Bugs and a poor single-player experience mean that Dead Island is definitely a game for two or more players
I’m a sucker for zombies. In a world where vampires now glitter in the sunlight and werewolves turn into unrealistically buff teenagers, zombies have remained true to form. Not much has changed over the years, and they’re still depicted as mindless undead, savage and hungry for flesh (Although now apparently zombies run rather than shamble. What's with that? – Ed). There’s something very visceral about that.
- Strong online co-op mode
- Good combat system
- Free roaming allows players to go at their own pace
- Single-player gameplay is disappointing
- Controls can be clunky at times
- No split-screen co-op
Dead Island is clearly made with online co-op in mind. If you’re looking to play the game alone, you may find yourself disappointed. Play it with friends to unlock the game's full potential.
It should be no surprise that I was looking forward to getting my hands on Dead Island. The poignant trailer captured my attention and fuelled my hope for a truly immersive and emotionally-driven zombie game. I was full of hope, so my standards for were high. But perhaps they were a bit too high?
As the title suggests, the game is set in the pretty, sunny, fictitious and ultimately dead island of Banoi. The game begins in the Palms Resort Hotel, where a viral outbreak has turned everybody into zombies. A handful of survivors are immune to the virus. They're trying to survive and get the heck off the island.
So, you're caught up on the plot — it sounds roughly like every zombie movie/game/comic/novel ever created. But in a genre that has already been done to death (pun intended – Ed), we'll grant a concession for the unimaginative storyline.
A la Left 4 Dead, there are four playable survivors to choose from, each with their own strengths, weaknesses and unique skills. Characters level up by completing quests and slaying enemies (which can be zombies, or the opportunistic gun-toting looters hiding around Banoi). Each level-up provides points which can be invested into different talent trees for new attributes. For anyone who has dabbled in World of Warcraft, this system is a familiar, albeit watered-down, version.
A considerable amount of effort has been put in to make players care about the characters. You can choose from New Orleans rapper Sam B, ex-jock Logan, knife-fighting Xian Mei and disgraced New South Wales cop Purna. There are some less-than-imaginative stereotypes at play here, but they fit with the slightly silly storyline.
All the characters are from different walks of life, and in the character selection screen players are given a lengthy description read out by the characters themselves. It's a nice touch, but that kind of commitment doesn’t carry on throughout the game. I opted for Purna, despite her having the most exaggerated and annoying Australian accent possible.
Dead Island has a strong opening stage. Your character wakes up in a dark hotel room with no weapons, and no explanation of what’s going on. It is eerily quiet and despite being free to roam around into other rooms (some littered with corpses) to pick up random items, there are no weapons to be found.
As you head carefully towards the exit, you’re constantly expecting something to come jumping out of the darkness. I won’t get too into the details, but suffice to say that the first chapter strikes a great balance between action and suspense with clever stage set-ups as well as quality cut-scenes. After the introductory mission, you can freely roam around Banoi and pick up a variety of side quests along your travels. You also have the freedom to complete quests at your own pace.
But from that point on, the game becomes less gripping. The combat and quests themselves gradually become more repetitive. Rather than being compelled to see the main storyline through, I was preoccupied with completing side quests purely to gain experience points and achievements. New enemies are slowly introduced, but they do little to inject extra excitement.
From the aesthetics to the inventory system, quest system and character interactions, the game's similarities to Fallout 3 are undeniable; post-zombie outbreak Banoi may as well have been DC.
I found myself almost equally addicted to completing the main quest along with the plethora of side-quests I gathered as I was back in my Fallout days. The problem is that just like Fallout, Dead Island is littered with bugs. I had problems handing quests in, every now and then the AI would go crazy, sometimes my character would be revived in the most random locations, and so on. A friend playing the PlayStation 3 version also found a way to infinitely duplicate weapons. Not only did he not have to worry about weapons degrading, but he was also able sell duplicate items for money.
While Fallout 3 had a compelling storyline and a manual saving system to compensate, Dead Island does not. When the game bugged out on me, I had to cross my fingers that the game had autosaved at the right spot as I reloaded from the last checkpoint. It was rather stressful. As I went further in the game, it became evident that the best way to experience Dead Island was in co-operative multiplayer mode.
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