Dead Island Review
There’s something inherently comfy about a good action zombie game. You know the rules: don’t get overwhelmed, expect hammy acting, and there will be some game mechanic which means you are constantly scrounging weapons, ammo and health.
So, although it’s good to know that Dead Island hits these notes comfortably, it just falls foul of becoming a touch too repetitive too quickly.
Dead Island is easy to explain – it’s a first person action title, blending RPG skill trees with first person combat and shooting. Borderlands is the common comparison, but let’s just suggest Far Cry 2 as a better fit – the world is open, the quests are simple and plentiful, and there is always something cool tucked down that alleyway that’s in the opposite direction to your goal marker.
A lot of the meat of Dead Island is covered in the Xbox 360 review, but it’s easy to point out that the bulk of the game features fetch quests, protection missions and assassinations, which can quickly get a bit repetitive.
If you aren’t a lover of the casual side quest, this might not be for you, as even the main quests follow the same system of “go here, kill zombies, pick up the thing, come back”, which can get boring quickly. The story isn’t great either.
The thing is, despite the quests being so run-of-the-mill, it’s tricky to put Dead Island down once you pick it up. You need to pick the weapons that work for you, so slow and powerful weighs up against fast and light, with a silly repair mechanic (pay for a fix at an empty workbench?) to repair deterioration.
Despite this, try to take on three or four zombies in a straight slapfest, and you’ll probably get taken out. No panic, though, as you’ll respawn nearby minus a fistful of dollars and ready to go.
Visually, Dead Island for PC isn’t quite so hot, and really doesn’t hold much of a graphical candle to modern gems such as Crysis or Metro 2033.
The character models have that waxy look that smells of DX9, the textures are all a little lower than they should be, and motion blur is overused to over compensate.
When compared to consoles there’s little to distinguish apart from the odd effect, which unfortunately evokes the whiff of “average console port”. Audio isn’t much to write home about either, with below par voice acting and standard effects.
By this point, we’ve got a high probability of getting bitten. Leet shooting skills, there.
Controls need a mention too – this game is blatantly designed for a control pad, and this shows in the dedicated analogue control style available.
Weapons wheels and fighting swings work with the keyboard and mouse, but true fighting finesse is to be had with thumbsticks, which let you dictate the type and direction of a swing.
Shame then that this has to be passed up by PC gamers (unless you are happy plugging in the control pad), and coupled with the tricky hit distance, you’ll often as not find yourself flailing inefficiently for the first half an hour or so.
Unfortunately, Dead Island also shipped with the mother of all bugs – gamers fell foul of a serious Steam issue whereby launch day code was a broken beta which lost all saves when patching.
And shamefully, some of the errors have persisted despite patching, including zombies having the ability to stand almost inside you during combat, making fending them off a touch tricky.
Sometimes, whole quests disappear and reappear with no real explanation – usually due to you picking them up too early in the game. Some effort has been made to resolve these and more, but until Techland really gets a grip there’s going to be a whole load of frustrated gamers slamming keyboards in disgust.
Yet, despite all this, it’s quite addictive. You soon realise this isn’t the best game ever, or even this month, but simply an interesting and diverting slap-em-up with delusions of grandeur.
It gets stale a little quickly, but then, played in smaller sessions, develops the charm of a cheesy weekly serial, and manages to spin its pointless story out enough to keep you coming back for more. It’s not brilliant, it’s not even innovative, but weirdly, it is fun, and sometimes you just have to enjoy the ride.