Bazaboy offers a second review of this zombie-filled beach holiday, this time on PS3.
Take Role Playing Games, First Person Action Games, add some zombies and surely you have a winning combination on your hands? This is what developers Techland were obviously hoping as the put together their game Dead Island. This is a game that I was not really aware of until a few weeks before its release when a friend sent me a link to the now well known trailer on Youtube, which has a vacationing family fighting against a horde of undead flesh eaters. It has to be said that although the trailer was a cut scene only, showing no actual gameplay, it was enough to pique my interest. Enough to have me checking out other videos to see what exactly the game involved and I was pleasantly surprised to see that there seemed to be more to it than just another first person shooter. Instead, it reminded a lot of Fallout 3 – a mix of action and role play. This was more than enough to have me interested in picking the game up as Fallout was a firm favourite of mine.
The game, if you were not aware, involves the player taking control of one of four hero characters to play through the game with. Each of them has a speciality to begin with, being proficient in certain weapons and such. For instance, one will be much more effective using bladed weapons such as swords and machetes, while another may be more suited to blunt heavier weapon – baseball bats and sledgehammers. However, I found your choice does not really have a huge impact on the game as you are free to use any weapon you may find, no matter what you are better suited to using. The game begins with the player in a hotel after a night of partying, but it is not long after leaving the room that you realise that something is not quite right with the deserted hotel hallways and rooms, and even the bodies of the couple from the aforementioned trailer. Soon you are being chased down a hallway with a couple of undead sprinting after you, determined to treat you like a happy meal on legs.
From that point on, it’s a fight for survival as you try to find a safe way to escape the zombie infested holiday resort. Of course doing so is a little more complicated than finding a boat and hightailing it out there. The game is split into several acts, each act takes place in a certain area of the island. The first for example is the holiday resort itself, including locations such as the hotel, beach and lighthouse. These locations are pretty sizable, so much so that vehicles are supplied for traversing them. These vehicles are also extremely handy for mowing down stumbling zombies who have strayed onto the roads and tracks of the island. The player moves from the resort to the city and the jungle, along with a few other locations. As mentioned, each of these areas are pretty sizable and each of them is completely open for exploration and inhabited by various survivors who will give you tasks to carry out, be they quests which further the main story of the game or stand alone side missions.
It’s with these side quests that the game hits a small problem. The story quests are all well varied and have you doing interesting things such as searching the zombie infested hotel, to picking up food supplies for survivors. The side missions on the other hand can become repetitive, especially the continuous quests. There are numerous quests in which a character will ask for a certain item over and over and the only reward for getting the item is normally not worth the effort and can easily be ignored unless you are the type of player who must do absolutely everything, much like myself on my first play through. The plus side to this is that the number of things to do so vast. I personally found it best to pick up every quest in a single location that was available and, before heading out of the safe zone and travelling the area, completing your tasks one by one.
One point that must be made when it comes to Dead Island is that this game got its 18 age rating for a reason. There is, as expected, blood aplenty in this game and those with nervous dispositions need not apply. Killing the zombies within the game can be bloody enough, but for the truly sadistic gamers out there, you know who you are, placing your aiming reticule over joints and limbs before swinging can result in the hacking off of arms, legs or even heads. Even more graphic are the sounds that accompany this combat, which is more relevant when using blunt weapons as bones break under their weight. Another point over the games combat system is that fans of first person shooters may be a little disappointed. Although the game is viewed from that perspective and guns are present in the game, ammunition is extremely scarce and even then Killing higher level zombies uses up so much ammo that you really are better using a melee weapon. Either that or softening up your target with a few well placed shots and then finishing them off with a couple of baseball bat hits. This sounds simple in effect and it is when you are facing off against one or even two zombies at a time. But when they start attacking in larger groups or some of the stronger types of zombies attack, then you need to start thinking about what you are doing.
The selection of weapons available is pretty varied – Knives, swords, bats, hammers and even frying pans. Adding some RPG aspects to those weapons is the fact that throughout the game the player can pick up what at first may appear to be junk – wire, blades, duct tape and so on. what these items are actually for is modifying your weapons. Taking my favourite weapon in the game, a katana, and using one of the many workbenches within the game, you can combine that sword with selected items such as wire, battery, tape to transform your sword or any other weapon into something more devastating. Think the same sword but with the additional power of a stun gun – a critical hit with said weapon will result in your target zombie performing a highly amusing electrocuted jig. This means that there is an almost endless selection of weapons to play with, so much so that in a second play through of the game I was still finding weapons I had not seen first time around.
Although the game plays very much like a first person action game, there is a healthy mix of RPG elements. Killing enemies and completing quests and tasks results in the player gaining experience and subsequently levelling up. This results in improving your basic combat skills and the level of weapon you can use, higher level weapons of course doing more damage, and you can also add skills to your character. Each time you level up you are awarded one point to spend by choosing a skill from three skill trees. There are Rage skills which are kind of like a special attack. You build your rage metre up as you kill and, when full, you can unleash rage on the zombies with devastating attacks which vary depending on your initial choice of character at the beginning of the game. Improving this skill tree leads to you being able to gain rage, spend a longer time in rage and improve damage dealt while raging. The next tree is combat and improving this one does exactly what you would expect it to do. The third tree is survival which holds skills such as lock-picking, handy when you find one of the numerous locked chests in the game. With well over fifty skill improvements within these three trees and a level cap of fifty, it means that you may want to plan your skills to best suit your playing style.
Levelling up does not mean the game gets any easier. As you level up, the zombies you encounter increase in level in an attempt to continue giving you a challenge. At level fifty however this fails a bit as with level fifty weapons even zombies of an equal level are dropped with one or two hits. For when things get a little tough, Dead Island has a trick up its sleeve in the shape of drop in, drop out four player co-op. Playing the game for the first time I played through the complete game with a friend. This without a doubt made the game a lot more fun than it would have been as a single player only experience. Plus it is always happy to have a friend alongside you when you have a horde of screaming zombies sprinting toward you, baying for your flesh. The game is more than enjoyable as a single player game, but with two or more players it becomes even better.
When it comes to the games looks, it has to be said that for an open world, free roaming game it can look pretty impressive. Standing on a high vantage point looking out over the island is quite remarkable. This fact does not change up close as locations are just as impressive and detailed. The zombies themselves are also well designed, but therein lies a small problem. Although the zombies who inhabit each of the games locales has a fitting look for that area – beach wear for the beach and resort and such – there is only a certain number of zombie models, so you will continuously see the same zombie over and over again. Like I said though, it’s only a small problem and over time you stop noticing it and treat the zombies as they should be treated, faceless bad guys ready to meet the pointy end of a stick… or, as is more likely the case, the sharp end of a sword.
So Dead Island, a classic must own game? Well, that all depends on your taste in games. Because the game is a mix of two genres it comes down whether you can enjoy a mix of the two. The majority of gamers play and enjoy first person shooters, however the guns do take the back seat giving way to melee weapons. This does not mean the action is any less fun, you just need to get a little closer to the bad guys. With the action side of things taken care of, it comes down to whether fans of that type of game can enjoy the role playing elements that have been mixed with it, and vice versa. If you enjoyed games such as Borderlands and or Fallout 3, the chances are high that Dead Island is a game that you will enjoy as much as I did. A game with tons of zombie decapitating fun, an engaging story line and plenty of side quests to keep you entertained for quite some time. If this sounds like something you could enjoy, then checking out Dead Island would be a good idea. It may well be the game you are looking for.