Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/09/13/games_review_dead_island/

Dead Island

Death takes a holiday

By Lucy Orr

Posted in Games, 13th September 2011 12:00 GMT

Review Sweaty locals and voodoo always remind me of Angel Heart and I was as confused as Mickey Rourke after watching Dead Island's appalling intro. Seriously, who says "git" these days? Must be all those red pills and JD. This may explain the reverse time trailer I saw a few months back, which mislead me into thinking there might be some semblance of a plot to get to grips with here.

Dead Island

Circle of death

With weapons creation and four-person multi player Dead Island is a dead ringer for a couple of recent zombie game franchises I am sure you’ll recognise. Stuck on the Tiki-style resort island of Banoi, somewhere in the pacific, getting my face munched off could have been a grind but some epic environments, neat character development and a bucketful of quests kept me kicking ass – yup, this game is all about kicking zombies while they're down.

I figure I’ll need a gun but be warned they turn out to be few and far between. So out of the four characters available I chose Purna a self-proclaimed, gun-wielding bitch with a chip on her shoulder. Surely, a better bet than cheeky Xian Mei, the sharp weapons specialist; Logan ex-NFL celebrity and throwing master or Sam B, a second-rate rapper who gets off on blunt objects.

Dead Island

Now that's what I call a brow-bar

I really enjoyed the voice acting, even though it was badly sync’d, probably due to it being a couple of steps up from your average Neighbours episode. My character Purna is an ex-aussie policewoman and VIP bodyguard. This Sheila is as hard as nails. Yay, for some uncouth girlie RPG action.

So whaddya know? After choosing my character it’s off to tackle the multitude of walking dead. I managed to rack up about 30 hours due to the massive maps, literally crowds of zombies and some bonzer addictive side quests.

Dead Island

War in the ward

Yet throughout, the graphics are constantly triggering my gag reflex. All I could think was, if you’re going send me a promo copy of your hot new game why send a console version? This game looks so rough around the edges it’s almost serrated. With such stunning tropical vistas to behold, why are the textures heavy and jumpy. Hey guys, there are a lot of zombies heading my way but I keep being distracted by wishing I playing the PC version.

Bay of the dead

I start with no weapons, which is always a niggle for me. Having a weapon at the start of a game increases your sense of fear. If you are given a weapon right at the beginning you know something is waiting round the next corner. Best get my kick and punch on! Pushed out the door onto the beach I am just lucky someone’s left me a paddle. It doesn’t last long though, degrading quickly with every zombie crunching impact. Best find the nearest workbench to fix it up before that thug does me a mischief. Look out for legendary weapons they will make your zombie killing experience Kuoni, rather than Club 18-30.

Dead Island

Shelter from the pain

I have a finite energy bar, so I can only swing so many times. Energy drinks and fruit aren’t in abundance either, so I have to make sure every hit counts. This tucker can’t be carried, so I top up my health whenever I can. Luckily, death on Banoi isn’t such a biggie as I respawn seconds later just a few bucks short, which I can always loot again from the nearest suitcase or changing room.

It’s the gore in Dead Island that gets me going and seriously who doesn’t go for some enthusiastic dismemberment? Oh how you spoil me with your fully rendered bone and muscle tissue.

I started this game with quite a few negatives but quickly it’s clear Dead Island’s main selling point – apart from the bloodletting – is its scope. Following the noob-friendly mini map, each environment – whether beach, sewer or big smoke – is haunted by the screams and roars of the undead and disorderly. Killing every tortured soul for XP just becomes too long and the game soon becomes a sneaking and running for survival saga.

Dead Island

Full metal straight jacket

Yet Dead Island redeems itself in other ways, as it invites me to create an individual personality and – from the impressive backstory of the characters to the weapons I chose – I felt increasingly like I was the decision maker. The skills tree allows you to personalise your abilities to an even greater extent – every point really counts. This will set you apart from other players who pick the same character as you and make this game a truly individual experience.

A non-intrusive dialogue box will indicate if those around you are available for co-op making multiplayer is a breeze. But Dead Island also appealed to my antisocial side, with the option to effortlessly jump back into single player mode, if I got sick of the banter.

Is Dead Island my definitive zombie game? Of course not, but as a gore gallery, it's good fun. The lack of attention to detail, that gives me an uncomfortable hangnail feeling throughout the game, is going to annoy a lot of people though. Oh, and Square Enix, don’t even bother with Dead Island 2 if you can’t afford to pay someone enough to think up a decent plot.

Dead Island

Bloody tourists..?

Verdict

I really enjoyed my time on Banoi but I feel let down by Dead Island, it’s not the game I really wanted it to be. Yes, there are a multitude of quests to complete in a vast and impressive landscape. Lest we forget a legion of undead to put out of their misery. Yet the unrefined graphics and unfinished feel stop this getting anywhere close to my top ten games of the year. That said as the English autumnal twilight approaches, I recommend you give Dead Island twenty plus hours of your time, just to catch some rays. ®

More Games Reviews

Driver:
San Francisco
Bodycount Deus Ex:
Human Revolution
From Dust Shadows of
the Damned