What originally turned me onto this game was one of the best trailers that I have ever seen. It depicts a reverse time scene of a man and his wife trying to save their daughter from the infected in the hallways of the hotel where you start. Even better, is that in the beginning of the game, you can find this couple, dead on the floor, holding hands. Which is nice, in that it adds a touching moment to an otherwise brutally violent and kind-of silly game. What worried me about it was the fact that it was a CGI trailer and I worried that the game wouldn’t really look that good.
Not only did it meet my expectations, it surpassed all of them. Dead Island is a game that somehow manages to blend the feel of an RPG, the hack and slash of an adventure game, the loot grabbing of a dungeon crawler, and the feel of a George Romero film. All of this is wrapped in an idyllic setting that lulls you into a false sense of security before throwing hordes of infected at you. As you wander the lush beaches and beautiful jungles you must always be on the lookout for an infected lying in wait. Even amongst the turmoil of the infection and slaughter, you will find yourself pausing just to stare at the beautiful scenery.
Unfortunately for Dead Island, this beauty is both a blessing and a curse. It is plagued with laggy visuals, horrendous texture pop-ins, and numerous graphical glitches. Whenever you exit a loading screens, you will have to deal with texture pop in that can take up to a minute to take full effect. Even after this time, you’ll come across alleys with stuttering floors, or zombies that rapidly switch colors. Unfortunately, this mars the otherwise beautiful game and can really break your immersion and bring you out of the gameplay.
Fortunately for Dead Island, these graphics glitches don’t really impact the mechanics of gameplay in any way. They frequently look beautiful, and when they look bad, usually you can get over it. I say usually because several times in the course of my game, the textures would not pop-in at all and I would have to quit and reload in order to make them work. Other than that, all of the graphical glitches are not game breaking at all, just immersion breaking.
Primarily a melee based game, you are able to target specific limbs and cripple them either through breaking or cutting, allowing you to limit your enemies combat abilities. To cut, you use a bladed weapon, and to break, you use a blunt weapon. Every time you perform these crippling moves, you earn extra experience than you would if you had just cut its head off. The best part of this system are the animations that accompany these moves. When an arm is broken, it just hangs limply down, flopping around uselessly whenever they try and use it. Break a leg and the zombie will collapse to the ground. If you don’t do this, you will find yourself overwhelmed very easily, maybe a little bit much so. The reason for this, is the fact that the enemies level with you, so no matter what, the zombie you are fighting is going to be plus or minus two levels from you, making every fight the same.
In addition to the melee combat, guns are available later on in the campaign. The guns are broken down into three categories: rifles, pistols, and shotguns. When you finally do acquire one of the guns, you will find that ammo is exceedingly rare, and really the only way to acquire any amount of it is to buy it, make it, or scavenge it off of the dead humans. The downside is, these guns are ridiculously underpowered, sometimes taking as many as five shotgun shells to the chest to kill one zombie, where a single machete blow will do the job.
Normally this combat system works fairly well, but after a while, the combat becomes slightly repetitive and stale, broken up only slightly by either a firefight with some uninfected humans, by throwing weapons, or by using your “rage” ability. This ability is unique to each of the four characters and allows you to enter a super human-esque killing spree for several seconds after you “rage” meter fills up. For example, the character I played as was a throwing specialist, so when his meter filled up, I pulled out a handful of throwing knives and went to town. Another character pulls out a pistol and guns down everything in front of her, and a third uses something reminiscent of a beserker from Borderlands, forgoing weapons and using his fists to beat down his enemies.
These powers are unlocked through a skill tree, which is basically the same as any skill tree you’ve ever used. There are three separate columns, with each either benefitting your combat skills, rage skills, or survival skills. Combat usually increases damage, rage increases the duration and damage of your rage, and survival increases heath, rare loot chance, and luck. These trees allow you to slightly customize the way you play, allowing you to either DPS, tank, or maybe be more of a ranged character. No matter what, it’s up to you.
One of the most important things in a Diablo type game is the loot, and here it is as plentiful as I’ve seen in any game, save Borderlands of course. The weapons are color-coded by rarity, with white being the most common, and orange the most rare. Usually, the more rare items are received as quest rewards or found in containers that are scattered around the world. Once you have these items, you can bring them to workbenches and customize them to the way you play with various weapon modifications that range from fire, electricity, and poison. With these modifications come millions of possible ways to customize your load out, and you obtain these mods either as quest rewards or in prespecified locations in the game world. Each requires certain bits of items, from batteries to duct tape, in order to build them.
The quests really can be broken down into either fetch quests or kill quests. Hey, ________ (insert player name here), I need you to go _______ (location) and get/kill/talk to _________ (item/zombie/NPC). But even with that dynamic, I find myself falling into the one more quest mentality, spending hours playing when I had originally planned to spend only minutes. I just wish that there was a little more variety in the mission type.
Add a shoddy driving mechanic, where it is nearly impossible to steer anything at top speed, and a okay voice acting cast and you get what seems to be a terrible game on paper. But it’s not. I love this game. For all of its fault, I love it. I love the repetitive quests and combat, I love the bad driving, and I love the voice acting. I dumped hours upon hours into it, and I don’t regret a single second. It’s a good game on the brink of being great, but graphics glitches and repetitive game play mar this game irreparably. I love it, but that doesn’t disguise the fact that it is flawed.
Tom Blaich is the current staff writer at [url not allowed]. He produces all of the sites content, from great reviews, to fantastic articles, news stories, and top 10 lists. If you love video games, then feel free to check him out, he would really appreciate it.