Game Review: Dead Island – Can zombies go on vacation? Why the heck not?


Yes, yes, yes! It’s official people, the fall of games has arrived, bout time too! Though admittedly it really began with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which I played but never reviewed (but I left in summary at the bottom of this review just in case readers want to hear my thoughts on the matter). Regardless this is the special time of the year where all the would-be triple A titles finally come out and try to justify their existence by taking our $59.99 plus tax. When I saw the Dead Island coverage at E3 however I knew it would be one such title; but hey I’ve been wrong before. So does this game measure up or does it fall flat like a burning zombie corpse on the street?




 Game Info


You know tropical islands maybe beautiful, picturesque, free of normal pollutions found in metropolitan cities and the like; but they also have insane weather, dangerous beasties, society in quagmire, and now zombies. Banoi (not a real island mind you) is one such place; sure before it was where those who could afford to live well, did. Now, much of the island’s population is either dead or undead and set to eat the still living. It does seem Banoi and the people on it are S.O.L. right? Well fortunately for them they got an ace up their sleeves, and there’s four of them. First there’s Purna, former Sydney detective now body guard for the rich and powerful – though these days the only body she’s protecting is her own; Logan, former Football (not Futball) star, turned alcohol/dope fiend; Sam B, former rap star, now one hit wonder; and finally Xian Mei, young Mary Sue from china – or is she? The hodgepodge four over here may not seem like much but they do have one thing that sets them apart from the rest of the meat bags on the island and that is they can’t be turned into zombie themselves. So in order to survive they must not only work together with each other and with other survivors all across the island; because rescue doesn’t seem to be coming and the cause of the zombie outbreak is still unknown.


Fortunately being zombie-proof isn’t the only skill the ‘former four’ have; each character has many skills and a special ability that make surviving the grey screaming masses little bit easier. Purna, being former police, knows her way around a gun. Also with her training she can effectively turn the group into a serious fighting force – especially when she actives her ability which increases all the groups stats and regenerates health for a short time. Pro or no, Logan still got game. He can effectively use any weapon (improvise or otherwise) he finds and while the others only get drunk from drinking alcohol; he becomes stronger, tougher, and recovers health whenever that white lightening hits his lips. When the zombies get as clingy as his former fans however, he can breakout his special ability throw anything in his hands like a missile – and return to him like a boomerang. Most gangsta rappers play hardcore to pander to the audience but Sam B is crunk 24/7. An expert in blunt weapons (bats, pipes, sledgehammers, etc.) B can make smash hits with everything except record sales. Also while the others have to worry about annoying things like bleeding out or health kits, B can regain health on his own like Wolverine from the X-Men. Finally, like any non- wanksta, B can go back to basics by beating down bums with his original bludgeoners (his fists) with his special ability. Not to be left in the dust of the others; Xian can carve up zombies like lunch meat thanks to her expertise on blades, which also translates to her specially ability as well. She also has the best stamina of the group with means she can keep the attack going until they die or she does (which is not recommended – just shuck & jive people). The abilities I mentioned here are only the very tip of the iceberg; it’s up to you players to unlock the very best they have to offer – just be aware of opportunity cost.


Now before you get out there with your chosen character let me put some F.U. prospective on this: there’s only the four of you versus nearly the entire island of death coming after your sweat, tasty, flesh. Sure the walkers (or the target practice zombies) are easily dealt with by themselves or in groups of two or three; but they become more than a mild annoyance once they come at you in a pack (nothing good comes in pack form by the by) – and they’re the weak ones. Over time your intrepid party will discover every conventional ‘super’ zombie out on the market today: fast zombie, strong zombie, smokey zombie, rhino zombie, feral zombie, the whole gambit. And if you don’t think they won’t all appear on the map, all at the same time, to jump you around the next corner then you’re dreaming. Oh and by the by, not every enemies you’ll face will be zombie, those other enemies will be packing heat however and are very good shots so good luck with all that.


Dead Island at its core is a grand mixture of almost every zombie game that came before it plus a little Borderlands thrown in – yet and still it’s more RPG than anything. The first thing is the character abilities are separated into three unique skill trees that focus on special, combat, and survival abilities. Once a player levels up they get a point to put toward a tree; they can either focus on maxing out a single tree or spread the love (and the points) on all of them. Now with any survival horror game players must grab whatever at hand, but I don’t remember that last time they had a ‘Debilitating Pipe’ or ‘Spiteful Revolver’ in, well, anything actually. The weapons are color coded by rarity as well, with white being standard fare all the way up to purple for being hardcore elite… Dead RPG, I mean, Island, involves a lot of quests at different survivor hubs and on the map. Truthfully however they’re mostly fetch quests and kill the elite, just substitute goblins with zombies.


Once you have that purple cosmic frying pan as a reward from quests (or found in a treasure chest if your lock picking skill is high enough (seriously)) you can keeping smashing enemies with it or you can upgrade its effectiveness if you got the money for it (that’s right, even in thunder dome you still got to kick up the cash to help save humanity). Better yet, you’ll gain access to weapon mods throughout the game that will turn almost any weapon into supreme mutilators extraordinaire. However not only will that take money to do but various parts and pieces on the island. Players will have to become hero hobos to find all the necessary parts they need. Finally the game progress with the four main characters always, but in single player you only play as one of them. Which is good if you’re anti-social, but you will need other players eventually so you can open your game to other players online or join theirs all quick and easy like. So essentially Dead Island in a not so broad sense is World of WarCraft w/ zombies.




The Goods


Looks: Whether you’re catching some rays on the beach, shopping in the city or enjoying the naïve wildlife in the jungle, the island of Banoi is always a breathtaking visual experience. Also… Annihilating zombies in the most graphic, gory, and of course gratuitous way possible is not bad on the peepers either.


Mod-Weapons: What’s better: a baseball bat with a motorized saw blade up top or a 10mm with a duct taped computer battery that shoots taser bullets? It’s a trick question because they’re both awesome and only two examples of the many weapons players can pimp out and use to thin out the zombie population.


Combat Mechanic: A game can be made or broken on how the player controls work. Well I’m glad to say doing battle with zombies is a fluid as it could possibly be for this game. Using the item wheel is great for switching weapons on the fly, there no conflict between shooting and smashing, and most other functions are already hot keyed to buttons (like health kits are always the B button on the Xbox controller whenever you have it on the item wheel or not).  They even give you an analog option so you can fight zombies with your control sticks directly.


Co-Op drop in/drop out: The worst thing about most co-op games is that you have to wait in a lobby for people to join up just to get started, not so here. Once a fellow player comes in close proximity to you all you have to do is press a button and your business. Now you can pool your skills with another players’ and take on whatever comes your way; once you’re done or just tired you can drop out no question ask. Almost perfect, almost…




The Bad



Co-Op drop in/drop out aftermath: Once you or your partners leave the shared game you have the option of say where you’re at, which may cause difficulty completing quests, or send you back to a point where you lasted saved on your single game. Sadly that’s usually in a place full of zombies, and they won’t be happy to see you either. Which brings me to another sour note.


Cheap shot zombies: They are really. You walking down the street, minding your own business, you hear a zombie coming so you pull out your weapon but its already too late –you’re mauled to death (and you lose 5G in the process – I need that money man!). Even if you catch the S.O.B. and beat him to an inch of his re-life; here comes his big brother to smacks you down and wipe out the rest of your health with one hit. If you forget this is a co-op game, these guys will remind you.







Dead Island is not as fast paced as Left 4 Dead, in fact this might be a little too stat happy for twitch players, but I myself have been enjoying this title by myself and with other players. Unlocking abilities, customizing weapons, and just finding new ways so hurt zombies is just plain fun (and you would think Dead Rising would have undead mutilation covered). Sure the zombies may get you once in a while, and you’ll have to keep finding better weapons when your current ones brake or are too weak against higher level enemies. But this is one of the rare titles that will challenge you without being too difficult, it gives a sense of satisfaction when you fought through a whole building of those things and won. When working with a group, it’s just the four of you against a world full of zombies, watching each others’ back as time and the elements closes in. No matter how you play this game you will either find it familiar to an MMO or an enjoyable romp in the tropics with zombies – maybe even both.






Deus Ex: Human Revolution – In summary

Now I never played the original Deus Ex game but I had played its sequel (Invisible War) so along with this I get the gist of the overall series. This prequel was good from settings to characters; although in traditional Square Enix style the story was somewhat convoluted (the reality of the game is highly suspect, who would chop off  their own arm for a robotic version, people don’t even hold on to their iPhone longer than a year). The augmented abilities are neat, they allow many ways to reach your goals but the combat in general is boring and easy to bypass. The game highlight was character interaction with CASIE augment, give players insight on the people their talking to and not just another enhanced charisma roll. Also conversations do not have a set answer key, meaning if you answer one question wrong you’ll have to start from scratch with the next one (or hope you’re persuasion is still high enough to get what you want if you run out of questions). A low point is that melee has been replaced with attack cut scenes (with limit uses I might add) and a lack of diverse locations (players go to the same places three or four times). Still I had fun with this title and I hope they continue the series with actual sequels next time (for now a DLC is already in the works).


1 Comment

  1. […] people, the Dead Island Review was written so the Gears of War 3 review must be televised. It will, but due to time constraints […]

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