The lights are on
-This review is solely on the single player campaign. Also, I am a little more strict on my review numbers than the GI staff.-
When I saw Dead Island GOTY for $20, it was difficult to pass up. I had always wanted to play it, but heard horror stories about glitches in the game. I held out for the GOTY to attempt to bypass those.
You're able to choose from four different characters. One specializes in firearms, another with bladed weapons, one with throwing weapons, and the last with blunt objects. I went with the latter, and Sam B. The thought of pulverizing zombies with a baseball bat or hammer simply made me giddy.
From the start of the game, the sense of survival is made quite clear. The hotel you wake up in is in shambles and you fully expect to be ambushed with every door and corner you creep past. Once the combatitive portion of the game begins with the very first skirmish on the beach with the lifeguard, its obvious that you're in for a wild ride.
The game opens up as you are given the chance to help those unable to help themselves. Sidequests are abound in Dead Island, and they provide extremely useful upgrades and weapons. Sometimes you'll get lucky enough to get a free mod. More on those shortly.
In many games, sidequests are nothing but fetch quests that don't amount to much of a reward. In Dead Island, simply walking down the road warrants valuable experience points as you'll likely have to fight off a zombie or twelve. Every item you pick up along the way has a use, giving a new meaning to the word 'pack-rat.' Even the small amounts of money you find in bags and wallets adds up in the end.
The weapon system is one of the best I have ever come across in any game I've ever played. When you use a weapon, its durability decreases, making it less effective in combat. Its best to keep your weapons in top shape if you plan on heading out into the wild. You can upgrade your weapons to be more powerful and durable at workbenches. This is an absolute necessity if you want to survive.
Mods become available to you after completing a few quests. They are basically blueprints for improving your weapons. My first mod I used was placing nails in a baseball bat. Yea... I was super-excited. For the longest time, I used a polica baton wrapped in barbed wire. In the end, I stuck with a huge metal rod with a battery attached to it. When I hit a zombie, they were electrified, and usually sent flying into the distance. I experimented with bladed weapons as well. At one point, I was cutting off zombie limbs with every swing of my machete. No matter what you choose to use, there's fun to be had.
The game is seperated into four episodes with 18 chapters total. The areas get more and more compact as you go, adding to the survival mood of the game. You start on a beach area, where you're able to see your enemies coming. You then move to the city and sewers, where space is an issue, and obstacles on the street prevent free movement in many cases. The jungle is next, and undoubtedly the most frightening area of the game for me. As you know, the jungle has random noises, and I thought every one of them was a zombie. The foliage prevents any significant line of vision, so I was creeping the entire way. The last thing you want to do is run into a swarm of zombies in the wild. Lastly, there is a prison, which occupies a short amount of the game towards the end. The claustrophobic feeling here is the most worrysome aspect of the area.
I loved that the enemies weren't all the same. It seems like a task to come up with varying types of zombies, but Dead Island does so wonderfully. You've got your normal walking zombies which pose no real threat. Then there's zombies than charge at you full force... troublesome, but they are easily handled with a well-timed swing of a weapon. Thugs are huge zombies that can knock you on your rump with a single hit. They are extremely durable, so proceed with caution. Suiciders explode when you get too close, and have the potential to kill you in an instant if you don't run away quick enough. Floaters are found near water, and can spew zombie gunk at you, but a few swings of a sharp weapon will bring it down. There's zombies that emit a poisonous gas and effects you if you are close for too long. There's flaming zombies. There's even zombies that throw pieces of wood and other weapons at you. These varying enemy types keep you on your toes as you progress through the game.
I'm not one to pay attention to the sound, but in Dead Island is key. Oftentimes, you cannot see where your enemy is coming from. Out in the open, you'll hear a blood-curdling scream. That's your signal that a zombie or three is running at you, and to start surveying the area. Fast. The bellowing growl indicates that one of the nastier zombies is near you, and to proceed with caution. Dead Island utilizes silence and abrupt zombie noises extremely well. Again, you are kept on your toes.
The game isn't perfect. The story could use some work. Judging by the ending, however, Riptide has quite a bit to work with, so hopefully the next installment will be better in that regard. Technically, I only encountered one issue that made things difficult. If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in an area that has an infinite respawn of zombies, things can get rough. I was defending an area (trying to, rather) that had a respawn point directly to my right. I didn't know at the time, so I was fighting a losing battle for my life.
I'm usually not a fan of zombie games. Or any of the traditional open-world games for that matter, either. Dead Island is a game I shouldn't like, but I can't stop thinking about. Fans of zombie or open-world games should at least give it a shot. It's an inexpensive game at the moment, so it won't set you back too much.
I give Dead Island a solid 9. Fun for the whole family.
Wonderful review, Jolt!
Love the ending