First Impressions: One Hour Into DEAD ISLAND

I love Zombies. It’s a pretty well known fact. As writer Max Brooks said, Zombies are the only of the great horror monsters that come for you. They aren’t hiding in a castle, the woods, or a laboratory. Zombies come and break down your door. I love zombie movies and can appreciate both the undead of the slow and sprinting variety. In video games however, I don’t have a good history with zombies. I love Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2, but other than that I haven’t found a good zombie game that I can really get into. Dead Zone, Resident Evil, and others have never been able to draw me in. With the recent release of Dead Island, I eagerly awaited what looked to be a truly interesting game. If you haven’t seen the trailer (in it’s forward or backwards version) than check it out below. It is graphic in nature and if you’re  easily upset, you’ll want to pass.

 

The trailer made Geoff from Rooster Teeth & Achievement Hunter visibly upset and he refused to watch it in it’s entirety. (Side Note: Even though a little girl is turned into a zombie in the trailer, the game does NOT feature child zombies!)

 

 

After my first hour into Dead Island I found myself enjoying certain aspects of the game, but I was noticeably underwhelmed with other parts. The game’s graphics at time remind me of arcade games I used to place when I was in middle school. Cutscenes are inconsistent in how they look, sometimes featuring better quality graphics and sometimes just featuring the same models as during gameplay. Even in the game when you talk to other characters, they usually don’t even look at you. Their eyes float around the screen looking at nothing, or they don’t look at you at all. It takes away a bit from the story and made me kind of wish I was going solo as opposed to helping these lifeless tourists. Gameplay itself takes on a more “realistic” tone than I was expecting. Melee weapons breakdown over time and become unusable along with food and medkits thrown around the map for you to find. However, when you find said food around the map, you have to pay for it. Please explain to me why I’d have to pay $1 for an Energy Drink that’s sitting in an abandoned beach house on a zombie infested beach?

The controls are a bit tricky if you’re used to Left 4 Dead controls. R1 is your main offense button with L2 being your kick button that sends the zombies stumbling backwards. R2 brings up a pinwheel that allows you to quickly pull up weapons and usable items. The problem with the pinwheel is that it’s touchy and I spent more time attempting to pick items than I should have. The pinwheel doesn’t pause the action either, so wasting time just leaves you vulnerable to attack. One thing I do like though, is that “scare factor” the game brings. With bodies sort of thrown everywhere across the levels, you never quite know which ones are “dead dead” and which ones are “undead” until they start to groan and move. If you have surround sound I imagine it being quite creepy as you turn to that direction to face the walking dead. In my case though it just meant spinning in circles trying to find the source of the sound.

Dead Island has several different zombie types including Walkers, the typical Romero zombies that stumble around. Easy to beat one on one, but in numbers they can easily overpower you. There’s also sprinters, not they’re technical name in the game but what I refer to them as, zombies that will run across the map in your direction and often slam into you and knock you down. Other special infected include zombies with names like The Butcher, the Suicider, The Thug and the Floater. Dead Island seems to incorporate what works from other Zombie games like Resident Evil and Left 4 Dead and makes it their own.  The Stamina bar in the game means you can’t sprint the entire way across the map, having to stop and regain your breath. Swinging melee weapons also brings down your stamina, meaning you have to move around a bit while striking, to keep from being stuck with no stamina in a corner with the infected on top of you.

One thing about the game I did like was it’s “death” system. When you’re knocked down and out the game brings you back a short distance from your previous location. In my case, it meant I had no more medkits or anything like that, but I didn’t have to start all the way at the beginning again. It was nice and kept the game from being frustrating as I attempted to get used to the controls, layout and my undead enemies. Overall the game is expansive with a huge map to explore and what already has me intrigued as a very in depth mystery that I’m sure will be uncovered over time. There even seemed to be a LOST joke as I heard an Oceanic flight over a radio going down and crashing into the jungle.

Another of the games strong points is it’s characters. With four very different characters to choose from, every game is likely to be a unique experience. Before you even play a minute of the game, you’re given a rich backstory for the character you chose. In my case I picked Sam B. A one hit wonder rap star with a song called “Who Do You Voodoo, Bitch?” that is expertly voiced by what sounds like Phil LaMarr. You’re told where they come from, how they got to be on the island and what their motivation is. Unlike the Survivors from the Left 4 Dead series, you are really given a chance to connect more with your character as they go out into the world of the walking dead. Though I haven’t had the chance to yet, Dead Island offers a co-op feature where you can play through the game with friends (up to 4) as long as they are at the same point, or earlier, in the game.

One Hour in and I’m unsure as to whether I’ll end up loving Dead Island, or quickly trying to trade it in. It has enough of my interest to bring me back to play more, but it leaves me apprehensive as to whether I’m wasting my time. First Impressions are everything and Dead Island, I just don’t know if we’re going to get along or not. But I’m willing to give it a shot.

PETER loves zombies. Mmmmm brains…. 

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