Better without the voices: Dead Island - KillerRabbitsFTW Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Better without the voices: Dead Island

Dead Island is a game that does a lot of things right. Exploring the island is enticing, the leveling system is addictive, and the combat is brutal, bloody and immensely satisfying. But several hours in, I began to despise one aspect of the game: talking to survivors.


            The voice acting in Dead Island ranges from mediocre to shoot-yourself-in-the-head-its-so-awful (that’s and official scoring level, by the way). Many of the survivors have fake Australian accents, which grind on you after hours of listening to it. They also curse a lot, which is something I don’t care for. I’m not opposed to foul language in video games, but it didn’t seem to serve any purpose in Dead Island, aside from adding shock value. The cleverest use of dirty words in this game that I can remember is the line “This place is locked up tighter than a nun’s a**hole”. Intellectual stuff right here, folks.

I did a bunch of quests for this guy, but I don't think I ever learned his name. I've just been calling him "tattoo guy".


            I understand that some gamers find B-movie charm in the voice work and dialogue, but the It’s-so-bad-it’s-good effect wore off on me around the ten-hour mark. One day, I sat down and decided I was going to play the game again and skip all of the dialogue. But before I loaded my game, another idea occurred to me: I went into the settings and set the “Voices” volume bar to zero. The results surprised me.

 

           I stepped into the church, full of survivors of the undead hordes. But something was different. The only sound in the room was the static of a nearby radio accompanied the game’s score. Rather than pester me about quests I haven’t completed, which I’d grown accustomed to, the survivors kept their heads down and didn’t say a word, as if reflecting upon the deaths of their loved ones. I actually felt like I was in a room full of people who had experienced great loss. The new silence gave the game a somber atmosphere that hadn’t been there before.

 

           That atmosphere also carried over to the exploration aspect of the game. Before I muted the voice acting, the game made me feel I like I was trapped on an island full of zombies- and my only company were these scattered groups of survivors with annoying voices who were constantly asking me for things. Now that the game no longer had a single word of spoken dialogue, I felt as if I had nobody to talk to at all- I was utterly alone on an island full of undead monsters. I thought Dead Island already had a tense atmosphere when you were out in the wilderness, but my newfound loneliness really amped up that feeling of dread.

 

            I was amazed at how much of a difference silencing all the humans in the game made. The lack of dialogue also made me realize how soothing and eerie Dead Island’s score is. The experience reminds me of playing the original Fallout; it’s quiet, creepy, sad, and extremely atmospheric.

 

I'd back up if I were you. Red text is always a sign of trouble.


            The most fascinating thing about this experience is that the developers didn’t intend for me to play Dead Island like this, and yet it made the game more fun. I absolutely plan on playing the rest of the game with the voices muted, and it makes me wonder what other games might be more fun if I play them with the voices turned off. I’ve already decided to try this out on Fallout 3 and Skyrim. Both of those games have great music, and I’ll bet the quietness will add a neat twist on their atmospheres.

 

            I'm interested in knowing what you think, so I'll end this blog with a few questions. Feel free to answer any or all of them.

 

1)      Have you ever played a game with any single part of the volume muted? Have you ever wanted to?

 

2)      What do you think of Dead Island’s voice acting? Did you find it as annoying as I did, or do you think I ripped on the game more than it deserved?

 

3)      A lot of games today that don’t include voice acting are criticized for being stuck in the past. Do you find it appealing to read text and just imagine what a character sounds like? Or do you just hate reading in any form?

 

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