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Dead Island Review - The Parent's Guide to Video Games

 Dead Island Review

Kid Safe: Very Low (1.5  / 10)                             Game Quality: High (8.0 / 10)

Genre:  Open World Survival Horror Shooter
-         This game takes place in a world where choice is everything. Rather than providing a set story that a player has to follow, they are provided a world that they can explore and do as they wish. This game features a focus on horror themes and attempting to escape the terror that has overtaken the situation. This game may contain situations that are scary for some players.

Internet Requirements: Moderate
-          Dead Island features a moderate amount of internet requirements that is built primarily on the ability for a game to play with multiple other players online. While the game is enjoyable enough that a player need never  hop onto the internet, it can most definitely make a difference. The game does not feature a competitive aspect, however players are able to play together up to four players using the internet so that they might fight through the game's story together.

Story Summary:
-          In Dead Island, you take the role of one of four survivors who have found themselves in a precarious situation on the fictional island nation of Banoi. Players choose from Sam B, a hardened rap artist, Xian, an honor-bound agent from the Hong Kong police department, Logan, an ex-football superstar, and Purna, a police-officer turned bodyguard for the island's VIPs. Waking up one morning, players find that the resort they are staying in has been overwhelmed with the undead. As people continue to die, drop, and get up again (in that order), players must explore the island nation of Banoi and all it has to offer including a luxurious five star resort, a massive slum-packed city, and a lush tropical rainforest; all of which are teaming with zombies! Will this group of survivors manage to find a way off the island and escape this nightmare, or will they simply become another meal for the ghouls that are walking these sandy beaches?


Kid Safe: Very Low (1.5 / 10)
-          Foul Language: Very High - Not Recommended for Children
o   Dead Island features an impressively high amount of foul language in the form of the following words: "d*mn", "a*s", "s*it", "b*tch", "f*ck", "motherf*cker", and "b*stard". These words are heard regularly from almost every character during both combat scenes as well as normal dialogue. Players will not only hear these words but also see them written, a perfect example being an interrogation room that has "Die B*tches" written in blood on the wall. Words like "f*ck", "s*it", and "d*mn" are by far the most commonly heard curse words. These words are spoken both in situations of extreme emotion, i.e. frustration, pain, fear, as well as in regular dialogue where emotions are not a notable reason for cursing.

-          Violence and Gore: Very High - Not Recommended for Children
o   If there is one thing that really stands out in Dead Island, it is the violence and gore; this title is quite simply one of the bloodiest games this year. Starting off, players will be engaging two types of enemies: zombies and humans. The zombie creatures range in variety from your average "walker", your classic zombie, to the "infected", an enraged, unrelenting, and incredibly fast paced undead that acts as though they still have some sentience due to their human-like reactions to pain. Not only this, there are multiple "boss" zombies as we will call them that are mutated versions; the most notably disturbing of these is the "Butcher" which is a creature that is torn off its own face to reveal a grizzled skull and uses the broken-off, protruding bones of its forearms to stab and maim its enemies. As for humans, players will be almost exclusively engaging "punks" and corrupt militia soldiers who seek to take advantage of Banoi's infection by taking everything they could want whether it be food, weapons, or other people. Players are unable to harm regular civilians.

o   Combat in Dead Island is down-right brutal. Players will use a wide variety of weaponry to maim, dismember, and kill their opponents. Weapons include wood planks, baseball bats, police batons, knives, cleavers, machetes, hatchets, axes, sledgehammers, katana swords, pistols, rifles, shotguns, grenades, Molotov cocktails, and much, much more. Attacks often yield a blood effects, with blood and gore spraying from inflicted wounds, whether players are using melee weapons or firearms. Realistic wounds can also be seen opening on zombies as gashes can be opened up in a zombie's flesh as well limbs can be chopped off using bladed weaponry. The usage of fire-type weaponry such as Molotovs or propane tanks will often set enemies on fire and cause them to flail in pain while their flesh burns and chars until they a little more than a blackened husk. Players are also able to "execute" fallen enemies by stamping on their head and making their skull explode into gory bits. Corpses from fallen enemies will remain where they fall until the player leaves the area, at which time they disappear for the rest of the game.

o   Aside from the imagery seen in combat, the regular environments and world feature your fair share of gruesome content. First off, the entire game is littered with corpses of those that have fallen to the undead, leaving a multitude of half eaten, bloodied, and gored bodies in their wake. Strewn muscle, organs, and bones such as ribs, legs, and arms are clearly visible on certain characters and corpses. Blood splatter and spray is clearly visible everywhere in the game. One scene depicts a man sobbing in a kiddie pool that is filled with red blood and surrounded by corpses as he tries to contend with the fact he had to just kill his entire zombified family. Several scenes follow in this same wake, where people are horribly shaken up after making reference to killing friends and loved ones. Another notably interesting but equally disturbing situation takes place when you visit a certain location only to return later on and find that the safehouse has been overrun and everyone inside that you had met and talked to have been killed, eaten, and zombified.
             
-          Sexually-Related Content: Low
o   Dead Island features a low amount of sexually related content that takes place almost exclusively through sexual reference and some mild partial nudity. This partial nudity is depicted primarily through individuals, both undead and alive, wearing bathing suits and showing off some small amount of cleavage and buttocks. Generally, this is not noticeable since the majority of individuals who you might "admire" are attempting to run at and eat you. Nonetheless, there are a handful of sexual references throughout the title. One mission features a detective who wants you to recover information on a former case about a rapist. One of the characters describes her background as having dealt with a man who was "clearly molesting his 14 year old daughter". Another situation is presented where a bikini-clad young woman is tied up on a bed surrounded by cameras. Explicit details are neither shown nor discussed.

-          Use of Drugs and Alcohol: Moderate
o   Dead Island features a moderate amount of drug and alcohol usage, primarily through the depiction of alcohol consumption with some minor cigarette usage. Starting with the smaller piece, several characters throughout the game are depicted in an almost constant state of smoking cigarettes while they talk. Aside from this, alcohol has a predominant role throughout the title. One cutscene features a "club" party sort of atmosphere where multiple people are shown imbibing alcoholic beverages while several of them act in a drunken manner. Likewise, players will collect alcohol bottles as they play. These bottles can be utilized as a means of creating new weapons, i.e. Molotov cocktails, or they can be used by the player. All characters who drink alcohol will suffer from a "blurred-screen" effect as well as a shifting camera to hint at drunken stumbling and lack of balance. Certain characters are able to use alcohol to bolster their strengths and weaknesses, essentially making said character  more useful when he is drunk than when he is sober.

             
Game Quality: High (8.0 / 10)
-          Graphics / Visuals: High
o   Visually speaking, Dead Island could have really nailed it if not for a number of number of issues that needed to be ironed out. Starting off, the game boasts an absolutely massive world, complete with several completely different and interesting areas that are huge in their own right. These areas each try and portray something different about the world the players are exploring. Examples of this include the Resort area, which is generally very bright and sunny and focused heavily on the presence of luxury items and beach fare; the overall focus being on the recreational aspect of it all. A secondary example could also include the City which players will find after some exploration and which is so phenomenally different than the resort, it isn't even funny. The city is generally darker and dingy, with sunlight shining through but also usually being blocked out by the surrounding buildings. The quarters are cramped and absolutely littered with trash, waste, and filth; a far stretch from the immaculate presentation of the Resort area in which the only major defiler of its pristine presentation are the corpses that cover the sand and the smoking remains of wrecked vehicles. The amount of forethought that went into designing the world is impressive and vivacious and really deserves mention.

o   What really kept Dead Island from achieving visually came from a feeling of being unfinished. Character models tend to decently made and yet most of them don't seem like a great amount of effect was put into their creation or, perhaps, their completion, with facial animations and movements feely stocky and unkempt. Likewise, a number of the Island visuals, while absolutely gorgeous, also feel unfinished. The edges of, well, alot of things (buildings, desks, doorways, etc.) will often have a "jagged" appearance to them where edges look like a serrated knife that comes from the game designers not having cleaned up the presentation so that it looked realistic. Finally, the game suffers from the occasional glitch that detracts from the beauty of it all; a perfect example being when I looked out into the ocean sunset only to see a massive white "box" simply form between the ocean and the sunset. Whoops.
   
-          Audio: High
o   Luckily, the audio presentation is a little bit better done than the visual one. Dead Island boasts a fair share of talented voice actors as well as good sound effects and a decent musical set. Starting off, as always, with voice acting: I can't really say that I have any complaints. Voice acting is generally well-done with actors covering the full range of emotions such as rage, indifference, sadness, and the occasional bit of joy without any issue. Lines are also normally well-done with some exceptions that sound like they simply should have been re-recorded as the voice actor sounds more like they are reading than acting; luckily these aren't all that common and are generally reserved to lesser characters. Sound effects are equally adequate; complete with a whole range of zombie screams, gunshots, footsteps, car noises, and more. Care was clearly taken in this area and is well done.

o   However, if there is one thing an audiophile might latch onto in this game, it's the music. The game's music covers a full range. By far the most popular and noted song is a piece from the character, "Sam B", who wrote a zombie-focused rap called "Who Do You Voodoo, B*tch?", which has already become highly popular outside of the game itself. Rap aside, this game features everything from simple effects like a guitar being lightly strummed an played to a harder paced rock number that really gets the action going. Even better is not the rock, but instead a number of pieces that I'm not even sure what genre they could fall under. These songs really set the tone for the game with an almost "tribal" or "aboriginal" sound to them that is well-blended with the stereotypical creepiness of horror movie music. This score really makes the game what it is and provides it design that is entirely unique.

-          Gameplay / Playability: High
o   Dead Island's gameplay is pretty decently varied and offers quite a lot to do. The playability is also decently paced so that players both experienced and novice can get into it with little issue. Starting off with playability, the game initially starts to introduce a fair amount of gameplay mechanics like moving around, opening or breaking open doors, collecting stuff from the environment, etc. before they ever run into a zombie (although it does feel like one's gonna jump around the corner at any time). The majority of necessary buttons that a player needs to push are almost always displayed whether it be to pick something up, use something, etc. and so players are less likely to worry that they forgot how to perform one of the game's many tasks. Once combat gets rolling, the game is constantly scaled to the player; progressively getting harder as time goes on and players explore the world. Boss Zombies are also rolled out slowly over time so that players can get used to battling each one before they have to worry about the next one jumping out from a cabinet and eat their brains. All in all, it's the difficulty curve is constantly increasing, but at a good pace so most players won't feel left behind.

o   As for gameplay, Dead Island does a pretty decent job of always mixing it up a little bit. The general design to it is "Find a group of survivors", "Get the 'story mission'", "Get the 'side missions'", "Complete missions", rinse and repeat. While the overall feel can be a little tiring, the missions luckily aren't. Missions themselves range from something as simple as cleaning the undead out of a cemetery to collecting food for starving survivors, finding a girl's lost teddy bear to finding and assaulting a warlord's encampment, rescuing a trapped survivor to helping a dying man say goodbye to his family before he passes away. While the missions are all generally combat and survival focused given the overwhelming amount of zombies on Banoi, the range of style and depth to each individual story generally make them quite enjoyable and always wondering what will happen next.
          
-          Dollar-Value: High
o   Overall, Dead Island has a decently high dollar value. The game suffers from a couple of glitches here and there, however the general quality is up there. Likewise, the amount of stuff that is available to do will generally keep a player content for quite a while. If a player was JUST focusing on trying to burn through the story missions, it would probably take about 8 to 12 hours of gameplay, however it's hard not to get wrapped up in everything else going on; this can easily extend gameplay to upwards of 20 hours or more. On top of this, every character in the game has been designed with their own style and feel; each one of them offering their own unique powers, strengths, and capabilities that can completely change how the game plays out. Many players already have reported how they are playing through the game multiple times just so they can play different characters. So long as you are ok with the excessive blood and gore and the action/horror focus, Dead Island will be worth your bottom dollar.


Recommendations
-          Just about any other game, perhaps with the exception of Dead Space, will be less gory than Dead Island. With that said, there aren't really any horror games that aren't M-Rated. However, if you are going for the horror feel and are ok with an M-Rating, you might check out Left 4 Dead, Condemned, or FEAR. If you are more interested in the open-world design, you might also give Fallout New Vegas or Borderlands a look.
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