Anything with Zombies seems to be the craze right now whether its movies or videogames. Ever since Deep Silver and Techland revealed a disturbing and controversial trailer for the game Dead Island the talk of the town has seemed to revolve around this new zombie game. Trickles of information came here and there as the months passed and now finally the game has come to be a reality and has hit retail shelves and zombie fans are flocking to see what all the hoopla has been about. Let me tell you this, hands down this is the best Zombie game that I have played to date and actually one of the more fun RPG games to date as well. There is so much stuff in this game I am actually trying to limit what I am going to talk about just to keep this somewhat short but thorough.
The best way to describe Dead Island is to just say itís a combination of many things other zombie games and RPGís did well. I would have to say itís a good mixture of Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising, Borderlands and a little Fallout 3 all rolled up into one package. Surprisingly, the game feels very good from gameplay to presentation from the moment you fire it up. Although there are a few bugs with a few of them being very frustrating the game still holds its own overall and as of the writing of this review a patch was in certification from what I understand. So hopefully most of the minor bugs will be patched out. Iíll mention some of the stuff I ran into later in the review.
The controls are pretty basic and easy to pick up. Youíll use the left and right triggers for combat purposes such as aiming, throwing and melee attacks. Youíll use the face buttons to perform certain actions such as picking things up or using them as well as triggering your Fury skill. The directional pad will turn on a flashlight and if you hold up on the D-Pad youíll enter a menu where you can view a map, quests, inventory, and your skills. You can also pull up a radial menu to switch weapons by pressing the right bumper which comes in very handy during those heated battles. There is even an advanced controls mode that allows you to use Analog Fighting. Iíll tell you what; I didnít even attempt this because I have a hard enough time taking the zombies out with just triggers and buttons. I donít need it any more difficult but feel free to give it a go yourself. The option can be found in the Controls menu.
Visually, the game does have ups and downs. Most of the visuals are great from the detail on the zombies to the environments youíll find yourself trying to survive in. There are some pixilation issues here and there when you get up close and personal with a few smaller object or textures themselves. The blood and gore is endless it seems and youíll see plenty of meat, blood and body parts strewn all about the island as you hack your way through hordes of zombies. A few instances of clipping will take place and even zombies will hit you through fences just when you think you are safe. I even had one come through a fence at me. Thatís fine and all if the fence would have broken or she used a gate but that wasnít the case. She glitched right through the fence texture and next thing I knew I was knocked to the ground.
The sounds in the game are pretty well done as well. As with most NPCís youíll have the ones that just donít have a whole lot of emotion and then the others who overplay the emotion a little too much. But a lot of the main characters are voiced very well and never over exaggerate. But then again, I have never been stuck on an island with zombies and fighting for my life so who am I to say what emotion one should have. The zombies have various types of moans and groans and the big thugs let out a battle cry of sorts thatís enough to send shivers up your spine. The environment around you has birds chirping, waves lapping on the beach as you would expect from a paradise island. There are a few generic sounds such as the vehicle engines or the electronic gates opening. For the life of me I had no idea what was making this particular noise until I realized it was an electric gate.
Ok, enough about how it looks and sounds. You want to know what to expect when you play the game, right? Alright then, letís begin. Youíll have 4 characters to choose from each with their own expertise. There is Sam B. who is your Tank in the game and uses brute force to take down the zombies. Xian Mei is The Assassin and she is good with sharp weapons. Puma is your leader and her specialty is guns. And finally you have Logan who is a Jack of All Trades and his specialty is throwing weapons. All 4 characters have something called a Fury skill which basically is a boost of sorts and can come in quite handy when overwhelmed by enemies.
The fury skill can be found in the Skill Tree for each character and youíll have to apply a skill point in order for it to be a part of your arsenal. There are 3 categories in the skill tree system and they are Fury, Combat and Survival. The Fury category focuses on the characterís signature ability and makes them more efficient and powerful. The Combat category allows you to build up your weapon expertise and increase their effectiveness as well as again making yourself more powerful by taking less damage, etc. Finally the Survival category is where youíll apply skills such as lock picking, better stamina, etc. Youíll get a skill point each time you level up which you can then apply to any specific skill in any category. Youíll of course have to start at the top and work your way down. As you get to level 3 on a skill, the next set of skills below will open up for the next skill point to be applied.
The game is all about killing zombies and completing quests for both the main storyline and side stories. You can choose to do the quests however you like and there are an abundance of them to choose from. When accepting a quest from one of the NPCís youíll get the details on how difficult the quest is, what you need to do and what your reward will be. There are certain items that can only be attained by completing quests so be sure to do as many as you can. Also, money is very important in this game so youíll need all the cash that you can muster. Not only can you make money from quests; you can also find money lying around, on the bodies of dead zombies and in suitcases. I got in the habit of picking up whatever I found because a lot of times items I found came in handy for continuous quests.
One of the cool things in the game is that weapons can deteriorate as they are used. Each weapon has a certain level of durability. As you get better weapons the durability will increase. You can repair the weapons and upgrade them at workbenches which can be found scattered around the island. Itíll cost you some money to upgrade and repair items especially as the weapons get stronger. The variety of weapons you have at your disposal seems infinite especially since you can modify them and turn them into new creations once you have collected a blueprint. So once again, see how important it is to pick up pretty much everything you find because you never know when something will come in handy. Youíll be able to purchase weapons including from traders in each safe house.
There are plenty of collectibles to find in the game to keep all you explorers happy. Youíll find ID Cards, Recordings, and Fact Files scattered around the island. I personally like to find all of the hidden goodies so with well over 100 items lying about I should have plenty of hours of searching ahead before I resort to a guide. Youíll also have in game challenges which will earn you XP and the achievements have actual percentage meters on them and will pop up on screen when you hit certain plateaus telling you your progress. Itís very similar to what you see in Left 4 Dead and Gears of War 3. I found myself achievement hunting all the more now that I had a gauge to look at and tell how far along I was for a certain achievement. I am sure weíll see plenty of DLC to support the title as well in the future so the number of hours of gameplay that this game provides will never be scoffed at.
For all of you that love to play online then youíll love the drop-in/drop-out co-op for up to 4 players in a game. Whatís really cool is that when a player is nearby and at about the same progress as you an option will come on the screen to join that personís game. You can decide to make the game single player if you choose to or you can open it up as a public game to allow people to drop in and help you. Unfortunately, there is no split screen option but there is an option to do system link for those of you who still do the LAN thing.
Now as I mentioned there are some bugs in the game and there was one that was almost a game breaker. I love to explore open worlds and find everything I can, so at one point I went down this set of stairs in the resort area that led to showers and bathrooms. I found the goodies that were hidden down there and then proceeded to make my way back up the stairs. To my surprise, no matter how hard I tried I could not walk to the top of the stairs. Each time I tried, I was pushed back down the stairs. It took me almost 10 minutes of trying and really taking a 2 steps forward 1 Ĺ steps back approach. I was finally able to slide up the wall and get out of that area. Yes, I got out but if I hadnít and the autosave would have saved my game while I was down there that would have been it for that game. I would have been stuck. Thatís a very bad bug and maybe one that I just happened to run across under certain criteria to make it happen. I donít know but I do know I would not have been a happy camper. Some other instances I noticed was frozen zombies, clipping through textures here and there and just a few screen freezes for quick instances. But all of these instances were few and far between and I wouldnít even consider this game to be a bugfest.
Dead Island is a zombie loverís paradise and youíll find plenty of replay value with the option to play through the campaign as all 4 characters. Hands down, this is one of the better zombie games on the market with all the variety and many hours of gameplay. I honestly could sit here and write so much about every little detail in the game but this review would take up a whole server in storage because it would be so long. The best thing I can do is just tell you that if you enjoy zombie games or like RPGís or enjoy Hackín Slash gameplay then you must check out this game. Hell, Iíll even go as far to say that every gamer should check out this game (if they are of age of course or have a parentís consent). Dead Island does a lot more things right than it does wrong and when I last checked that usually makes for a pretty good game. Bottom line is I really had a lot of fun with this game and I was pleasantly surprised as to how good it was.