There have been a lot of zombie games recently. There's been Dead Rising 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops: Nazi Zombies, even Borderlands had its own zombie DLC. At this point, most people are getting sick of killing zombies, and need something fresh and new. The thought of the release of another Zombie game, Dead Island, turned many people off and had them retire their controllers for a brief time. That is, until they actually played the game.
Let me start off by saying that Dead Island is not a very polished game. The graphics and environments do look rather aesthetically pleasing and gives the player the urge to explore, but it's just not polished enough. The graphics are somewhat uneven, and the animations are a bit awkward and clunky. Not to mention that the cut-scenes are pretty rough and generic. However, that's not all that makes a game. In my opinion, it's the "fun factor" that makes a game great. That is, 'how fun did I have while playing the game'? With Dead Island, I had a lot of fun. But I can't leave it at that. The next question is, 'what makes it fun? Why is it fun? Why not?' There are plenty of answers to these questions.
As previously stated, the graphic atmosphere is fantastic. It has a similar aesthetic to that of Far Cry 2, appearing to be based in Africa (an African island, particularly), but the surroundings also feel South American, not generically African. What's odd is that it is not set in either of those continents. Dead Island is really a small island of the coast of Papua New Guinea, which is Australian. The setting is perfectly consistent with the jungles of Oceania (Australia), it's just not what first comes to mind. The engine renders it rather well, with bright colors and an excellent draw distance. However, I had noticed some inconsistency with the rendering, giving the level of polish on the graphics a bad rap. The lighting effects gave the graphics a big plus, but pixelated portions of the games textures greatly dilute the experience and even partly break the immersion.
Luckily, the world is fun to explore, and you may find yourself pausing from mauling zombies to gaze at the beautiful environments. Despite not having that top level of polish, the visuals and graphics still stand out as something to enjoy. The animations do not feel authentic. They are a bit clunky, and also lack polish. Not all of them feel so cheesy, and those are the ones that feel incredibly satisfying. The character models of the zombies are accurate. They appear just the way you'd want a zombie to look. The issue is the player's own character model looks like a zombie itself. This also brings down the game’s overall level of polish, and makes character movement seem awkward. Luckily, this only dilutes the experience slightly. The overall feel may not be very robust, but it is good enough to give the player a fun and immersive experience.
Gameplay is the highlight of Dead Island. There is no survival horror aspect to this game. The cut-scenes are not unexpected or terrifying, mostly just funny and cool. Believe it or not, it's an RPG. At least, that's what all the elements point to. Dead Island features a very robust leveling system. You'll have your standard skill trees and weapon levels and stats, but it's all mixed in with zombies.
I personally never enjoyed survival horror games that much in the first place, and Dead Island doesn't fit that description (not like Dead Space 2 does). A big plus was that Dead Island was able to achieve mass appeal. If you like RPGs, Dead Island has something to offer; if you like survival horror, Dead Island has aspects for you; if you like killing zombies, Dead Island definitely has something for you. My favorite kinds of games are open-world games (particularly open-world RPGs), and Dead Island satisfied me endlessly with that. An open-world RPG featuring zombies is enticing to most any fan that wants something fresh.
Dead Island's open world is massive. Not as massive as the biggest of open-world games (such as Just Cause 2), but big enough to keep the player exploring for plenty of gameplay hours. It not only has the open-world aspect, but the staple aspect that comes with an open-world game (which, I might add, is often taken for granted): sandbox gameplay. You'll be able to drive abandoned cars, modify your weapons, and make use of most objects you come in contact with. I know, this sounds like Dead Rising 2, and it is like that. This isn't a bad thing at all. Dead Island has enough fresh ideas to call itself a new experience.
One of the best parts is that there's tons of quests. This means plenty of gameplay hours, better replay value, and lasting appeal. Even better is, not only are there a lot of these quests, but the majority of them a varied and ultimately fun. Not to mention loaded with combat. The combat will keep anyone satisfied, as long as they don't mind a lot of blood and guts in the process. It certainly lives up to all the top zombie games on the market right now. Not even the best of zombie games can compare to the efficiency of combat in Dead Island.
The first-person gunfights are enjoyable just as much as the melee combat is. The level of variety that Dead Island incorporates in its combat system achieves excellence in my view of the game. There's no place for a game that isn't fun in the hearts of gamers, nor even on the shelves of retailers. Luckily, Dead Island does not fall in that category. There's virtually no place that the game doesn't shine in gameplay. The animations might have their awkward moments, but these are easily overlooked and forgotten. Every bit of Dead Island's combat, leveling, quests, and sandbox play is fun, interesting and worthy of recognition.
The story isn't anything you'll brag about to your friends, but it's not bad either. It's actually pretty good. Most of the story is ultimately designed for the players guidance about the world (or island, in this case). Luckily, this doesn't make it a poor story, but it does dilute it to a slight extent. I won't spoil anything, but I will say it's worth completing the game for. The voice acting isn't top-notch to any extent, but this doesn't dilute the experience unless you're deliberately trying to find the game's faults.
Finally, you have the multiplayer. This is definitely something to brag about. There's 4 player co-op (played over Xbox Live, PSN, or PC method, such as Steam). There's no split-screen (it's a dying breed). Luckily, inviting your friends over Xbox Live or PSN is equally as satisfying. The co-op allows you to play though the open world with the same flexibility as single player, just with the level difference restriction (a level 25 with two quests to go can't join with a level 1 who just started the game). This is all for the best, and the co-op experience is just as (if not more) rewarding than even the single-player was. It's easy to join a game, and can double your fun.
Dead Island may lack that top level of polish, and even have its own awkward moments, but it's a game worth playing, and easily worth your money. The gameplay is deep, the visuals can be breathtaking (at times), and every bit of it is fun. This game earns itself a spot in the ranks of the best zombie games and RPGs around. There's still plenty of fun to be had with zombie games.
- Excellent combat and gameplay
- Universal mass appeal
- Co-op and sandbox gameplay mix perfectly
- Lacks the final layer of polish
- Occasional awkwardness
- Story simply strings you along