There was a lot of hype surrounding Dead Island before it was released – the now famous trailer of the family battling the hoard of Zombies in their hotel room was one of the best looking and attention-grabbing trailers we’ve seen in a while. Promises of non-stop Zombie killing action on a tropical island with 3 friends using modified weapons from left over items on the island is so exciting and Dead Island was looking a bit too good to be true…
Dead Island game review Xbox 360 PS3 PlayEject
We had preconceptions of what to expect from Dead Island. We had expected a good looking game with shallow game play and a dodgy storyline where 3 other friends could join you for a Zombie bash-fest. We were partly right. Dead Island does look good – from the detail in the main characters and environment to the blood splatters and the odd blood-stained markings on the various walls. The story is a bit loose – no real explanation to how a Zombie outbreak started on Banoi is given but in some way, that just adds to the mystery and excitement.

You start off picking your character from one of 4 ‘immune’ survivors to the Zombie curse where one bite turns you into the undead with a sun tan. We opted to play as Xian Mei, a hotel employee who is skilled in sharp objects! Each character has their own specialist skills ranging from blunt objects, throwing objects and guns. As guns are bit too obvious, we thought the up-close and personal approach with something long and sharp was a good idea.

The story is the same no matter who you play as – a bit of a negative for replay value but then the missions kicked in and the scope of Dead Island and the size of Banoi kicked in. Starting off on the first of 3 large maps, we had to rescue the lifeguard from a small group of zombies. After doing so we were rewarded with his eternal friendship and some xp to help towards a level-up. Talk to some of the survivors in the nearby shack and there’s a few more missions to complete alongside the main quest. Completing each mission earns various rewards from weapons to cash to trade items or even mod plans so you can upgrade your favourite weapon to a certain specification.

The more of Dead Island we played, the more it felt like Fallout – travelling here and there to help folk to upgrade and find better weapons and unlock new areas. There’s definitely a few other games’ ideas thrown into the Dead Island mix. Aside from Fallout, there’s the weapon collection/upgrade concept like Borderlands has (constantly comparing what you have to the alternative for different perks) and the obvious Zombie-related games of Dead Rising and Left for Dead (for the zombie hoard versus one player and the co-op, respectively).
Dead Island game review Xbox 360 PS3 PlayEject
The mix of those games ties in well to produce one rather large and pleasing game which allows the freedom to roam around the various maps while keeping the players interested in the story and concept by adding various Zombies and quests that need to be completed to keep you going further.

The Zombies themselves provide that all-important fear factor, especially when in a tight space or when your weapon is splintering into pieces and not dealing as much damage. The wails of the Infected before they run toward you can be terrifying if you are low on health and a bit lost but they are nothing compared to the sight of a Ram Zombie charging at you with nowhere to hide!

But it’s not all perfect – some of the cut scenes are generic and show the full 4 members of the playable characters even if you are playing on your own; the supplies that can be looted from the island are replenished far too quickly which takes some of the fun and sense of achievement out of it when you find something you need to make a decent mod weapon; and after a while, it gets fairly repetitive – bashing Zombies to help people who are too dim to help themselves only to gain a few xp points – but isn’t that what some people said about Fallout?
Dead Island game review Xbox 360 PS3 PlayEject
The levelling up system is fine – reaching the next level allows you to add a bonus to your characters skill set – from being more dangerous with their weapons to unleashing a powerful rage attack to clear house on the mass of Zombies, etc. Also you can modify and upgrade your weapons using carefully located work benches. Hand over some cash to – er, the Work Bench! – and you can fix your weapon, upgrade it to make it deadlier or, if you have the right blueprint and parts, modify it to a certain spec – our favourite so far is the shock mod to our Machete – not only can we slice and dice but any non-fatal hits will now electrocute the Zombies as well!

By far, Dead Island is a good game – it might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it ticked a lot of boxes for us. We are expecting some more online features in the future to add to the drop-in online co-op mode which would really help Dead Island stand out a bit more. There’s simply no other feeling that having an Infected hurtle towards you and you take off its head with one well timed swoop with a nice sharp blade, seeing it crumble helplessly to the floor leaving you to admire the view from Banoi beach!

Dead Island game trailer:

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