Dead Island (PC)
Dead Island was first announced a number of years ago when work was underway on the game. Since then, as often happens with such long development times, the game remained off the radar to many people as Techland took their time to build the game. That all changed a few months back though with the release of an epic trailer to begin the PR campaign in advance of launch. It is fair to say that Techland and Deep Silver (the publisher) had caught the attention of gamers everywhere, some of them calling it one of the best trailers ever made.
Of course great trailers don’t make a good game (or movie) so it was a case of waiting for Dead Island to hit the shelves before we could find out if it lived up to the hype… if that was even possible in the first place.
There are a few plot holes in the opening segment of the game however what we quickly learn is that playing through a first person viewpoint we will be required to find weapons to defend our self, loot cases, cupboards and bins for items and work with the other survivors as we attempt to get off the island.
The controls are reasonably standard for an action game; WASD for movement, F performs a lot of actions, space to jump and so on. Techland also drop in a few gesture based segments such as having to wiggle the mouse to open jammed doors to break up the standard gameplay. Speaking of gameplay despite this being promoted as an action game, the reliance on melee combat makes it feel much more like a medieval style RPG and when we add to that the skill tree, need to buy and sell through vendors and the fact that our story progresses by accepting missions (quests) from NPC’s it becomes clear that those looking for a Left 4 Dead style game will find themselves in a completely different gaming genre. That’s before we even consider that there is a huge amount of looting required. Suitcases, bags, drawers, equipment, bins, corpses… every area is filled with each and the requirement to buy improved weapons, or pay to have the existing weapons which degrade with each hit fixed, means we spend a lot of time searching around for resources.
In addition to this we can enter into co-op mode, teaming up with other players to battle the zombie apocalypse together which is a nice twist on the standard campaign. This can of course be disabled through the main menus and private games can also be arranged.
Finally, adding more replay value to Dead Island the inclusion of challenges, achievements, mod unlocks and the four playable characters brings some additional content to the game.
Graphics and Sound
Things improve when we listen to the in-game audio though. Some of the voice acting is great and there are nice touches such as fly’s buzzing round corpses. The zombie screams as they attack are suitably performed also and these aspects all combine to impress.
Once we had adjusted to the style of gameplay that Dead Island offered we were presented with a game which rarely offers anything new and is often frustrating or lacking in any real skill or excitement. It really is a case of walk, slash, loot, talk, repeat and there isn’t a coherent or regular enough story going on to keep players interested. The lack of imagination is highlighted best by Techlands insistence that when performing a mission the best way to challenge the player is to place a large number of higher level zombies in the area stacking the odds frustratingly against the player. This is clearly a stylistic choice but something which that can’t apply to are the bugs still present in the game. The range from minor issues such as hitting a zombie in the head only to see the legs fall off below the knee to pausing the game, returning later to find entire mission segment clear of zombies completely (though we have to admit this did help us during one frustrating section of gameplay).
For those looking for a zombie based RPG and willing to look past some significant quality issues, or wait on future patches, Dead Island may offer a decent gaming experience but the fact is that it is essentially unfinished.