The Best Zombie Game Yet?
Dead Island is another in a recent trend of zombie games to come out in the 21 century. From movies to video games, zombies and vampires are competing for video media domination. In the video game world, zombies seem to be winning, while in the movie theaters and in home video playback, emotional, romantic, vampire movies and shows seem to run the ship. With quality zombie video games series like Resident Evil, and Left 4 Dead already around, does Dead Island stand up to the big boys of the genre?
Dead Island starts out like most zombie movies, only it takes place on an island instead of a city or the suburbs. In the intro movie, you see the settings through the eyes of a piss, drunk, man as he walks back to his hotel room. While this goes on, you get a brief look at all four main characters. Sam B on stage rapping his one-hit-wonder "Who Do You Voodoo?" An equally drunk Logan bragging about his past Football career. Purna whose dancing, but stops to teach the guy a little lesson. And finally, Xian Mei, whose helping a woman while the woman slowly turns into a zombie. I personally find myself watching the intro almost every time I start the game, something I don't often do in video games.
After the intro you choose between these four characters to start the game. Each one has well written detailed information about who they are, and how they ended up on the island. However, the game doesn't center around their personal life issues. It's the overall zombie hell that takes center stage. This doesn't mean the game lacks story. In fact, all the story elements you expect from a zombie movie are mostly intact in this game. This includes people desperate for help. Criminals who run wild and victimize the survivors, and much more.
The gameplay in zombie island is mostly focused on melee combat. The option to use guns become available after some hours in the game, but it doesn't replace the satisfying feel of chopping a zombies head off, or breaking the arms of a giant "Thug" leaving him only his head to work with. In fact, the guns are mostly used to deal with other humans. There is a strong Borderlands element to the gameplay, as every damage you inflict has a number behind it, and each enemy you deal with have different levels that become higher as your own level grows. Each character even has their own skill tree that is setup just like Borderlands. After gaining a level you get one skill point, which you can apply to three separate skill trees per character. Use them wisely, because the deeper you get into the game, the more challenging it becomes.
The similarities continue as you travel all over the beautiful island interacting with different people and completing missions for them. Like Borderlands, doing so gives you cash, experience points, and sometimes weapons and weapon mods. With weapon mods you can custom build your weapon to have an added affect. This ranges from adding the ability to set zombies on fire, to adding barbwire for an extra punch. You can also upgrade most weapons you find to its maximum use. Each weapon can only be used for a limited time, before they wear out. You can repair your weapons and use them again, fortunately. Stamina for each character plays a part in the gameplay. Every major action you take, from fighting to running, cost stamina. When stamina is too low, the characters are incapable of defending themselves for a few seconds, leaving them wide open to getting hurt.
Co-op is also part of the game, and it's done very well. In fact, the whole setup for the game is based on cooperative play. You and four friends can team up and go through the whole game together. If you're playing online with strangers, then you can only play with those at similar levels. The fact this game is very lengthy makes this one of the better co-op experiences out there.
The graphics in Dead Island are pretty good. The ill-fated island is beautiful with lots of details to admire while destroying zombies. The characters themselves look good enough, while some of them seem to have a cross-eyed problem. The zombies get the special treatment, as they have limbs you can target for destruction. You also have special zombie types that keep the game interesting. The sound is what you expect from a zombie game. Grunts, groins, and chaos happening all around you. The traditional horror music, only comes in during confrontations and dramatic cut-scenes.
Overall, Dead Island is a great game. At first there was a lot of bugs that needed to be fixed. Fortunately, the developers didn't waste time releasing patches to correct the problems. With it's great blend of Borderlands, Left 4 Dead, and Condemned, Dead Island just might become the most popular zombie game yet.