Dead Island is a 1st Person, RPG, Hack and Slash, Zombie game developed by Techland and published by Deep Silver. The game includes the increasingly popular 4-player Co-op Campaign (which can be played singleplayer) so that you and some friends (or even random people) can join forces for some Zombie killing.
To begin the game you get the choice of 4 different characters: Logan the Throwing Expert, Purna the Firearms Expert, Xian Mei the Sharp Weapons Expert and then Sam B the Blunt Weapons Expert. Each of the character has their own backstory but aside from the occasional brief reference during the few cutscenes it really doesn’t play much of a part. They also each have their own skill tree to develop as you level up. They contain three different trees for growth: The fury tree is where you can increase stats and abilities to do with fury, the weapon tree contains stat boosts surrounding weapons for your character to use they tend to be quite diverse but do contain crossovers if you play as Logan or Purna and finally the utility tree which houses abilities and stats that are generally not combat related. Each character also resembles loosely certain MMO style classes; Sam B is the Tank, Xian Mei is the Melee DPS, Purna is the Leader/Support/Ranged DPS and Logan is the all-rounder.
The game begins with the prologue (this can be skipped after you have completed it once) with you waking up in your hotel bedroom a little worse for wear after the party the night before. After walking around a little while hearing screams, seeing blood stains and even some dead bodies a voice on the tannoy system beckons you to follow his instructions. You enter an elevator which descends and then drops. You then head for a safe room but get caught out and knocked unconscious. You are hastily ruse with the threat of death if you don’t nod your head; not wanting to have your head beaten in by a baseball bat you eventually nod. From there you find out you were saved by a group of survivors and the leader of this group is outside fending off the undead. Naturally you go out and bring swift death to the attacking fiends and save your saviour Sinamoi, the head lifeguard.
From there onwards you take part in a multitude of quests ranging from finding supplies, people, weapons and safehouses, to killing the undead and trying to find a way off the island. These quests come in three forms. The first form is the main quest; this progresses the main storyline and brings you to new locations and normally gives the best quest rewards and the most experience (XP). The second form is sidequests; these are smaller scale quests which sometimes lead to new sidequests and offer a fair amount of XP and some reasonable rewards which more often have weapon mods as a reward. The final kind of quest is continuous quests; these as their name implies are quests which offer low rewards but can be done multiple times and are also relatively low risk.
The game is a treat to look at with stunning views over the ocean from high up on the beaches and a city that feels lived in and real. Most of the environments have had a lot go into the design and the resort is just beautiful to walk around, even with all the blood and rotting corpses. The character models are a little underwhelming by comparison especially when it comes to cutscenes or even just talking to quest givers. The emotion can be heard on the voices but the movements of the characters and their lifeless faces really detract from some of the more emotional scenes. Those are just the human characters though, the various undead are really quite detailed. The more “dead” they are the more decomposed they appear with missing chunks of flesh or facial features. Gruesome dismemberments and brutal bone breaking is most of the gore that you’ll see but beheading is strange in that the face changes its skin as soon as the head is lopped off of the body’ while the head stomp is particularly gory and may leave some people thinking its just a little too much. Fires have quite disturbing effect as once fully fleshed nightmares become stripped of all their skin and clothes and leave only burnt flesh behind. Some of the more deadly infected do however look a little off with Floaters having a very odd skin which is semi-transparent letting you see internal organs which looks strange from some angles.
The game play largely consists of beating the undead with close combat weapons, you can target different areas of each enemy and depending on the weapon type you have a chance of doing different things. Blunt weapons do less damage but make up for it by being able to break bones and the ability to knock down enemies, two-handed blunt weapons have an even greater force for knockdown and have a much wider swing and therefore can hit more enemies at once and also hit from further away. Sharp weapons on the other hand do far more damage and can even slice off limbs and heads. There is a two-handed axe which acts like both blunt and sharp, it has the knockdown of a blunt weapon but it can sever limbs as well. All melee weapons can be thrown and while blunt objects bounce, sharp objects do far more damage and will stick in the opponent until you pick it up from their “living” or dead bodies. Guns on the other hand are extremely powerful against human enemies but lack the same punch against the undead hordes. There are some explosives in the form of homemade bombs, Molotovs, grenades, explosive barrels and the Suicider; these are all very effective against all enemies and normally results in a single shot kill. You also have a fury skill which is built up via getting kills or other ways if you have built that way via the fury skill tree. When the fury bar fills completely you can activate it to send your character into a high damage mode where they get heavy damage on special weapons associated on their type ie blades for Xian Mei.
Weapons are looted frequently and there is an abundance of weapons wherever you look whether it’s in Zombies hands or in chests or on the floor etc. You will not have the same weapon for very long early in the game as the durability is lacking to a degree that even later on can become annoying. At first it makes perfect sense but the hardier weapons still need constant repair and some of the weapons (especially in New Game +) are incredibly weak considering the level of the enemies. Weapons that are good and modded later on in the game are just too expensive at times to keep you going and it just gets infuriating having weapons that do less than half the damage appear when you’re single headedly taking on a horde of the undead.
All character use stamina some have slightly more and some have slightly less but they all have roughly the same amount. Stamina decreases with almost every action you take, running, jumping swinging a weapon and some special moves as well. Stamina regenerates after not using any for a short period of time but stops if you try and do anything that involves it. Running makes the bar go down very slowly so you can run for quite a while in one go but you will need to rest a moment before carrying on. Jumping only uses a small amount and swinging a weapon tends to use the most with it taking more stamina the worse the handling on the weapon is. Kicking however doesn’t use any so kick to protect yourself if you’re trying to regain your breath. When your stamina is low or empty you are very vulnerable; you swing weapons weakly and don’t do damage (when empty) and if something tries to knock you down it will. When you get knocked down however nothing attacks you and you regain most of your stamina before being back on your feet but you do take a large chunk of health from being knocked down.
Melee weapons all have durability which in the early stages of the game is a big issue as you will constantly need to pick up new weapons as they break so frequently and once broken weapons do minute levels of damage. Weapons can be repaired for a fee at workbenches but broken weapons cost much more. Upgrading weapons can be done for a fee to increase it from level 1 up to level 4. This will increase all base statistics by a fair amount and is absolutely necessary with any weapons that you plan on keeping throughout your questing. Weapons can also be modified to have extra damage types applied to them; these normally mean that there is a small drop in durability but the effects that are included normally benefit you more that the extra durability.
There are also 4 different types of weapon damage barring standard damage that inflict a small amount of extra damage but also have a chance of a special ability activating. Fire, which if it sets the enemy alight will burn the enemy for damage but you will want to keep your distance, otherwise you will take damage from the fire too. Shock damage can also damage you when it’s affecting the enemy as it makes them convulse and shake around randomly (which is quite entertaining on some of the larger enemies). Toxic damage can leave an undead vomiting its guts out making it take large amounts of damage and leaving them incredibly vulnerable, some enemies are impervious to toxic damage though. Lastly there is bleeding damage which applies damage over time in a small amount, it is also the most ridiculous of the damage types; as if you remove a limb and can see the blood squirt out it does no extra damage but broken glass shards on a baseball bat will cause bleeding damage.
The game start by introducing more enemy types as you work your way through the story. At first you will only see Walkers which are dead enemies in various states of decomposition; they will shamble towards you, swing at you and occasionally grab hold of you and try to bite you. Infected seem to be people who got infected but didn’t get killed; they will run towards you and have a fast attack speed but a good kick will make them vulnerable for a short time. Thugs are the first special enemy you’ll find and they are all about 6 foot tall slow and very powerful. You can easily spot them as they tend to roar a lot and their height also makes them stick out. Suiciders are deadly if you get caught off guard as they will shamble towards you and then detonate which if close enough will kill you outright but if you get the surprise on them you can kill them from afar with one maybe two hits from almost anything. Aside from these there are another three major infected enemies you come across during the campaign. Human enemies almost always carry guns in the later chapters but a single head shot will either kill them or leave them with very little health. If you need to kill them in melee it’s completely possible to do that easily; but you must make sure that you can get there without being vulnerable to other enemies and that you use cover on the way as to not take so much damage. There are always plenty of guns and ammunition whenever you see human enemies in large amounts anyway so it’s usually of very little consequence if you don’t have a gun or ammo when you first get to an area. Bosses make an appearance as human enemies but aside from 1 or 2 they have average health and are just as easy to kill as many others.
A few extra things that have been put in the game are the collectibles, some are there for just collecting and others are there to fill in a little backstory about the infection and how it was when it first started. The collectible recordings are incredible to listen to as a first-hand experience of the outbreak. There is also an analogue fighting scheme for any controller users where you swing the weapons by moving the right thumb-stick around while holding the left trigger. It take a little getting used to but while some people might find it better or more fun it won’t appeal to everyone.
Co-op is a lot of fun and it’s relatively easy to set up as well. If you are the host you can set up the game to have as many public and private slots as you like and just invite as you please. The problem is the people joining your game have to be either at the same point in the story or ahead of you if you are hosting. It makes perfect sense but is still a problem for some people. The Nearby system is for public players. The Nearby system finds people who are nearby in both the map and storyline and gives you the option to join their games. You can also however set the game up so that you are playing it singleplayer and none can join your game but it does still allow you the option to join other peoples games.
Audio is pretty good in the game with the music ranging from atmospheric to incredible tense depending on the situation. Unfortunately some of the scares are quite cheap with walkers being just out of sight and grabbing you when you don’t expect. The voice acting is perfectly fine but it is mainly American voice actors and some people may be put off by the stereotypical accents that some of the characters have.
The story itself leaves much to exploration in the form of finding collectibles and the general idea of the reason for the outbreak is debateable and for the player to piece together for themselves. This is very refreshing as it’s something games don’t emulate enough from other media. Most of the story early on is more about surviving and it plays well to it. The biggest problem is when scenes try to become emotional and the very flat animations from the characters lead it to lose any emotion the scene could have. The characters background play very little into the story and it would have been nice to see them fleshed out a little more seeing as the game does try and involve their backgrounds even if it is a few passing references.
Presentation and Audio
The environments look beautiful and the audio really helps set the scene but the cutscenes lose a little when they try to make things emotional as the character seem a little dead behind the eyes and don’t show any sort of body language.
Sometimes the gameplay is a little simplistic and repetitive but on the whole it’s very enjoyable with or without friends. Half the fun is the combat the other half is waiting for it or collecting stuff. Trying to stay alive and out of combat when low on health is a major part of the experience. Killing zombies does become same old same old eventually and weapons breaking that you would rather keep using tend to get annoying. Occasionally there will be glitches that affect something. Even though it has flaws the gameplay is solid and fun enough to make you forget all that and just enjoy everything the game throws at you. Only problem is that death doesn’t feel like it has enough consequences especially with the spawn system at the moment.
With over a hundred collectibles, secret weapons and mods, loads of challenges and achievements, New Game + and a decent Co-op experience this game will last a long while. Most playthroughs of the campaign should last at very least 20 hours bordering into the 30 hour margin easily. Replaying or getting to level 50 should easily stick about 10-20 hours on top of that.
The game has its flaws but the bottom line is that post patch the game is pretty stable and is incredibly fun to play. Combat is pretty solid and the analogue fighting is interesting and could be more useful should you master it. The story is more about the here and now but lacks the emotional depth in some scenes because the characters don’t do much acting. There are still bugs here and there but in the end the game is more fun than any problems it causes. Singleplayer is a challenge and the game only gets better with more allies fighting the good fight.
I played through the whole campaign singleplayer and I completed it in just over 20 hours and I enjoyed almost every minute of it. I have played so many games that I just can’t abide sewers anymore and I hated going through them. It’s a gaming cliché and unfortunately it was needed. It was however less of a chore and better designed than most sewers I’ve seen which made it a little bit less of a hassle. The death system is very odd in the fact that you just respawn nearby to where you died and I ended up being behind the enemy that killed me quite often. The game though on the whole despite its flaws was brilliant and tension really rises when you’re at your last pip of health and sprinting to a safehouse with a horde chasing you down.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.