By JacobBrodersen 2 Comments
(Disclaimer: There will be spoilers to anyone who has never heard about zombies before, also; I’m playing the game on the PC and outside standard open world bugs and a little bit of co-op connection errors I have had a pain free experience, and lastly; I have not completed the game as if right now, I am neck deep in Act II)
This will not be something I’ll be doing very often, only when a game comes along that makes me really think about how games play.
Going into Dead Island I wasn’t sure what to expect, all the previews kept being on the fences whether or not the game would be any good, and when it finally came out it was blasted for numerous bugs, technical errors and severe launch problems. Which meant I was pretty much going in blind, but being a massive zombie dork I simply couldn’t resist, and unless it would literally kill my computer, I would give it my best shot.
And I was rewarded for my courage, because Dead Island captures something no other zombie game has before, the simple fact that if the zombie apocalypse were to happen tomorrow, I would be dead within minutes, and unless you; A. Are well prepared, B. In top shape, C. know your way around all types of weapons, and D. Have a Bear Grylls level of survival-in-the-wild knowledge, you will be too.
The reason we are afraid of zombies, and why zombie movies and books work is because they represent mindless conformity and brain dead consumerism. This works because we are outside of the situation and simply sit idly by and watch people try to survive the endless zombie onslaught, we can lean back and reflect on how we’d react, how inhumane we treat each-other during a crisis, and how man is always the ultimate evil.
For exactly those reasons, zombies do not work in video games, because games are supposed to immerse you in a situation, and when your only concerns include; how am I going to survive till tomorrow? how am going to survive for weeks, months, and possibly years? and finally, how are we, as a race, going to survive this whole damn nightmare? There is simply no time to reflect on how all this happened, nor the symbolism of zombies.
And survival is to be blunt, fucking hard, and here’s how Dead Island shows you this fact, and why its so great.
Zombies, even a single one, are incredibly dangerous!
Have you ever been in a drunken bar fight? Or at the very least, watched 2 people drunkenly fight each other for no reason what-so-ever? Then you’ll know that even without weapons, a single person can do severe, long lasting, possibly fatal damage to another! Now imagine that person not only drunk, but completely mindless, and not only wanting to hurt you, but right out want to kill and eat you, and you’ll have an idea how dangerous a zombie will be.
Yes, that single zombie will be slower than you, and you will have ingenuity on how to beat it, but you have something to lose, and the zombie does not, and most importantly, it will almost never be alone.
A good weapons a great, if you have one!
Take a look around your house, how many weapons do you have? A baseball bat? Some kitchen knives? Guns? A genuine deadly sword imported from Japan if you are really lucky? And more importantly; do you know how to use them properly? As in; how to kill a human being with them? If yes, then congratulations, but almost everyone will not, which means you’ll most likely find yourself flailing about with nothing more than a semi-sharp kitchen knife or a big stick from your backyard.
Dead Island captures this perfectly, most of the weapons you get for the longest time are paddles, shitty knives and the occasional hammer or wrench, and while they are definitely better than your fists, you are going to go down as long as there are more than 2 walkers, or god forbid, infected come storming at you.
Guns too are scarce, it’s not until more than 7 hours into the game that guns become more readily available, and even then, only from looters who will shoot at you mercilessly and at first sight. Using guns will not make you invincible either, and unless you had the forethought of not only picking the character with gun proficiency, but also specc’ed towards it despite the obvious advantages of the early melee weapons, guns will only be very situational, and mostly against OTHER people with guns!
Zombies are, even though dead, still made of flesh and bone!
My biggest complaint with all previous zombie games that have had melee weapons play a big part (I’m looking at you DR 1-2, L4D2!), is that the zombies seem to be made of minced meat. Every single sharp weapon you find cut arms, legs and heads off with the slightest of ease, and even the lightest club or hammer will crush bones and skulls with a single hit.
While Dead Island in this regard is not entirely realistic, its still way better as it takes several swipes from all but the best weapons to take off an arm or a head. This makes you really think about what weapons you line your pockets with, and when you finally get your hands on a machete or a big 2-handed hammer, you’ll cherish them like they were your children, and you’ll keep them as sharp and as robust as possible.
Speaking of which;
Keeping and eye on your tools will save your life!
If you’re an avid cook, you’ll notice that even your best knife will have to be sharpened every once in a while, and you are cutting nothing more than veggies and meat. Now imagine that same knife after cutting down a couple of zombies, that as mentioned before, are made of flesh and bone. This adds further tension to an already impossibly tense situation. That’s a good thing.
You will become stronger, wiser, and more experienced over time, while the zombies will stay the same.
That means that the very same zombies you fought at level 1, will be just as dangerous when you are level 15. This makes complete sense, because leveling up doesn’t mean you somehow magically get stronger, your weapons get sharper or the zombies become weaker. It means you get more accurate with your weapons, more knowledgeable about how to kill ghouls, and better at taking care of yourself. Dead Island reflects this nicely with your skill trees, and ups the ante not by making throwing endless amounts of flesh sacks at you, but just a couple more every once in a while, and the occasional special zombie to keep you on your toes.
The real enemy... is man!
This is of cause the classic story when it comes to Zombie tales, but I’m not talking about the looters, or the people who have snapped, and not even the inevitable soldiers/scientists/men in black behind the outbreak who are going to storm the island to try and wipe out everything resembling humans (I’m just guessing here, but I’m not going to be far off no matter what).
I’m talking about the “good” survivors, the ones who try to keep calm and survive the whole situation, they are the ones who are going to get you killed. They want food, weapons, and all kinds of other errands, and they are not going to go get them themselves, they want YOU to go get it.
Simply because you are immune to the whole zombification virus, you are seen as the sole person that can rescue humanity, and while it’s never explicitly said, it’s very heavily implied that if you don’t comply, they are going to kill you, or at the very least, shame you to death as the reason everyone will starve to death.
Another thing that is absolutely true, is that no matter how dire, there will be some people who think that everything will turn out just fine, and some time in the future, everything will revert back to normal and MONEY will once again be valuable, these people, just like in real life, will be sitting on the best weapons, the health kits and all the other valuable odds and ends. These people will demand that you buy their stuff at ridiculously high prices, and generally flinch you for everything you’ve got!
It’s a big bright world out there, filled with treasure, DON’T GO GET IT!
This is going to sound counter intuitive, but Dead Island gives you are really great reason NOT to go exploring it’s big open world. Not by making it empty, repetitive or boring in design, quite the opposite, each area of the map feels unique, and everywhere you go there are tons of loot to get.
But getting to those places, and back again will be incredibly dangerous, every time you set foot outside your stronghold, you will be at constant peril, and the risk/reward is always slightly tipped towards risky, unless you are really careful and experienced. The only reason you should leave your safe house is get closer to your ultimate goal of getting off the island, or because some other survivor offers really good incentive to do so.
I really love this game, it’s not without its faults for sure. But it’s the closest a game have ever been to capture the essence of being in the zombie apocalypse. It’s not about back story, it’s not about character development, it’s not about anything else than surviving an impossible situation, with everything that comes with it. Not everyone will play this game and like it, but for those who of us who loves zombies, and want to be put up against them without any irony, any psychological analysis of zombies, or any of the nonsense that comes with all other zombie games, will absolutely love it!
Thanks for reading this big ol' wall-o-text!
(note, will add pictures at some later point, can't be assed to do it right now though)