Dead Island is a first person, adventure style game with RPG elements similar to those of Borderlands and Fallout 3. As 1 of 4 playable characters, you can roam the entire Island taking out as many zombies as you please but don’t expect to be blowing up heads or snipping them from across the mountains as Dead Island focuses more on melee combat as weapons than guns. A paradise in hell, Dead Island drops players into a zombie infested paradise with nothing but the clothes on your back and a broken paddle.
When you first begin Dead Island you can pick from 1 in 4 playable characters each with their own unique ability. My first disappointment in the game is that you cannot customize any characters at all or create your own character. After selecting your character you are then thrown into Dead Island where the dead have taken over. From the get go you are given a set of tasks to complete. You are given side quests and a main quest to complete. The side quests normally involve doing favors for people such as finding a loved one, bringing specific supplies etc. There are also continuous side quests where a character will ask for water, booze or other specific things. Each quest completed gives you an XP boost. Level up and you get 1 Skill point to spend in the skills shop.
The skills shop is similar to that of Borderlands where you can select from 1 in 3 routes. I normally take the middle route as it gives my character more melee damage and such. However sometimes the game will ask for specific skills found in other skill routes such as lock picking. There are many ways to gain XP throughout the game; most of them are earned from Quests and side quests. Other forms are killing Zombies. Zombies will only give you a little bit of XP but depending on how you kill them you can gain more XP.
Your main weapon of choice is whatever you can find. The games main focus is mainly in Melee combat with everyday items such as paddles, meat cleavers, scythes, knives, machetes, etc. These items can be used for melee or thrown at zombies for long ranged combat. Each combat item has a specific number of uses so use them wisely or you can find yourself becoming a Zombie’s next meal. Combat items however can be repaired and upgraded in specific areas however these upgrades and repairs do cost money. Money can be found all over the island from raiding peoples luggage to mugging zombies yourself or can be also gained from completing missions. Guns and other firearms are rare in the game and don’t come until later on. These weapons can also be upgraded and I recommend using them only on Boss battles as they themselves will also carry fire arms.
Missions and weapons aside Dead Island is all about exploration. The island where this infestation takes place is huge and you can free roam to every corner of it. On top of that you have buildings and other places where you can enter to explore some more including the Jungles of Banoi where Zombies can appear from nowhere. Walking will eventually get boring but you can jump on a truck and hit the road and some zombies while you’re at it. You can even get several trucks and race around the Island with your friends in 4 player co-op.
Dead Island is a Multiplayer game first and a single player game second. The game allows 4 player co-op and any one can jump into your game if they are close to where you are story and mission wise. You can also set up a private network for your friends only if you don’t want some random 12 year olds to enter your game to ruin everything.
While the view in Dead Island may be beautiful the character models aren’t. Most of the animation is somewhat choppy and some characters do look like monkeys and sound awful. The only sad part is that you can’t chop them into pieces because some of them do sound annoying. While playing I did notice a few graphical corruptions throughout the game but nothing game breaking. The voice acting in the game may not win an award but the sound effects are better. The zombies growling in the distance is enough to put you on your toes and look around. Even the nearby growl is enough to put you on your feet.
There are several types of Zombies and each one of them can be dismembered. Most zombies can interrupt your attacks giving them a window of opportunity to strike you down. The Thug zombies are some of the hardest zombies to defeat as they can knock you down with just one swing. If you have any sharp weapons you can cut off his arms but the problem is that it’s very hard to distinguish the distance between him and your character. Suiciders are also another type of Zombie that you can’t get close to as they will explode on contact. The best way to take these guys out is to throw your weapons at them but this also presents another problem as you risk losing all your weapons leaving you open to zombie attacks and with your limited inventory, you have to be quick to look for and pick up other items.
You also have to look out for your stamina meter which depletes every time you do anything. From jumping to running and swinging your meter will drop. Empty it and you will find yourself in a world of trouble if you have a hoard of Zombies coming for you. There are upgrades that will slow down your stamina from depleting faster but it will cost you 3 skill points. You can also choose the second option to run away if you want to avoid fighting zombies as they will not chase you if you are at a distance.
While Dead Island may have 4 player co-op it does not have any death match options. You also can’t select any specific missions while jumping into gameplay like Left 4 Dead. I think this is a negative because once the game is finished there is really nothing else to go back to besides more Island exploration and eventually that will get boring.
Dead Island will bring you about 10-20 hours of gameplay but most of that time will be spent exploring the island. Online Co-Op is great but you are limited to just that as Death Match was not included in the game. But despite that I will have to give this game a buy rating as you and your friends can create your own mayhem around the island and that’s really where this game’s focus is. However for single players I will give it the Rent option as there really isn’t much to do after the game is complete.
GamePlay: There are hundreds of quests to keep you busy and the skill system lets you customize your character your way. Melee only combat style does take some getting used to but you’ll manage. 7/10
Graphics: Graphics could have been better, character models need better texture and the animation could be better. 6/10
Sound: Voice acting needed better work but the sound effects are great and the ambient music will make the hairs on the back of your head stand up. 7/10
Story: Not much is explained on what happened to the island and the story that is told is dull and predictable. 6/10
LifeSpan: With hundreds of quests available this game easily clocks in between 10 – 20 hours of gameplay. 9/10
Total Score: 70/100