Dead Island PS3 Review
Can You Escape Banoi?
Game of the Year Edition with all DLC
Welcome to Dead Island
A tropical paradise drenched in sun, picturesque views stretching as far as the eye can see, water lapping at your feet as you stroll across to the beach bar, parties until sunrise, cocktails and a beautiful sandy beach. Definitely no flesh eating zombies, plane crashes, poison clouds or general apocalyptic occurrences. Disclaimer: Actual holiday may vary.
With the sequel, Dead Island: Riptide out within the week, I thought I’d review the original before it comes out. Dead Island opens with a fantastic video of a party (with a very catchy original song being sung which will be in your head for sure) and essentially follows around a reveller as events start to unfold in a strange way. It goes from a crazy party to simply crazy. There’s been an unknown zombie outbreak and you are one of the four characters who doesn’t seem to be affected by zombie bites. Your only option is to fight your way off the island and escape the zombie hordes by any means necessary. As far as stories go, it’s fairly bare bones but sets up some intrigue as the game goes on and you’ll always have a few questions. Essentially the story is an excuse to go zombie hunting – pure and simple. You can pick from a choice of four characters at the beginning and then that is your character throughout. They each have their own back story and reason for being on the island but don’t expect the characterisation of a Bioware game.
The island itself is stunning and is a great setting albeit a heavenly place where hell breaks loose. It’s a very tropical feel and the environment is full of things you’d normally see on an island from washed up driftwood, whisky bottles lining the bars, discarded towels and typically Polynesian beach huts. You really feel like you’re on an island, in paradise... despite the blood and zombies. Yes, it’s a mature game so not for the kiddies!
If your only weapon against zombies was a hardback copy of ‘How to be more Assertive’ you’d be in a bit of a pickle. Luckily, you’ll find a much better arsenal on your travels.
Weapons – Dead Island Style
Each character has their own weapon speciality and stats which grants bonus damage with certain types of weapons. The four specialities are Guns, Throwing weapons, Sharp weapons and Blunt weapons. I opted for sharp weapons as had always thought the best way to kill a zombie was to chop their head off. – it turns out I wasn’t far wrong! I’ll go into a bit of detail about the various types.
Guns – Guns aren’t really heavily introduced until Act 2 (although they do crop up from time to time for the more resourceful of you in Act 1) but the odds get tougher and tougher so guns become a strong necessity. With choices from revolvers, pistols, machine guns and rifles and a few special ones, you won’t feel short changed when it comes to firepower.
Throwing Weapons - To be clear the character specialises in throwing weapons but pretty much every weapon can be thrown at the zombies. Molotov’s, knives, and various types of bombs are meant to be thrown specifically.
Sharp Weapons – These are anything with a sharp edge basically. Knives, sickles, swords, daggers, cleavers, machete’s are just some of the slicing and dicing options at your disposal. Sharp weapons have the superb ability of being able to slice off limbs with critical strikes. There’s nothing quite like managing to slice both arms off a zombie so he literally has to try and head butt you as an attack.
Blunt Weapons – Blunt weapons tend to have the most impact per hit in terms of force (other than a close range shotgun!) and feature such classics as a wooden paddle, baseball bat, claw hammer, sledge hammer, baton, tonfa amongst others. Blunt weapons specialise in breaking bones. Apart from the wincing crunch sound it makes, it renders some body parts useless and causes them extreme pain making them much slower. They are also good for knocking zombies over through sheer force to then be finished off on the ground.
Most weapons can be upgraded at work benches to a maximum of four times with cash scavenged on your travels. If this wasn’t enough you are able to customise weapons at work benches once you find certain mods or blueprints. Similar to Fallout in that you scavenge seemingly useless items that later on become very handy and perfect to strap to a wooden plank to make it ‘Wooden Plank of Death’ or something like that anyway! Customised weapons increase the attributes of the existing weapon and can even change its properties completely by adding fire, electricity or poison, each having their own debilitating effects.
Apart from the weapons you are also able to punch zombies if you don’t have a weapon and also utilise a rather nifty kick move to help keep your distance from oncoming zombies, unbalance them for a counter or completely floor them if timed right. Weapon attacks and your kick and punch use stamina and once your stamina is empty you have to wait for it to refill. This makes combat an even more tense affair than it already is as you can’t just spam moves – it would be too easy. Timing is important as each zombie is a threat in their own right and have to be handled differently.
Zombies in Dead Island
It’s good you have a variety of weapons as you’ll definitely be needing them. From your first zombie experience (which I found genuinely frightening/panic inducing) you’ll come across some very nicely detailed undead specimens. Old, young, fat, thin or slightly sunburnt – the game caters for all tastes of zombie!
As you hit them with various weapons they react accordingly. They buckle, flesh burns off, they bleed, you’ll see bone, they make insanely creepy noises – they feel as realistic as a zombie would to be honest. Some will move and shuffle in unexpected patterns forcing you to think about when to strike, others will let out a high pitched scream (I call them Screamers) and run full pelt at you as if they’ve just had 4 cans of Monster (Ha that worked out nicely!) and scare the hell out of me every time I hear them. Other’s are just brutes who barely move when you strike them and they have a long reach and hit hard, suicidal ones who explode if you get to near or even ones who spit poison. These are only a few.
As you play you'll earn experience points and every time you level up you'll be able to use slightly better weapons and also choose a skill from 3 different descending skill trees. Playing as Xian Mei (the sharp weapons expert) her skills trees were seperated between Survival, Fury and Combat. Survival included being able to pick strong locks on chests or increase the effectiveness of med kits. Fury gave her a limited mode once she had killed enough which makes her faster and more powerful taking down enemies with ease and variations on how long this would last or how much damage she did. Finally Combat specialised in finishing attacks or focussing on her bladed weapons skills such as more likely criticals, reduction in stamina with blades or bleeding duration on enemies. The tree is balanced and pretty much all of the upgrades are useful so you'll have to really choose carefully as how you want to play the game.
You'll get experience points through earning in game trophies, killing zombies and taking story quests and side quests. The quests themselves are really fun to do and can be anything from getting petrol from an infested petrol station to burn some of the dead zombies to stop more returning (lovely I know) to reactivating a satellite antenna to try and open communication lines. Everything relates to where you are and enhances the experience of surviving without any seemingly useless quests. You may also be rewarded with unique mods or weapons as rewards as well so definitely worth completing as many as you can.
All in all Dead Island is a surprisingly deep game and much longer than you would think it ought to be with varied environments, addictive and satisfying combat mechanics, killer atmospheric sounds and a lot to sink your teeth into. Like zombie games? New to zombie games? Have any recomnmendations? Let me know:-)