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Dead Island

By RubyStreams20-08-2012
Bobfish (editor)
Blankdoor (editor)

The Defence

Deep Silver
Action, Adventure, Role Playing
Release Date:
US 06-09-2011
EU 09-09-2011

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.66 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce 9600
AMD equivalent
4 GB
7 GB

The Case

After, possibly, the most touching, intriguing and dramatic trailers of this gen (maybe even all time) Dead Island held fairly high expectations . But, does this open world, first person, RPG, co-op, zombie killing simulator live up to those expectations...?

The Trial

Unfortunately, the trailer for Dead Island mislead the entire population of Earth. Dead Island is far from a genuinely emotional, deep, story driven game. In fact, the story and characters are more like something from a Grindhouse movie. This would not be a bad thing, as I love the cheesy B -Movie type films that get released (Planet Terror, Hobo With a Shotgun etc), however, as the trailer gripped me so hard, I expected something a bit more from the story and characters.

Set on the island of Banoi, your selected character (4 in total) wakes up in a hotel room, after a pretty heavy night out. Almost immediately the player is told to evacuate the hotel. It's soon apparent that the hotel has been overrun by the undead. After you are attacked and rendered unconscious, by one of the zombies, you are saved, and helped, by a group of survivors and you learn that you are immune to the zombie virus. From here the story takes you across the whole island, from the beach resort, jungles and swamps to a small city area.

To be fair, the story does have some decent parts, and sometimes the odd character crops up that you may start to actually care about, but on the whole it's, as I said, more B-Movie horror than thought provoking.

Where the game does shine, for me, is the gameplay. Dead Island focuses heavily on melee combat, mainly with sharp, pointy objects. There's nothing more satisfying than swinging a samurai sword at a zombie sprinting at you and seeing their head fly off their shoulders in glorious, blood drenched slow motion. The player will have the chance to use fire arms (pistol, assault rifle and shotgun are the only firearms that I personally encountered), but these turn up later in the game, and are just not as fun as the 'in your face' melee weapons.

No running by the pool.

No running by the pool.

Taking a page out of Dead Rising 2's book, Dead Island allows the player to create their own weapons. Throughout the island you will find (or be rewarded with) various "mod sheets" that, along with the correct components, allow you to build some pretty brutal weapons - nailed bats, deodorant bombs, electrified blades... the list goes on.

Now, just because you're tooled up with a fire axe hooked up to an electric current, doesn't mean you're going to slice through the undead with ease. Sure, you will be able to handle the typical "Walkers" with barely even a bead of sweat, but taking down some of the larger, stronger and generally, more pissed off zombies will require a bit more thought and power! Throughout the course of the game, you also encounter living enemies which I found to be very easy to take down. Perhaps a little too easy!

This is where the levelling system comes into play. With each quest completed and with every slice and dice you earn experience. This experience increases your level, allowing you to assign points to a variety of upgrades such as extra health, increased chance of a critical hit...the list goes on. The skill trees are pretty expansive and really give you the incentive to complete every quest and (attempt) to slay EVERY zombie you encounter.

Banoi is a real classy looking place.

Banoi is a real classy looking place.

During your time on Banoi you will be faced with a fair amount of backtracking. This would normally become a tedious task, however, random zombie placement and loot to pick up - including a variety of different collectibles, make the mundane backtracking bearable. Also, some locations require you to travel across the whole area so the inclusion of vehicles is a welcome one, not to mention the ability to fast travel to each location you’ve previously visited.

Dead Island's presentation is a mixed bag, ranging from great, to just downright poor. Stepping out onto the beach for the first time, looking out onto the blood soaked sand and glistening ocean is simply stunning. But, below average character models and indoor environments, shockingly poor voice acting (for the most part) and graphical glitches definitely overshadow the good things Dead Island, visually, has going for it.

Having said that, the sound, minus the voice acting, is spot on. Slowly walking through a dark corridor with your flashlight about to die, only for you to hear the ferocious growl of a zombie, that could be lurking anywhere nearby, really can give you the chills. Not to mention the sickening, crunching sound effects of a blunt object snapping the bones and tearing the flesh of the undead.

The Verdict

Despite it's shortcomings, Dead Island is an absolutely great game. Often terrifying and hugely enjoyable, especially with 3 friends, this is a must play for any zombie fan! The poor story, bad characters and voice acting may be enough to put many people off, but if you're able to look past these faults then you really should try out Dead Island.

Case Review

  • You Hear That?!: Fantastic audio. Really creates a tense atmosphere.
  • Level Up!: Impressive gameplay with a beefy levelling system.
  • You'll Never Die Alone: 4 player co-op and many collectibles will have you replaying Dead Island multiple times.
  • Trouble in Paradise: Often visually stunning, but at the same time below average
  • Bringing a knife to a gun fight: A plethora of melee weapons but only a handfull of firearms.
  • Like a Bad Movie: Below average story, acting and characters that become quite annoying.


Score: 3.5/5
Enjoyable zombie slashing. Inches from greatness!


Dead Island is a tough nut. In some ways I absolutely hate it. I loathe how disrespectfully the developers treated the PC-version of this game. Why the low FOV? Why the performance issues? Why the sluggish controls? What's with all the bugs? The CTDs? The connection problems?

...but then I look at the time I've clocked in Banoi Island. Steam tells me I've been playing Dead Island for 55 hours. I can tell you one thing, I don't play terrible games for 55 hours. Dead Island had lots of potential. Some of it was unfulfilled, but a lot of it surpassed expectations. Despite being very simple, the combat system was always challenging and intense. Teaming up to take one of the special zombies down is hectic and fun. Though the Co-Op didn't work perfectly, the mere fact that such a game had Co-Op to begin with deserves a huge kudos. Yes, the game has flaws. No, probably I wouldn't have been able to play the game for 55 hours without tweaking the .ini files - adjusting FoV and increasing performance. But damn it, Dead Island is so much fun! For each moment of frustration, there were ten moments of sheer joy. I think it's safe to say that I have never had so much fun hacking limbs off (albeit undead) people in my life. I really hope Techland pull their shit together for Riptide, and give us the proper PC port we deserve. If that happens, Dead Island franchise has a glorious future in store.

Score: 3.5/5


It's been a while. With a number of patches to address the initial problems, Dead island is still a little rough around the edges in places, and it's a shame that the tone ended up being so different from the initial reveal trailer. But Dead Island still ended up being a damned fun game. Visually stunning, with enormously varied environments and a respectable variety of enemy types, albeit the same, uhm, type. Sadly, you need at least one friend to play with before you can start to fully appreciate the game, which is a little disappointing, but hardly game breaking.

It clearly suffered for being put out prematurely, with some minor niggles that are almost certainly unfixable at this stage. But the effort put into making sure everything works the way it's supposed to, more or less, is obvious, and with Riptide soon to be release we'll probably see that full potential realised. A good game that fell short of its full potential, but still a bloody good game and one I heartily recommend.

Score: 4/5
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