“Medic, play games with us!” my siblings say. I don’t get asked to play games often. Most of the time, it’s to play some party game, like Gangbeasts, or perhaps the Jackbox Party Packs if there happens to be other people around. Occasionally, we’ll play something else, but it’s often brief, or filled with technical issues. Finally, we’ll properly set foot in a game, and maybe we’ll complete the whole thing. I completed Saints Row 3 for a second time with sister LilSkully and completed Borderlands 2 with brother Smeghead.
Dead Island is one such game that the three of us managed to all install, get working and play together. It’s left some rather unusual tastes in my mouth.
First off the bat, weird opening tutorial thing. It’s pretty cool and atmospheric but it’s supposed to be a tutorial as well and kinda fails at doing that. Doesn’t actually tell you anything and cuts to cinematics for things like, uh, running down hallways. Felt weird and didn’t really set the mood, possibly because I didn’t get to experience any of the nice things the island would normally offer. Well, there was a party, but that was a cinematic introduction to the game in general.
But you quickly find yourself out in the real world. You’re saved by a bunch of people, who all realise that you’re not one of them, despite having been attacked and presumably scratched or bitten. You grab whatever you can find and start to make your way out there.
Your first mission is to clear a path to get everyone that has survived to a new safe house. It’s a simple mission, and the enemies along the way aren’t too numerous. Weapons are scattered around, and you can pick up a lot of stuff as you go along. A ton of stuff is lootable or pick-up-able, but most of it is, well, bits and pieces, hidden away inside luggage and rubbish bins. Once you clear out the new safe house, your adventure begins proper.
Except your adventure seems to be mostly fetch quests. There seems to be story attached to these quests, but yeah, it’s fetch quests, going to see if people are alive quests, escort quests, that same old same old. There’s even a quest to fetch someone’s insulin. You’re immune or resistant, so you’re now everyone’s whipping boy.
Dead Island does look really good though. It’s splendid to look at. The cross between the beautiful holiday island and an apocalyptic hell hole makes for an amazing theme. Alright, it’s unlikely that an apocalypse would happen while you’re on holiday, and most people can’t afford to go to a private island or whatever, but still, great contrast.
Well, most of it. NPCs are weird. Actually, zombies look fine, but living ones all seem weird. No one seems to have any real emotions in their faces. Their voices are alright, but everyone looks dead inside. Women are more problematic than men, mostly because they all look amazing… apart from their faces. I get that stress and panic make you look bad, but a lot of the characters look like elderly bodybuilders.
But the problem with Dead Island is clunky. Incredibly clunky. The HUD is clunky. The animations are clunky, the combat is clunky. I quickly worked out that aiming your weapons, melee and ranged, at the head were more efficient, but half the time my attacks would lamely hit the body. And we came across a ton of bugs, like the minimap not working, quests not turning themselves in, laggy coop and all sorts. Dead Island comes across as unpolished, even after all this time.
Kudos is deserved though, as it somehow manages to keep the game balanced regardless of enemies – siblings both managed to zoom to level 7, while I was still level 3-4, but enemies still scaled to both myself and them, with me seeing level 2-4 enemies and them seeing the same enemies scaled to 5-7. Which is definitely cool.
It’s a huge shame. Dead Island could have been THE Zombie RPG game. But it ended up being Zombie Skyrim, without the modding capacity for players to fix the game and make it amazing.
My recommendation? Get friends to play with you. Dead Island is lonely. Friends make all of Dead Island’s faults fun.