Here's a question for you. What's the most important thing you'll need in a zombie apocalypse? Is it a weapon or a medkit? An ability to run really fast? Perhaps even an immunity to the infection, if that's what's making people 'go zombie' like it is here in Dead Island?
No, the most important thing, if you're stuck on the made up island of Banoi is to have loads and loads of cash, because it can do anything. Money can repair your broken weapons, it can provide an incentive to get you to go out there and find things for others and it can also resurrect you when you do get taken out by the undead.
Dead Island runs on the dollar and people are gree-f**king-dy. $2,000 for a Dependable Baseball Bat? In a time of crisis? Something seems wrong here. Surely the person everyone seems to be depending on to save them shouldn't have to buy the weapons he or she needs to survive? Wouldn't they just give them up in their own best interests? Or at least trade them so they still have something in case they get attacked?
Anyway, enough of that. For those who are unaware, this is an open world game set on a tropical island that's undergone an unexplained infection that's made 99% of the inhabitants develop a penchant for groaning, eating human flesh and given them the ability to respawn after a few minutes.
You are immune to the infection and therefore are one of the few people who are able to venture out from the safe zones and into the wild. If you've got cash, you can also respawn at a loss of a few bucks here and there. (I'll be honest here and say I don't know what happens if you die with no cash on you, as it hasn't happened to me).
After waking up in the island's main hotel and ransacking a load of suitcases found piled up in the hallways, you eventually find yourself on the beach saving the buttocks of a Maori man, who's your first primary quest giver. From here on in, Dead Island becomes sort of like a cross between the recent Fallout games, Borderlands and Left 4 Dead (as there's four player campaign co-op).
Each safe zone contains a variety of characters who want you to do something for them in return for a weapon or a bit of cash. Sometimes the missions are important and require a lot of trekking, sometimes they just involve – no jest here – fetching a teddy bear from a holiday hut. Like in Borderlands, you're constantly getting weapons and only have a limited number of slots in which to stash them. It's arguable whether you get too many too often, meaning it's pointless spending all the cash you have on a new one, as 10 minutes later you'll probably pick a better one up off a corpse.
They do break very easily though, meaning you've either got to spend money to repair your favourite meat cleaver or just chuck it away and get something else from the hundreds scattered about the place (usually crappy one, to be fair). If they get damaged, they don't hurt the enemies so much. In a nice little touch, they also get all bent and cracked the more they're used.
In fact, Dead Island is full of nice little touches like this, although it's also full of curious little issues like, when playing as a lady (or just going solo), you're often referred to as a male or in the plural. In a game of genuine scope (the playing areas are huge and there are a number of sectors to explore on the island) it's natural that there be anomalies like this, though.
As for the nice touches, the sonic atmosphere is probably the most noticeable. It's really quite excellent at setting the scene using audio, with bird calls, lapping waves and so on, plus a bewildering array of comedy accents from the NPCs. Think of a relatively widespread accent and it'll be in here – Irish, Aussie, generic American, Chinese, Jive (Airplane joke there, reference fans), they're all here.
Thing is, it's no good having loads of quests, great atmosphere, colourful visuals and all that business if your actual meat and potatoes are rotten, though. Thankfully, while it does get occasionally repetitive – the one main problem with the game, actually – the combat itself, what you'll be spending most of your time doing, bar exploring, is solid and often spectacular.
Get a headshot and a zombie's head will split open like a melon. It's even possible to lop the arms off one of the annoyingly tough Thug zombies and watch him try to bite you, Python-style, while waving his stumps about. We laughed.
But yes, it can get repetitive, especially if you're the sort of person who wants to complete all the side quest and explore every bit of the game. If you are like this, you'll spend hours and hours in here, so there's no question of it lacking stuff to do. It's how you deal with the relatively repetitive nature of the tasks that'll determine how good you think this is.
Thankfully, the colourful landscape, the four player co-op that adds a new dimension to the play, the wonderful sonic atmosphere, huge playing area and so on, all of this makes your reviewer here quite happy indeed.
The inventory system might be awkward, the excessive looting of suitcases, bins and such might get boring, the obsession with money might make no sense – but it doesn't matter, this is still a game that may have suffered some controversy, but is compelling to play. It's just how about whether you can handle the repetition or not, really. If you can't, it might be worth steering clear or trying it out first.
- Creates a really good atmosphere
- Four player co-op
- So much content...
- ...but this might be a problem if you get easily bored
- Co-op sometimes suffers from animation frame loss
- Awkward inventory
The Short Version: Despite its many detractors, this is a surprisingly impressive open world zombie-battering experience. Well worth investing in if you liked Borderlands and Fallout.