After spending quite a bit of time with Dead Island I have mixed emotions. On the one hand I love the concept behind it, however, I hate the execution. Dead Island was released unfinished and as a result suffers from numerous bugs with some of them making it hard for you to progress in the game. The checkpoint system doesn’t always function correctly and there were times when I simply fell through the environment. There was even one instance when my character died and the game had me spawn further along in the quest than I had actually been. There was another instance where my character died and instead of respawning at the last checkpoint it had me respawn clear across the island at one of the “bases” in the game. When I am driving in a vehicle there is also significant screen tearing and when you are speeding down the road in a car the graphical pop in is awful.
Dead Island is set on the tropical island of Banoi. It is a beautiful location and the perfect setting for the game. It is a popular destination located in the South Pacific until a mysterious and contagious zombie outbreak shatters the peaceful atmosphere. You get cut off from the rest of the world and can only count on yourself and a few other survivors as you try to understand what is taking place. Being on a huge tropical island, Dead Island has the open world feeling that you get in titles like Fallout, the melee combat of Left 4 Dead and the combat abilities of Dead Rising. The entire island is essentially your playground although you won’t have access to everything in the beginning. All of the complaints that I discussed above are a result of this title being rushed to market to meet the holiday shopping season. With those complaints in mind the core gameplay of Dead Island can still be a lot of fun. There is four player co-op multiplayer where you can drop in and out of your friend’s game at any time with no loss of progress and this is really how you want to play the game. If you are playing the game by yourself then all of the bugs and glitches will irritate you to the point where you might not want to play the game much. However, if you are with friends, then the game becomes much more fun. You will still encounter all of the bugs but, hopefully, you are having a great time with your friends which will make the overall experience that much better. I enjoyed the general layout of the game and I thought a lot of the levels were done well.
Dead Island is played from the first person perspective and as you progress in the game you will have the opportunity to upgrade your character as you see fit. There are four unique classes in the game and you upgrade your characters with XP that you earn by killing enemies and performing other tasks. Once you level up you will acquire a point to use on the skill tree and this is where you have to decide how you are going to play the game. I chose to focus mainly on combat and making my character stronger so I focused primarily on the combat tree. Depending on your play style you could also upgrade the “Fury” tree or the “Survival” tree as well. With any type of open world game you are going to have your main quests to move the story along and a plethora of optional side quests. The game starts out kind of slowly giving you a bunch of fetch quests and things of that nature, however, there were some of the later quests that I really enjoyed playing. This game offers a decent level of challenge as the difficulty of the enemies scale up to match your level. If you fought a level one thug at the beginning of the game try going back to that area when you are level 20 and you will see that he has leveled up appropriately as well. I briefly mentioned that Dead Island had the combat abilities similar to the Dead Rising franchise and what I mean by that is the ability to upgrade your weapon. As I was playing the game I acquired a baseball bat and some nails. I then went over to the work bench and combined the two so that I now had a more deadly weapon to try and take out the zombie horde. You can also repair and upgrade your weapons as well so that they can get more powerful. This will help you to create the perfect weapon to make sure that you survive the onslaught.
The AI in this game is ok but definitely not the best. As I would walk through buildings I would have zombies breaking windows to try to get to me which I thought was nice. I enjoyed the fact that they didn’t just stand there and stare at me as I walked by. There was one trick that I discovered however and it had to do with one of the harder enemies, the Thug. I eventually discovered that the easiest way to defeat the Thug is to avoid him. I would lure him into a room and then once I had him in position I would run around him and shut the door behind me. Apparently zombies don’t know how to open doors so I utilized this strategy often, especially if my health was really low. Almost everything you do in the game affects your stamina meter. You can’t flail around carelessly because you will be out of energy before you know it. One way around this is to simply kick the enemies. For some reason repeatedly kicking your enemy has no negative impact on your stamina. If you find yourself getting surrounded by a group of zombies try to utilize your kick to knock everyone back and give yourself some breathing room. Additionally, the weapons will deteriorate over time so you will want to repair it whenever you come across one of those work benches that I mentioned earlier. You can’t upgrade a weapon unless it is repaired so keep that in mind as well.
The idea behind Dead Island is fantastic. I just wish the actual execution of the game lived up to the potential that the concept had. This is an instance where I would love to see a sequel be made with all of the problems fixed. If that were to happen then Deep Silver and Techland could have an amazing new franchise on their hands. You are going to want to rent this game before you buy so that you know what you are getting into. If you can look past all of the bugs and the fact that this game was released in an unfinished state than you will find a game that is a lot of fun at its core. Even with everything that is wrong with the game it is still somewhat compelling and I would always consider trying out “one more mission”. It is even better when you have a group of friends to share the experience. Dead Island is a really big game and gamers who enjoy open world titles with a ton of missions should really have fun here. Hopefully there will be more patches down the road that will turn this title from something that has potential to a title that actually realizes it.