Dead Island GOTY

7.25 Overall Score
Gameplay: 7/10
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 7/10

Good co-op | A great first 10 hours

Lame add-ons | occasionally buggy | Bad last 10 hours

Game Info

GAME NAME: Dead Island: Game Of The Year Edition

DEVELOPER(S): Techland

PUBLISHER(S): Deep Silver

PLATFORM(S): PS3, XBox 360

GENRE(S): Open world, action, zombies!

RELEASE DATE(S): 6/26/2012

You remember the trailer, right?  The one that put Dead Island on everyone’s release must-have list?  Techland and Deep Silver’s storied game is back again with a Game of the Year edition, including all the DLC added along for the ride.  Too bad the game is nothing like the trailer, and although a good co-op title with some interesting takes on the zombie genre, Dead Island has some flaws that hamstring its overall experience.

In Dead Island, you take control of one of four characters in a zombie outbreak who are (shocker of shockers) immune to the effects of zombification.  The characters are all identical aside from their rage, a super-powered few seconds of one-hit-kills, and a few other powers.  The only real standout character is Purna, the woman whos focus is firearms – something rare and extremely underpowered.  She is useless.  You and the other characters, who show up in cut scenes (sometimes) but not during the game itself, must travel across the island – first to find help, then to solve the outbreak.

Dead Island takes place on the fictional Banoi, a resort/secret army/prison/Lost island.  At the start of the game, the setting is absolutely pitch-perfect as a resort town, with sand, beaches, and bungalows galore.  Zombies are shambling, bloody husks of their former lives, with blood soaked mouths and torn swimwear.  Nothing like seeing a groaning guy in board shorts come at you after your flesh, right?  This setting gets progressively worse, though, as you play through the game.  After the beach comes the shantytown where the locals all live – it’s a pretty close approximation to Jamaica, actually.  Resorts and crushing poverty, side by side, are an interesting juxtaposition and a pleasantly jarring transition into the island’s inner working.  But it’s all downhill after that.  Sewer stages present a long, uninteresting maze.  There’s some jungles, because hey – tropical island.  A research lab because why not!  And a prison/military base because of some left over art assets, I’m assuming.  It goes from great, to good, to absolutely bland within about 10 hours.  Not for a lack of trying, either – some strong, interesting premises get introduced, but are quickly forgotten or completely underutilized.  A plane going down in the beginning of the game, for example, leads to a long trek to its crash site – for the conclusion of setting luggage on fire.

The early stages of the game are quite pretty, as well.  Although Techland’s normal graphical hiccups are present, what with vanishing weapons and teleporting, hyper-aware enemies, the game looks nice.  Long vistas look like something out of postcards – and these are generally spots you can travel to, too.  Walking to the beach you can see from the top of a hill is something even open world games can rarely do – especially while keeping the integrity of the graphics intact.  Again, though, as the game travels toward the interior of the island, the long vistas vanish into a network of streets, or awful webbing of sewer pipes.  Really, can we be done with sewers in video games?  There are other underground structures in the world.  Something else that goes along with the graphics is that these wide-open spaces in the beginning of the game actually make Dead Island feel more zombie movie-like then the cramped sections later in the game.  In the beginning, there are only a few shambling idiots at a time – probably due to processing power taken up by the gorgeous views – and this actually adds to the atmosphere.  The early movies in the genre generally only had a few onscreen at any one time, focusing more on the danger to the individual rather then overloading the screen with a wall of walking corpses.  These pockets of danger lead to more fight-or-flight scenarios, rather then just equipping Zombie Stomper +3 and tapping R1 for ten minutes.

The graphics are also a bit goofy during cutscenes.  Even playing single-player, scenes will sometimes involve all four player characters, and sometimes one, and (a Techland special) sometimes none.  It’s jarring how you’ll be playing as an asian lady, when all the sudden BAM black guy.  Where’d he come from, but more importantly, where was he when you were being swamped by six Infected?

The Game of the Year Edition comes bundled with the pre-order DLC weapon schematic for The Ripper, which is the crazy pizza-cutter device from Borderlands.  This axe is helpful, but quickly outclassed by weapon drops you’ll find along the way.  The Bloodbath Arena is also included, which adds an area on the island for you to stomp around in – a wave based horde mode that is in basically every game released since Gears of War.  Finally, the Ryder White campaign adds a bit of story to the very end of the game, but is NOT co-op.  In a game that is otherwise entirely based around smashing zombies with friends, the lack of co-op in a very straightfoward shooter (in a game not designed to be a shooter) is awful.  The whole Ryder bit is entirely skippable.

Dead Island didn’t deserve a Game of the Year edition.  Name it something else, like “fully loaded” or “bundled” or something else.  But this was absolutely not the game of 2011.  It’s good fun for the first bit if you’ve got a friend or three, but don’t expect greatness from a developer who willingly releases festering crap.  It’s not a bad game, but it’s definitely not great.  If you can find the game cheaper without the DLC, it’s worth it.  But don’t shell out extra cash for weak DLC and a title this game does not deserve.

 

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Author: James View all posts by
Dangerously fat. Twitter: @hypersaline