Dead Island is an open world first person zombie action adventure set in the fictional island of Banoi, off the coast of Papua New Guinea. Although many have already seen the incredible cinematic trailer it is important to note that it is in no way a reflection of what the gameplay is like. It’s zombie slaughter rather than survival horror. The game begins more or less where the trailer ended. However when playing Dead Island its not just the zombies you need to worry about, it has some bugs that really let it down.
When you begin the game you will need to choose one of four characters, each has their strengths and weaknesses and specialisations such as melee or firearms. As you start out the zombies are fairly standard and can be dispatched with relative ease, however as the game progresses and you level up so do the zombies. As you search for items and loot the dead bodies (where do those bikini clad zombies hide that stuff?) you’ll soon start to realise that it is a bit of a chore where most of the items are junk and you only need the cash for purchasing upgrades or buying from merchants scattered on the island.
The game features RPG elements where you’ll earn experience and level up for completing missions as well as killing zombies. Throughout the game you will be able to pick up various objects that can be used as weapons, initially these will be items such as oars, pieces of wood or iron pipes. Firearms will come later in the game. However you will be able to kick and punch effectively, in fact for a while I gave up on the weapons and stuck to hand to hand as then I didn’t need to worry about weapon degradation. Kicking also tends to knock down the standard zombies which is a great way to prevent being overun.
You will be able to create weapons and upgrade them at workbenches (in a very similar fashion to the Dead Rising series). Plans can also be found (and given as rewards) to create new weapons such as the trusty nail-baseball bat. Keeping your arsenal in working order does become a necessary chore as you progress in the game. You’ll find you will have to visit the trusty workbench fairly often as the weapons tend to break and degrade very quickly – it seems they don’t make lead pipes like they used to.
When you die you respawn but will lose a percentage of your cash, so it’s no good storing it all away for that ‘special’ item that might turn up just around the corner. However it’s the respawning zombies that are the one of the more annoying traits in this game. As mentioned this game is more about action than survival, so if you make your way through areas carefully planning how to take out enemies you might find your hard work is for naught as the zombies will respawn not long after being taken down – often in areas you had believed cleared and can even appear behind you en mass.
Once you make contact with fellow survivors they will be able to go give you quests that will guide you to the conclusion of the game or will simply allow you to gain more experience. They range from your typical fetch quests, through to saving lives or killing zombies. Interestingly many of the standard items found in the game respawn as well, so you can loot all those paddles, energy drinks, and alcohol bottles as often as you want. This means there is an inexhaustible supply of cash and all manner of items available whenever you need.
The combat in the game is very good, melee is certainly satisfying where bones break, heads can decapitated or be bludgeoned to the point of explosion and limbs can be severed. There is quite a variety of zombies to fight in the game and this helps keep the combat from feeling too repetitive although you will generally encounter the standard walkers for the most part.
The save system is a major failing; there is no ability to manually save so you are totally reliant on the auto-save, which would be okay if it worked correctly. However after waiting for the save symbol to appear on screen after you have completed a quest or arrived at a landmark I found that it often does not keep up to date with the many side-quests and experience you have acquired during gameplay. Therefore often after resuming a game you will find that quests you thought you were doing are now missing or incomplete in regards to the actions you have taken. Some of the cut scenes can also be amusing where they will show all four major characters working together even though you are only playing solo in the campaign.
Some of the more general bugs included; zombies getting stuck or respawning into walls where you could not kill them to progress; and quest givers getting confused about what stage you were at where they would keep repeating instruction for tasks you had already done. You could spend a bit of time listing out many of the minor bugs but to me the saving and respawning are something that I hope is fixed soon with a patch.
All in all Dead Island is a mixed bag; it offers great zombie action set in a fantastic location. The many quests and variety as well as four player co-op means that there is a lot of game time on offer. For some intense zombie killing first person action it works well and even with some atrocious bugs the game at heart is fun. The RPG elements and open world first person perspective allows for decent immersive game play. Techland should have spent a little more time fixing some of the issues before release and we could all be enjoying some zombie mashing goodness. [6.5]
Platform: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Publisher: QV Software