can slice zombie limbs and heads off completely as well as setting them on fire with a well placed Molotov cocktail. A trusty kick is great for giving you a little advantage and it’s also good for knocking unsuspecting reeker’s into the resorts many swimming pools! Don’t get too comfortable though as the game has a nasty way of luring you to a quick and painful death should you lose sight of your goal to pursue a non essential task on a whim. You can strengthen and upgrade your weapons using many of the items dotted around; unfortunately you can’t just build anything you have to earn the modification either by completing side missions for people or finding blue prints. Your weapons will also deteriorate over time and must be repaired if you wish to keep using it. If you’ve had the pleasure of playing the Dead Rising games then you will be in familiar territory here.
Sadly though, Dead Island is not without its faults. Immediately noticeable is the games lacklustre graphics and presentation. It’s never terrible and it did seem to improve as the story progressed into the city and jungle environments but it does look a little dated compared to other current releases. The texture mapping is way off at times particularly after loading a new area. The first few seconds would be horribly bland until the detail suddenly jumped in. I’m told that this is worse on the PS3 version but it really should have been fixed before being released. The games characters also look a bit naff. I noticed the same character faces cropping up as other people thinly disguised by a pair of glasses or a different hairstyle! To make matters worse the voice acting is at times laughably bad as well. The accents are horrendously over the top and don’t fit the characters and the lips are generally out of sync. I had some issues with the story too. I would have liked a better explanation to some of the plot turns instead of just being told about key events after they had already happened. On more than one occasion I got impatient and skipped entire conversations only to end up puzzled later on. I still don’t know what happened to life guard Sinamoi or the Lighthouse survivors for that matter!
To be fair most of these issues are only cosmetic and the games core mechanics are very good. It just feels disappointing considering how polished that awesome preview trailer was. I do recommend Dead Island to anybody who is open minded enough to forgive its ugly short comings. Within a few short hours you will be hooked on its enjoyable and long campaign. I have yet to experience what Dead Island has to offer in terms of co-operative play but it does look fantastic. Anybody who fancies a go on PSN please let me know!Gav The Big Man.