Review: Dead Island

(apologies for the lack of images, blame my very slow internet)

Dead Island received an huge amount of hype in the lead up to its release. Mostly due to its trailer, which not only made us gawp, but also made us hope that there would finally be a zombie game that went beyond just twatting things in the face and laughing at the noises they make.  A game with soul, a game with emotion, a game that would make us feel for the survivors the same way The Walking Dead does on TV.

No such luck.

Dead Island can instead be compared with the likes of Left 4 Dead or Dead Rising. Its story is as follows; You are staying on the beautiful island of Banoi, Papa New Guinea. It’s as tropical paradise, with turquoise lagoons, gigantic palm trees and more amusingly named fruit drinks you could shake a machete at. Inevitably, a mysterious virus breaks out on the island and almost everyone turns into the lurching groaning undead. Everyone except you.

Who ‘you’ are is 1 of 4 survivors who are rather conveniently immune to the plague. You can choose to either play one of these characters by yourself, or team up with 3 others via Xbox Live and plough through the apocalypse together.

Dead Island‘s gameplay is very much a free roaming, mission based, open world sort of affair. You’ll do a series of meaningful (and equally meaningless) tasks for the survivors on the island, who treat you like a sort of errand boy. Jobs include getting generators working, kick starting water pumps and gathering supplies to help the general survival effort, as well as rescuing teddy bears, jewel necklaces and champagne for some of your more delusional clients.

I can guarantee that by the 5th time somebody asks you to find 5 bottles of alcohol, you’ll want to tell them to piss off because the trouble you’ll go to won’t be nearly worth the Flimsy Diving Knife or $30 they offer as a reward…and here’s why.

You see, your character will level up, like in any RPG, based on how much XP you gather. This allows you to unlock branches of one of 3 skill trees that can help make your time on the island less hairy. However, the zombies level up with you, meaning that you’ll never be more powerful than them. As result, you’ll die. A lot. 

The good thing about this insane difficulty curve is that it makes Dead Island probably the most realistic zombie apocalypse simulation you could get. Every kill feels like a satisfying triumph, and throwing spades at the screaming undead is oddly fun simply because it means you’ve stayed alive for an extra couple of minutes. Requests to gather food supplies and find family members, while difficult, would probably be what you’d face if that sort of thing actually happened.

Dead Island certainly isn’t what its trailer promised- its disappointing lack of story and largely uninteresting missions make it somewhat of a hollow experience. However, if you want to know how long you’d survive against the undead, and enjoyed Dead Rising‘s imaginative weapon selection, then this is definitely worth a try.

My average life-span is about 50 seconds, incidentally.

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