Game Review: Dead Island

Last night my wife and I rented the new video game Dead Island from Red Box. We rented it because we don’t have the money to buy a new game, especially at what they cost, and it was a good idea to check it out before spending that kind of cash anyway. I’m glad I rented it first.

I’ve played the game for about 6 hours now and got quite far into it, although there is still a ton more stuff I have to do before I near the completion of it.

The game, as any gamer should know by now, is about a zombie infested paradise island resort and neighboring towns. Forget all of the bullshit extra content/bonus pack zombie games coming out trying to bank off of Undead Nightmare’s popularity. This is a zombie game, not a game that deals with everything else and then adds zombies later. This is a zombie game.

With that said, the game has flaws. All games do, but the flaws in this game bring it down a few notches. I will, however, start with the good stuff.

The game is beautiful. Extra detail was given to almost everything, from the look of the island, to the zombies that infest it. The island is beautiful and makes me wish I was really there enjoying a very expensive vacation. There are plenty of places to go and check things out, making it a very expansive open world game. It’s not as expansive as say, Red Dead Redemption or probably any Final Fantasy game, but it’s not a point A to point B game either like the Left 4 Dead series. I love the Left 4 Dead series, but you are limited to where you can go in it.

You’re limited, too, in Dead Island, but the limits are just based around the perimeter of the game, such as the ocean. You can’t walk out into the ocean, because, well, you’d drown.

The people are all well designed to a point. The women are hot in their bikini’s and the men look real enough. The zombies are all very well designed. They’re gory and evil and dead. Well, undead. The plants look nice and real, the sand looks like sand, the water is pristine and clear and makes you want to go swimming.

Walking off of the beaten path and down to the sandy shore where a ship wreck occurred (you have to go to pick up flares for a mission) and you find yourself in a little hidden oasis that visually, is awesome. I wish I had a case of beer and a lawn chair so I could go there and just chill for a few hours, taking it all in. Instead, there are zombies there trying to eat you. So much for paradise.

As I said, there are a bunch of places to go and a bunch of things to do and see, which makes the game very nice. There are different types of zombies all over, feeding on a bunch of dead bodies all over. It’s pretty cool.

Very early in the game you get to drive vehicles over the island, running into and over zombies and really anything else that’s around. It’s really fun to drive past a zombie slowly who decides to come after you and throwing the car in reverse and only knowing you hit the zombie when a little message pops up showing you’ve gained experience points by harming or killing it.

There’s also a ton of weapons all over the place and you can upgrade them to make them more badass. It’s sort of like Dead Rising 2 that way, you can add things to certain things to make different weapons. They’re more realistic than a boxing glove duct taped to a chain saw, but still awesome.

To replenish your health all you have to do is grab a medipack, which are few and far between and for some reason take up space in your weapon list when you pick one up, replacing a weapon you might have, or you can just drink an energy drink. Lucky for you they are everywhere. And I mean everywhere. It’s almost impossible to die on this game. Almost.

There are some other really good things about the game, such as the language, which is not held back like it is in Left 4 Dead. This is a game meant for adults.

However, there are bad things all over the place. For instance, all of that extra detail spent on most of the game should have been spread out to the whole game. I wouldn’t mind if the landscape looked just a tiny bit less awesome if they would have made the people’s mouths move realistically when they spoke.

This is such a little thing that really isn’t that big of a deal, but it’s still a pain in the ass. When the people in the game talk, their mouths look like they came right out of a PS1 game. Actually, their whole faces do. While designed well and looking real, the faces also come across as robotic and fake. The people’s eyes don’t look anywhere that makes you feel as if they’re really there. While talking to somebody their eyes wander aimlessly around, and sometimes the eyes aren’t looking in the same place as each other.

There’s an option to have subtitles. Turn it off. It’s not timed to when the people say what they’re saying, and almost every time they speak, they actually say things that aren’t on the text and almost every time they don’t say things that are on the text. However, reading the subtitles is a nice way to not watch their barely moving mouths when they speak.

Another problem is, the shading. I was in a room talking to one of the survivors to get another mission started. When you’re speaking to someone about a mission, the camera zooms in on the person you’re speaking to a little closer than normal so that it seems like you’re in conversation. When I was speaking to this woman, the shading around her face as she spoke was very bad and came across as, yet again, a PS1 game.

I mentioned that the plants are done well and look real. The only problem is, they don’t care about their environment. I was on a deck walking around a hut. I got to one area of the deck that was just barely above the ground and the game designers put some of the waving plants on the ground right under the deck and the plants come up through the deck and continue to wave, just as if the deck weren’t there. That doesn’t look good, it looks lazy.

Speaking of lazy, while walking around you can come up on little things that you either have to walk around or jump over, like boxes or something. But at the same time you can walk right through lawn chairs.

Not everything can be interacted with either. When the game started, I was in my hotel room (it starts that way for everybody I think, maybe not depending on what character you play as) and I decided to walk around and check out what buttons did what. I found a button that allows you to kick. This is a fun button that you will use a lot. So I started kicking things. Most of the stuff in the room, my foot went right through it. One little pot on a table shattered, but the plant that was in it stayed. It was just hovering in the air. I tried this out on every potted plant I found that looked that way, and they all do it.

Twice now while fighting zombies I’ve had this glitch happen, where the zombie begins to fall down to the side and freeze in place. They’re still alive and can still be attacked and killed, but they don’t move from that position. They almost look like they came out of a Michael Jackson video. Only when they die will they finish their fall to the ground.

Another problem, as I’ve said, is the amount of energy drinks all over the island. It’s insane. And it’s only made worse by the fact that everything regenerates, which also sucks. Walk to a pool area. You’ll find some zombies around it, as well as energy drinks all over the place. Kill all of the zombies and drink all of the energy drinks. Leave the area and come right back. Those zombies will be there again, as will the energy drinks. As far as finding collectibles, like the energy drinks or weapons or anything else that you can pick up, it’s just too easy. One mission says I have to find some canned food for the survivors. So I went and got some of the food, left the area and came right back to pick up the same food I had just picked up. I didn’t have to go searching for more cans of food, wondering if I’d ever find it.

Another mission wants you to go find car parts so a guy can fix up a truck for you to drive around in. You can find those car parts over and over and over again even after the mission is over. Yes, from the same vehicles you took them from in the first place.

And that truck he fixes up for you to drive? It regenerates too. Take it and drive off and leave it. Then either find another drivable vehicle (so far the only ones that have been are all pick up trucks although other types of cars are all over the place) or hoof it back to that safe area and you’ll find another brand new truck sitting there waiting for you. Take it. Go ahead, it’s okay. It’ll be there for you later whether you bring it back or not.

As far as the first one you took out, it’ll still be where you left it as well. So in essence, it would seem to me that eventually the island would be overflowing with your one truck. I haven’t tried it yet, but that’s where the game is headed.

Another issue I had with the game is, there’s no tutorial. I did rent it from Red Box, so I didn’t get a booklet with it, but in the game, there’s nothing that really tells you what controls what. You do get hints that pop up on your screen to tell you certain things (even after they’ve told you, they’ll continue to tell you, no matter if you’ve done that hint a million times) such as what certain buttons do, but in most cases, at least for me, they tell you after you’ve done discovered what the buttons do on your own. The first two times this happened to me the hint popped up on the screen right after I used the button. Thanks for telling me after the fact.

There’s another issue with this. During fight sequences, if a zombie grabs you there’s an easy way to get them off of you. But you have to figure it out for yourself. Sure, little images of buttons pop up on your screen to show you what you have to do, but they’re so small that you can’t tell what button they’re showing you. And I have a 42 inch flat screen TV. When they show you the LT or RT buttons, they should have just put up LT or RT. Instead, they put up a little picture of the button with LT or RT inside it, and honestly, up until the last hour I played the game I thought they were showing me little cell phones. I couldn’t figure out how a cell phone would get a zombie off of me.

I then figured it out. You have to push LT and then RT to get the zombies off of you. Now I know that the little cell phones are just pictures of the LT and RT. It would have been nice to know that before I was killed three times.

Also, if you’re killed, your screen goes red and looks like it’s covered in blood and some text pops up in the middle of your screen. Time To Recover: and it counts down from 10 seconds. What do I do there? Anything? I’ve smashed every button on my controller during this time and nothing happens. So I’m left to believe that this is just telling you that you will be re-spawned in 10 seconds. It would be nice to know this shit in advance.

All in all, it’s a great game. I’m enjoying it, and I can’t wait to get my own copy. But I will wait. This is absolutely not a $60 game. Almost none are. At best, I could see paying $40 for a brand new copy, but I’m going to wait until I can find me a cheap used copy for around $20. It’s good, but it’s not THAT good.

Game Informer gave this game an 8.5. I’ll give it a 6.5 to a 7. It would be a little higher, but damn. When I’m in a car and driving and I have the ability to go in reverse, it would be nice to SEE where I’m going. There are three rear view mirrors and you can’t use any of them.

Some other positives… killing zombies is fun. Depending on what weapon you use depends on what happens to the zombie. I had a meat cleaver and a zombie was running at me. I swiped with the cleaver just as the zombie got to me and the zombie ran past me. I turned around to see that I had cut its left arm off. The arm was chilling on the ground, while the zombies stump spewed blood. He came at me again, so I swiped again and took his left arm off. He continued to come at me, two bloody stumps pouring blood. Awesome.

There’s a ton of blood used in this game. It’s Evil Dead-esque. More blood than necessary, but it’s awesome. Bash a zombie’s head in and it looks as if you’ve loosened the bolt on a fire hydrant on the street.

Another time I was standing next to a stair case that went down below the ground. I knocked a zombie down and kicked the hell out of him until he slid off of the part we were on and landed at the bottom of the steps on his head. It crushed his head and blood went everywhere, the zombie dead from the fall.

Yet another time when I had the cleaver, I knocked a zombie down and cut his leg off. I got an achievement called “Tis Only A Flesh Wound”. Cool.

Overall, play the game if you love zombie games, open world games, or RPG’s. It’s a beautiful game with some really fun play and nice missions that make the game very interesting. I’d just really like to see those flaws worked on. Hopefully, if there’s a Dead Island 2, they’ll fix all of that stuff and the game itself will be one of the best ever made.

2 responses to “Game Review: Dead Island

  1. I played a lot more of it and finally got into one of the neighboring towns to do some missions. I had to return the game and stopped playing it early so I could take it back. I was done with it.

    While the game continues to be fun and I could see that there was going to be a whole hell of a lot more to do in it, I was just done with it. It’s almost a sensory overload.

    One of the bad things about the game are the number of missions they drop on you. When the game starts, you get to two different places where survivors are holding up, and at each one there are numerous survivors who ask you to do things for them. This gets the mission count up high quickly. It wasn’t too much of a problem.

    But then I got into the city and came across two more places, both with their own survivors who need you to do shit for them. When I got to the second one in the town, I just turned around and left. I was already in the process of doing the missions from the first two places when I came across the third and took on those missions. Then the fourth? Just too much at one time.

    There’s also a whole lot of back and forth. Once I got to the town I tried to combine missions so that I wouldn’t have to go back and forth so much, and that’s hard enough to do, because you have to continue to pause the game, switch missions so that the map shows you where to go, and try and figure out where everything is for different missions while trying to stay safe from the zombies. It’s hard work, and if you’re willing to put in the effort, you’ll have countless hours of fun. But for me, it was just too much right away.

    The last thing I had an issue with is something that they installed in the game that is kind of cool, but a pain in the ass.

    As you’re running around on the island, if you happen to be in an area where somebody else who’s playing the game is, and you’re roughly in the same spot of the game, a little message pops up telling you who’s near you and to press a certain button to join their game.

    I wanted to play the game by myself. Just because I’m live doesn’t mean I play live all the time. I actually prefer not to, because let’s face it, most people playing live are assholes. If I’m playing a game, I want to play the game, not deal with the pissant fucks who play online and have attitudes. It’s just a game.

    So while I was playing, suddenly two players popped up on my screen and started running around with me, getting in my way while I was playing. I didn’t say it was cool for them to play, they just got that little message saying I was near and joined. This is not a good option for the game, for those of us who don’t want to play live. Again, it’s a cool feature, but it’s also a shitty one.

    So these two people ran around with me, killing the zombies I was trying to kill and getting in my way. At one point I jumped in a pick up and tried to drive far away from them and the one bitch jumped in the truck with me and rode with me. WHAT THE FUCK?! I found a spot filled with zombies and jumped out of the truck and left her there.

    Then I found another truck where one of them was in the middle of the mission I was doing, and had some of the stuff I needed to collect already in the truck, so I stole their truck and their stuff. Fuck them, I didn’t ask them to join, so I took the dues owed.

    Eventually I found the option to leave them and play by myself and picked it, continuing by myself like I wanted. But at any point, should anybody else happen to be near me and want to join, they could have. I really don’t like that.

    I took the game back and quite frankly, I’m glad it’s gone. I told my wife that I will buy it one day when I see it used for under $20. And I’m in no hurry.

  2. Oh yeah, one more problem. When you push the select button, you go to that menu, which shows your inventory and a map of the game and other stuff. The map they give you sucks. For one, they didn’t design extra space around the island so that you can move the map to every part of the island. The map only shows the island, and if there’s a place to go around the edges of it, you can’t scroll the map to it because it won’t go that far. You can zoom in and get a little closer to it, but the problem is still there.

    Also, the in game map that shows you which direction you have to go if you’ve set a way point or if you’re on a mission is nice and very helpful, but it’s flawed. The dotted line that shows you where to go goes haywire all too often and can fuck you up with where you have to go. And that’s not good if you’re hoofing it and trying to get away from zombies at the same time as trying to find your way.

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