Welcome to my Dead Island review. Is Dead Island what we have all been waiting for? A scary survival horror, first person shooter, ass-kicking bloody action and mellow drama experience? Find out below.
First, a small explanation. Except for the weird, boring main goals you have to do in order for the story to proceed, you can complete side-quests that reward you with XP and other items. When you have enough XP, you level up and earn one skill point that you can spend on different, useless, abilities like increasing the damage sharp weapons cause, or reducing the stamina you spend while wielding them but whatever ability I chose, my character had the same HP. After a while I started to notice enemies were getting harder to kill. They level up as much as you do but they become much more stronger than you because while you choose one or two useless crappy abilities, they get higher attack and insanely high HP. So, two “walkers” that were a joke while you were level 1/2, will now brutalize you. The RPG elements are completely broken and to be honest, the less you level up, the better and this is something I deeply regret because seriously..the more you level up, the worse? Fortunatelly this doesn't take away the hunger for XP, although I am level 30 and don't really know where to spend my skill points :|.
Now let’s take a look at co-op. I played for a couple of hours and didn’t experience any frame drops or any other problems except for the annoying, irritating, ear-bleeding sound of other player’s mics on my headphones and there was no way to disable their mics. I had my mic disabled and I could still hear myself talking, which is, if I may, freaky. How is that possible? Anyway, you join other players and you can complete other quests with them. Forget about other player's mic and this is one of the best Co-Ops ever. The co-op fits perfectly in this genre of games. I have been playing with a couple of friends I made and I'm having a bloody good time. The game also features a text chat, which, for some unknown reason doesn't work if you're using the XBOX 360 pad. If you have a mic, this isn't a problem.
About the quests, some of them are just ridiculously stupid while others are oddly confusing. A couple of times I had no idea of what I was doing. Some of the side-quests are repetitive and aren't really worth the troubles, but if you are a XP hunter like, you'll do every one of them. There hundreds of quests in the game and hundreds of gameplay hours to waste on them so Dead Island is not the kind of game you complete on 2 days.
Some of the monsters/zombies are really hard to kill which makes the game a little frustrating when playing alone. Face two or more Infected enemies and you're done for. However, at a certain point, you unlock by spending skill points, what can be considered as a limit break but was called fury instead - your character becomes crazy and depending on his special weapon, slashes/shoots every monster out there like crazy and becomes stronger against enemy attacks. This can be very useful when facing large groups of enemies or facing special stronger enemies like the Thug, a big human with a lot of HP that swings his arms around and kills you with 3 hits. It's also what makes the game somewhat playable on single player. I mean, let's face it, you don't really die, you only loose cash and all your weapons and alike are revived with you, as is whatever progress you made, but who wants to spend his game mostly dying? I don't.
Other than the constant deaths while on single player, there are numerous bugs to be found - some may even prevent you from continuing and require a reload. I remember I was driving a big truck to a mechanic's office and had to kill all the zombies that were around the office so the story could continue so I decided to drive the truck around and kill everyone with it until I ran over a zombie that magically got into the office. So, there he was inside the office. I couldn't kill him because the door would not open unless I killed him. Confusing right? That and sometimes you need to get a certain point of the map, which you are kindly guided to, until you reach a wall and you can’t get to the other side (1). So the map doesn’t take in count obstacles, it’s like they’re not there at all. Don’t be surprised if you have to cross through walls to get to where you want. Sometimes, enemies also pop up out of nowhere. I believe this is because of the spawning but it could be avoided. Other times enemies pass through doors or climb stairs just by running towards them, again, magically. All these issues don't really take away any of the fun and make a good laugh while on co-op.
Some of the weapons like knifes (mostly sharp weapons), become unrealistically useless. Use your knife and after a while, it doesn’t break, but it starts to do ridiculously low damage, as if doesn’t cut anymore...as if it lost its sharpness. You can create some really cool weapons like shock machetes that electrify the enemies or poison axes that, well, poison them with the loot you hunt out of dead bodies but mostly by searching certain objects scattered through the game.
Fortunately, though with impressive visuals, Dead Island doesn't require a powerful rig (2). However, the visual quality is very uneven. Sometimes characters look really weird and badly designed. I have also came across what can be addressed as screen tearing on one of the cut-scenes.
The characters and NPCS are forgettable and each time I entered a cut-scene I did not skip it, but the thought did cross my mind a lot of times. At a certain point I was sort of lost because the quests are mainly being other's slave which leads to a forgettable, uninteresting, story. It's not like you are out there trying to save your wife and kid and then one of them dies or something. And you know what? Thank god. All the quests that involve protecting or escorting someone are a pain in the ass. The AI is awful in this game. First, whoever your protecting or guiding will throw himself at large enemies of zombies and when you die and are being revived a couple of meters away, he will just stay there until a message saying "Quest Failed" appears on the screen. Meh.
Dead Island has some pretty scary moments like when you are running from enemies and about to die and the sound effects are amazing and scary enough to build a tension, even though you know you will be revived anyway. Dead Island could have been a drama or have had some drama and that my friends is really missing here because it's very hard to get attached to the story and the characters without it so you'll complete quests for the XP hunting and not for the story progression.
Dead Island is meant to be played on co-op mode. I cannot find anything good about the single player mode. If you can, play it on Co-op. If you can't, forget about Dead Island. In any case, do try to get out there and find some friends to play with on co-op and trust me, you'll have a bloody good time. The high price is something that takes away 0.5 or 1 point of the final score of Dead Island but it still deserves a 7.5. Dead Island is good (3).
1) Go here to see a video showing what I am talking about.
2) I played on maximum settings with an average of 50 FPS and some frame drops on some parts. Weaker rigs have a great shot at Dead Island and stronger rigs will handle it like a charm.
3) A good (7.5-8.0) game is not really worth 50 euros. If you are on a tight budget, wait for price drops or else you might end up regreting your purchase or you might address the game in a wrong way, like I did in my first review.