Friday, October 21, 2011

Dead Island Good, But Not Perfect

 I really wanted to love Dead Island. After seeing many fantastic pictures and reading up about the game months before it came out, I was excited. Friends and family know I am very much a zombie fan. Ever since that Halloween night when I was 12, and watched Romero's Night Of The Living Dead, I have genuinely enjoyed all forms of zombie multimedia. Some of it has been great, some of it filled with schlock, and some of it just plain fun. So I was excited about Dead Island and had high hopes for it. Some of my expectations were met, but others not so much. This included the discovery that the game is in the first person view (I have issues with vertigo and first person view games), but I found that I could play the game for short periods of time because the camera did not bounce around the way it does for so many other first person games I've experienced. There are good things about this game, but there are bad things as well.
Welcome To Paradise!

 You start the game with the setting of what appears to be a tropical island paradise, Banoi. However, if you look closer, you'll notice the blood on the walls, in the sand, and in the swimming pools. Look even closer, and you'll see the zombies munching on corpses. Dead Island while appearing to be a first person shooter, is more than that. Sure there is shooting in it, but there are also a myriad of other weapons such as oars, cars, and molotov cocktails. Dead Island is more of a schlock filled action role playing game that plays heavily on grisly melee combat. The resort is not the only place you explore. You can go even further inland into city and jungle settings, while doing favors for survivors on the island. The maps are excellent and there is even a handy shortcut function, where you can click on the map and go back to a previous location without having to run through a zombie horde.  There are also plenty of weapons that you can improvise, making them quite deadly to the zombie menace. The four player online co-op is pretty good and gives you a chance to survive a zombie horde fight for the more difficult quests.
Just a girl and her axe, waiting for some zombies.

The majority of your time on Banoi is spent exploring and foraging for items for weapons and supplies. In co-op mode, this can work very well with a couple of people fighting off the zombies, while the others get things like fuel for the vehicles. You can also have fun with the leveling grind, running zombies over with various automobiles and watch the points tally up. You can easily put twenty hours into this game with all the questing, exploring, and zombie slaying and it is fun trying all the different melee choices out. My personal favorite was driving a big truck and running zombies over.

Hungry Tourists.
Now we get to the bad. While there are only a few minor flaws with the game, it definitely made a difference in the game play and the story. Now I'm not saying for a fun schlock zombie game I need a gripping emotional story, but the story must be good. Dead Island gives you a very threadbare story and the characters backgrounds are rather weakly written. This is a reflection on the writers. They could have written the characters better and fleshed out the story more, but they chose to do it this way although I am not sure why. The voice acting is also not great, with monotone emotionless voices. Do the characters even care that they could get eaten by zombies? I get the impression that they don't with that flat tone in their voice acting. Clunky controls and awkward combat can make you frustrated. It can be off putting when you're fighting off a wave of zombies and trying to make the camera turn the way you want it to so you can at least see what you're fighting. The game would also benefit from a better block and dodge option during combat.  The quality of the visuals isn't even. The environmental graphics on the resort are great and the jungle environments as well, but the character and npc animation is poor and as you progress towards the end of the game it comes across as the bare minimum at best. 
 The last issue I have with Dead Island is the lack of regard for the solo player. There isn't an offline co-op option so you can play with friends you have over. It's as if they didn't even consider the possibility that people would want to play offline with friends and only have the online option. While I appreciate their reliable system for online play, I still would have liked the option to play offline with others if I chose. 
 Overall, Dead Island is a good game, but not a perfect one. It had a lot of potential, but the execution of those ideas was severely lacking. You're better off just waiting for it to go on sale really cheap or just rent it.