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Developers: Techland
Publishers: Deep Silver
Plot: A zombie outbreak starts up in an isolated vacation island, with four survivors being established as immune and perhaps the only chance anyone has of making it out of the hell they are trapped in.

Dead Island became so close to becoming the perfect zombie game. It boasts a good talk. An open world environment, with a skill tree set-up, allowing you to mould one of four playable characters into your personalised zombie survivor. As fun as it is to guide Chris Redfield or Lee Everett across a zombie landscape, deep down, you want a game to actually let you play yourself, testing your own resolve in an apocalyptic environment. Rather than a fixed storyline, it plays out more like a condensed version of Skyrim; you have the option to break from the storyline and simply help out some of the other survivors if you are in no rush to get to where you are going. Sadly, Dead Island is nowhere near as good as you want it to be, which results in a hit-and-miss gaming experience.

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I won’t go into intensive detail over what the major flaws are, because I already covered this a year ago on another article, where I even go as far as suggesting how these problems can be fixed, but there are plenty of things here to just annoy the hell out of you. One are the hollow characters. The four leads are a bunch of clichés thrown together and while I guess I wanted my own personality to slip through, the characters we are stuck with playing are frustratingly annoying. There is one unforgettable moment near the start of the game, when you wander over a hill and see a beautiful view. It is one of those breath-taking moments we get with gaming now, when we can simply stop and admire the scenery. In fact, it is kind of important to the story of the game itself, because it is meant to mourn the passing of a beautiful location. And your character, if you are playing Sam B, the black guy rapper (oh one more thing, Dead Islands doesn’t do racial politics), announces “Like a motherf*****g postcard!” It kills what could have been a sweet moment. Other things just aren’t as polished as you want them to be. Sure, you might upgrade your character, so he can take on the zombies he never used to be able to face off against, but then the game makes them evolve with you. There is never any point where an old level becomes safer, because we are always struggling to take down even the minor enemies. This seems counter-intuitive of a skill tree game. There are also moments in the midway point of the game, where there are just too many zombie enemies to wade through. The city levels will drive you to the breaking point when it comes to frustration. Believe it or not, beating a zombie around the head with a crowbar does get old after a while.

But Dead Island is a game that somehow earns itself forgiveness. Why? Well, as I said above, deep down, it is still that open world zombie game we have been waiting for. We still get to just roam an open world landscape (and no one can deny the beauty of the graphics), and just carve out our own zombie adventure. The sub-missions are balanced nicely with the main quest and even if they are simplistic in design and often handed to you by one-dimensional characters, it does the trick of making Dead Island feel bigger than it actually is. There are enough interesting set-pieces to keep the game alive in its dying moments. As much as I can sit here and list everything it has done wrong, overall I rather enjoyed playing this one. It is the kind of game that I will be having a blast with, until I stumble across something that just makes me roll my eyes. A terrible checkpoint system, a glitch that helps me cheat my way through a boss battle, the terrible acting getting in the way of what is supposed to be an emotional death scene (Resident Evil all over again, people!)… but does the occasional sigh of exasperation equal a bad game? Dead Island is a half-finished work, but with the sequel coming out soon (there is a spin-off, Riptide, which I never got around to playing), we can hope that there is life in this franchise just yet. Oh, one more thing. The ending is terrible. It is the kind of closing note that you cannot actually believe just happened. I am not going to spoil it for anyone, but prepare yourself for a raised eyebrow as the final credits hit.

Final Verdict: Dead Island is full of mistakes and face-palm moments, but it is fun. Annoyingly, it is rather hard to condemn.

Three Stars

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