Overall, DEAD ISLAND is quite an experience. Despite its oddities and glitches, the graphics are amazing, the zombies fierce and with enough variety to keep you on your toes, the backstory dark and realistic, the action exciting and often scary. I really enjoyed it.
The Pacific island of Banoi, with its resort area, city of Moresby and jungles, has been overrun by zombies. You wake up after surviving a zombie attack to find out that you’re immune. As a result, the survivors see you as an ideal person to go out and face the zombies and complete tasks such as getting supplies. This is the basic game: contacting minor characters, and completing quests for them. In return, they give you money, weapons and plans to modify your weapons to make them more powerful.
Speaking of weapons, most of the fighting is melee combat. You are punching, hitting and kicking zombies all the time. There are four characters to choose from, each with a specialty. I chose Sam, who is good with blunt weapons. Over time, you gain experience points and can spend them on capabilities. For example, my character Sam learned how to run into zombies and literally barrel them over–a very useful capability when you just want to pass through a crowd of slow zombies without fighting. You can even pick up bricks off of roofs and throw them down on zombies, throw propane tanks and make them explode, drive over zombies with trucks, throw Molotov cocktails that burn them up, grenades, and other specialty weapons. Note that if you use melee weapons they eventually break; you then find workshop benches to repair (and upgrade) them. When you learn “fury” mode, your character goes into a rage and can beat down almost anything in its path. Eventually, you start to pick up guns, which turn out to be easy to come by, but ammo is not. Make sure you get the ammo mods, so you can build your own shotgun, rifle or pistol ammo using metal scrap and bleach. Then aim for the head.
The setting is highly detailed and realistic. You will explore a resort complete with bungalows, large hotel, bars, light house, lifeguard station; a city complete with streets, church, rooftops, buildings, wharf, pump station, police station, city hall (my favorite); jungles complete with villages, abandoned vehicles; and more. You can’t interact with all objects, and many objects are fixed in place, such as beach chairs and sandcastles–my truck literally got stuck on a sandcastle and wouldn’t move–but after a while you simply accept this and go on your way. The maps are huge–it’s a big island, with tons of area to explore. As you explore different parts, you find new survivors, who give you new quests. Be sure to use your quest manager to help you manage multiple quests, otherwise it gets fatiguing keeping track of what you’re supposed to be doing.
The zombies are great, and you see them up close as you are often fighting them hand to hand. There is enough variety in both type and appearance to keep things realistic. Most zombies shamble, but some run at you. Some are super strong giants, others escaped insane criminals who charge you to knock you over, others bloated flesh sacks that explode when you get close. Sometimes you have to fight bandits who are exploiting the crisis, resulting in gun play. This game is not for the squeamish. It’s incredibly gory.
The minor characters have interesting quests and respond in interesting ways. A large survivor group splits, some going to one resort location and some to another, and they don’t like each other much. Sometimes they want you to get vital things like engine parts, transmitter, gas, food, insulin and other medical supplies. Often they want you to go somewhere and check on family members. Other times they want frivolous things; one woman wants champagne so she can stay drunk through the apocalypse, another is a little crazy and wants her favorite teddy bear she left in a bungalow, and so on. You sometimes find people out of their mind because they were forced to kill their friends and family to stay alive. You can ignore all but the central quests if you want, or you can do every quest you can find. There are literally so many quests you will play the game for many hours on each map.
Overall, I loved the experience, which was very immersive. The game is simply incredible in its scope, atmosphere, detail. You can tell the developers loved making this game. I felt like I was in a movie, without the game taking over my experience and actually becoming a movie. I really liked the way the survivors dealt with what was happening to them; they routinely beg, lie, freak out; your own character ends up doing not immoral things, but let’s say amoral, for survival and/or money.
That being said, the game has tons of little oddities and glitches that may irritate some players. For example, some survivors need to be escorted and protected, but have a way of running right into the zombies. When you enter a building and find a minor character, I found myself looting their possessions while they were talking to me. In one case, I stole painkillers and bandages out of the infirmary while the doctor was telling me he can’t treat a sick woman because there are no supplies! (Oops.) There are so many quests–with side quests spawning from major quests–that it can be difficult to manage all your tasks at a times, and the game sometimes feels like you’re watching every episode of LOST in a single weekend. By the end I felt completely drained–like I didn’t so much play the game as survive it.
I highly recommend playing the game single player before you play multiplayer. Overall, I found single player to be scarier, more immersive and much more fun than multiplayer games, where people tend to rush through things and it’s a lot less scary. Plus the other characters look kind of caricaturish to me–it was kind of irritating to look at them.
On a final note, while the game designers will be cleaning up the game’s many minor glitches (such as you build a bomb at a workshop bench, and the game makes you throw the bomb as soon as you come out of workshop mode, sometimes blowing yourself up), I would love to see them put in some random hordes as in LEFT 4 DEAD, at least when you’re playing in multiplayer mode. It would make multiplayer much more challenging to suddenly have to fight, run or hide when a random horde of zombies shows up. Just an idea.
If you like playing computer games, and love zombies, you’ll love DEAD ISLAND. Just take your time getting through it, accept that there are glitches, and make sure you invest a little extra time learning all of the game nuances as they can seriously enhance your enjoyment.