By Derek Sweet
Are you sick of zombies yet? Seriously, this isn’t the first time we’ve had this chat. Why do we love killing zombies?
Clearly it’s a base desire to kill random everyday people, the guy who cut you off on the highway, or the teenage fast food clerk with the shitty attitude. We all want to indulge in rampant murder but our Judeo-Christian ethic requires that they be turned into mindless monsters first. Yay! for zombie games to fill that psychopathic void!
Dead Island did it differently, though, and did it well. I’m a big fan of this game despite the fact that I am on zombie overload. Zombie game after zombie expansion has dominated the market these past few years, but Dead Island rises above them all with a unique experience.
The year is still young, but this is my favorite game of 2011 thus far.
The game plops you down into the middle of a zombie infestation on a remote island. You literally wake up in a resort hotel room, hung over, and everything has gone to shit overnight. You start searching through baggage for money and supplies, anything that you think might help. There are few survivors and little indication what needs to be done. You are on your own.
Unless you’re playing co-op, in which case you’re almost on your own. The entire game can be experienced with up to 3 friends for a fantastic co-op romp across zombie isle.
I’ve heard people say that this is a Left 4 Dead clone, which absolutely baffles me. Despite the presence of zombies and the fact that there are 4 heroes to choose from, there is little other similarity to be found.
This is a hardcore zombie RPG, plain and simple. Take Dead Rising, give it a first-person perspective and sprinkle a dash of Fallout, and you’re getting closer to what this game is like. That still doesn’t quite describe it, though. It stands on its own as a very unique game, one that you won’t forget for some time.
OK, that’s enough Dead Island worship; let’s talk about what it did wrong. The game is a little buggy, more so than most for sure, but it doesn’t’ ruin the fun by any stretch of the imagination.
In my entire 23.5 hour experience I got stuck in one room by an invisible wall a zombie kept trying to break through, and I was directed into walls or inoperable doors a few times while on the jungle level. That was it. Not exactly a rampant amount of bugs, but still it held me up for a few minutes each time and made the game come off as not being polished.
The map could be improved as well, but it wasn’t too horrible. It made it easy to find objectives and see quickly what a specific set of icons that are too bunched together represent.
A very prominent complaint I’ve seen in the media about this game is that the combat is rough and clunky which all I have to say to that is: You’re a n00b.
With a couple hours practice I could easily decapitate a zombie running at me full tilt, and each type of zombie required a slightly different approach to tackle, which I loved. As far as first-person melee combat goes, this is the best I’ve ever seen.
Crafting is fantastic in Dead Island and marks the first game where I’ve taken it very seriously. I anxiously looted anything I could just to find the right components that would make my machete electrocute targets on critical hits. Not even an MMO has made me want to craft as much as Dead Island.
The story is not exactly Oscar winning material, but frankly it did a great job in filling in just enough blanks for you to tell your own story in your head. This is one of the key skills required to enjoy a role-playing game: The ability to role-play. Dead Island did a great job in making you feel like you were writing your own story rather than just watching a movie, despite having a well-structured central plot.
I suppose you’ve heard enough; I could talk for hours about this game, but we’ll leave it there.
Is Dead Island a perfect game? Far from it, but I implore you to put originality above production value when choosing where to spend your gaming dollar.
You can support games that played it safe and gave you an experience you’ll forget in a month, or you can support games like Dead Island that take a risk and deliver on it.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Markham began his journalism career writing columns in the mid-1980s for Western People Magazine, then reported for a small Saskatchewan daily. He has spent most of his career in media and communications, likes to dabble in politics, was actively involved in economic development for many years, thinks that what goes on in the community is just as important as what happens provincially and nationally, and has a soft spot for small business (big business, not so much). Markham is a bit of a contrarian and usually has a unique take on the events of the day.