One of the most anticipated game of the year; Dead Island doesn’t exactly live up to its hype, but nonetheless provides satisfying and entertaining experience.
One of the very first things you will notice about the game is its similarities with games such as Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising and Fallout. In a way, it combines the best of all those games and gives us a decent package. When I started the game, I was greeted with a catchy soundtrack contradicted by a rather shoddy cut scene. Nevertheless, once the actual game started, I was truly blown away; definitely not by the visuals, but by the feel.
The game is set in an island…sorry an island of colossal size (thank you Fallout) off the coast of Papua New Guinea where the dead are the as common as coconut trees in Kerala. And when I say dead, I don’t mean the regular dead that cease to exist after their demise; I mean the living dead, whose sole-purpose is to make the lives of us regular living people a nightmare. The game starts with you being asked to choose one of the four available characters. Each of characters has their own unique strengths and weaknesses and also a special area of expertise. Once you are done with the character selection, you begin a 30-odd-hour journey of survival and gore (oh yea, lots and lots of gore).
Although the gore might seem to be a highlight of the game, it isn’t. As I mentioned above, the overall realistic feel you get when you play the game is what makes Dead Island special. Special commendation should be given to the sound and the spontaneity of the game. You see, the eerie dead atmosphere with screams of the living dead coming from yonder adds to the immense realism of the game. Also, the dead appear from anywhere and I literally mean anywhere. This adds a sense of fear throughout the game as you never know when you’ll jumped by a zombie clad in shorts. Unlike its counterparts, Dead Island has a very realistic stamina system. In short, there is a limit to how far you can outrun a horde of the living dead or a limit to how much damage you can deal to a foe. This system makes sure you don’t go flailing around like a madman (although, that’s what I love to do- which results in an untimely demise of my character). This feature gives rise to very realistic gameplay. In the beginning, I was randomly beating up anyone I came across just for the fun of it. However, as the game progressed and got harder, the word survival kept ringing in my head. I learned (usually the hard way) that I can’t punch my way through 20 undead and expect to reach the objective in one piece. Dead Island has a very convincing health system. There are med-kits to be used, but the most common way to regain energy is through eating food and drinking various beverages found scattered around the resort. Hence, a lot of attention should be given to the health bar as you won’t find a can of soda in the middle of a beach. One of the most basic and fun aspect of Dead Island is the melee combat system. Truly, the decapitations never fail to entertain! However, there is only a certain limit to which a melee weapon can be used till it becomes unusable. This forces the player to make judicious use of weapons and look for stronger and more durable weapons. Standard weapons can be customized to various levels by using everyday items (thank you Dead Rising 2). An example would be, attaching a battery to a machete using duct tape and some wire gives you access your very own electro-blade! Hence, you electrocute and slice zombies at the same time!
Now moving from the realistic to the unrealistic part; dying in this game never teaches you anything. The whole point of dying in a game is so that you learn from your mistakes. Usually, games make you play through an entire level again for dying. Although that can be frustrating at times, it does add to the challenge. Dying in Dead Island results in a 5 second time out and a little cash taken away from you. Also, whatever damage you dealt to the enemy before kicking the bucket remains. This makes the game fairly easy to beat. This however, doesn’t prevent you from running for your life when being chased in game as money is very precious in the game.
Dead Island is a very personal game. It is not as personal as other Role-Playing Games, but it is satisfying. Every character can be modified based on the likes of the player. Each character has 3 skill trees which can be upgraded by spending experience points (which are gained by killing the undead). The three skills include offense skill tree, defense skill tree and a unique ability tree, which differs for each character. This and the realism in the game quite literally put you in the shoes of your character. This actually prevents you from doing stupid things like prancing into a crowd of zombies (unless you are suicidal by nature).
To experience the game at its full potential, online play is a must. Up to four people can join up (thank you Left 4 Dead) and carry on with the main story. Thankfully, joining a game is easy. The game looks for the best game for you and connects you to it (after you agree that is). However, you are only allowed to join a game with players with that are leveled same as you or lower than you. This quite obvious as the higher the level of the character, the higher the level of the enemy. Obviously you can’t expect a level 12 to join a level 53 game and fight enemies 4 times his caliber.
Dead Island is far from what it promised. The game has uneven visuals, very stiff cut scenes, texture and clipping issues and the controls and feel will take some time to get used too. However, the game provides you with a massive scope of exploration ranging from resorts, to a city and also a jungle. Combat might be edgy, but the results are amazingly satisfying. The sight of flying limbs and heads never gets boring in the game. Also, I believe the game gets full marks for its ambience. It’s eerie, it’s scary and it’s immersive. Dead Island may be far from perfect, but it sure has its moments.
Story is quite cliché-ish and menus are quite dull; nothing out of the ordinary.
Great looking game; amazingly detailed environment; sadly, uneven textures and clipping ruins the experience to some extent.
Very personal as character traits can be modified extensively; custom weapons are fun, but not new; tons of quests which guarantee hours and hours of game time; melee fighting is fun and gory
Amazingly immersive sound; makes you believe you are on the Island; literally makes you jump with its realism; excellent voice acting (zombies only)
A fun game to play; highly satisfying combat system; good, but uneven visuals; amazing sound and ambience; make sure good audio output devices are available; long campaign provides adequate gameplay time.
I give the game an 8.