So… a luxurious holiday on an exotic tropical isle – sounds tempting, right? Wrong. With something so perfect, there’s bound to be a downside to this idealic getaway, and boy is it a biggie!!
Dead Island kicks off with you waking up in your hotel room after a night of partying. You are staying in the Royal Palms Resort on the luxurious island of Banoi. This untouched beauty is just off coast of Papua New Guinea and north of Australia – it boasts vast white beaches with crystal clear waters perfect for some scuba diving, or if that’s not for you there is ample forests for some hiking.
There are four characters for you to play as, all with different back stories, and talents.
Logan – A former American Football star who has ruined his career by taking part in a street race that went wrong, killing a young woman. When invited to the Royal Palms Resort he jumps on the chance to get away from everything that’s been going wrong in his life to experience the wonders of Banoi. Because of his history of football he is an expert in thrown weapons.
Xian Mei – Born and raised in China, she is a receptionist at the Royal Palms Resort. However this is just a cover act, she is an undercover Chinese police officer planted at the resort to spy on the rich and influential guests. Because of her training in China she is well-trained with knives.
Sam B – A rapper from New Orleans, who has only really got the one song “Who Do You Voodo?”. He was hired by the Resort to perform his song at the hotel party. He accepted knowing that this was his last chance to get back in the game as there would be some high-profile names at the resort. He is an expert with blunt weapons.
Purna – Former police officer for the Sydney Police department, who now works as a bodyguard for VIPs all around the world. She often is not hired just for skills but also for her looks, as wealthy men don’t mind showing up to events with her. Throughout her career she has had to put up with a lot of sexism and racism, as she is of Aboriginal decent. Her training with the Sydney Police department has made her an expert marksman.
Once you leave your room you being to notice that something has gone horribly wrong, carts with bags sitting stationary in the hallways and an emergency announcement being broadcasted over the PA system.
You can search through these bags to find items such as money, duct tape and other various items which can be used later on in the game. After a while you are contacted over the PA system, a voice trying to aid you. Instructing you to find a weapon so that you can fend for yourself. It is on your way to getting this weapon you first encounter the infected. As you make it into the maintenance room you are attacked and black out. You come back around with a man holding a baseball bat above your head, you have been rescued by some of the survivors.
At this point of the game you don’t really have any idea what is happening, all you know is that people have been infected and they want to eat you!
On top of the threat of the zombies, a monsoon is approaching the island and the hut that you’re in cannot contact anyone for help. So your first real quest is to secure a location that survivors can use as a safe zone, the main lifeguard station. This station can be locked down as to protect those inside from the infected as well as a stronger radio and antenna. This is a relatively easy quest and shouldn’t trouble you too much. In doing this quest you get the feel of the island, the gameplay as well as the music helps create an immersive world for you. The music is quite depressing which suits the situation that is happening.
The combat is heavily melee-based, with the exception of thrown weapons. I think this is a good thing, as it adds more of a challenge to the game. You can’t sit back and shoot them down as they run at you, you have to approach the situation more carefully. In addition to the close combat challenge is that physical actions drain your stamina bar, once emptied you cannot do your actions, as well as being knock to the ground easily.
But with that all aside, these encounters – and there are lots of them – are fun. Baseball bats, wooden planks and lead pipes are just some of the weapons you can use. But at the moment I am preferring the use of knives. After a while the weapons that you use start to deteriorate and break, they can be repaired at work benches scattered over the island. These benches also allow you to upgrade your weapons, and create new ones. Upgrading your weapons increase stats that they have, damage, force, durability and handling. There are four upgrade levels for each weapon, for each level upgraded the cost also goes up. Costs are dependent on the type of weapon, its “rating” and its required level.
The ratings of the weapons can be referred as their starting conditions. These conditions are Delicate, Flimsy, Fragile, Frail, Powerless, Reliable, Shoddy, and Weak. Each of these titles relate to the base values that they have.
Knives are fast weapons which are useful if a group of zombies decide to pop out of nowhere, which they love to do. Throwing a knife is an effective tactic when a zombie is running up to you as it stuns them for a little bit, allowing you to swap to another weapon and run up to take their head off (as we all know it’s the best way to kill a zombie). If you prefer to use blunt weapons that’s alright too, as these weapons may be slower but the pack a punch, letting you cripple limbs if you connect with them, thus rendering the would-be brain-feasters less dangerous. With all actions taking down your stamina bar, you are made to play carefully – you can’t go spiriting in waving a lead pipe around, you need to make every hit count otherwise you will be swamped in zombies and won’t have the strength to fight them off.
This game wouldn’t be an RPG if it didn’t have a levelling system. Everything is levelled, weapons, enemies and yourself. Each time that you level up you get a skill point to put into your skills tree. The tree has three branches Fury, Combat and Survival. The Fury branch lets you use the ability Fury which lets you target more than one zombie at a time for thrown weapons when you use it. The combat branch affects things like how quickly a weapon breaks down, and how much damage you can do. The survival branch is all about surviving, skills in this branch include ones that let you retrieve thrown weapons or lock picking.
The three most common types of zombies that I have bumped into in my explorations are Walker, Infected and Thug types. The Walker is the most basic of zombies, they are slow and relatively easy to kill. The Infected are much quicker than the Walkers, they will run at you and usually attack with a couple of others. The Thug is a beast of a zombie, this guy can knock you to the ground in one hit and will take a fair chuck of your health in the process! For these guys it’s sometimes best to sit back and throw things at them until they die.
The multiplayer experience is pretty cool, having people drop in and out of your game seamlessly was something that I had been looking forward too. The only downside with the multiplayer is that there is no local co-op play, only Xbox Live and system link.
In total there are 48 achievements which you unlock for doing various tasks. The majority of these achievements aren’t related to completing certain quests (however there are for completing acts) but more for killing zombies with weapon types and playing multiplayer with people.
The driving is pretty fun, I mean what’s not to like about the open road with no other cars around. Well, just because they’re not being driven doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. There are plenty of cars abandoned on the sides of the road and sometimes in the middle. Within the first few quests you are tasked on getting some parts to fix a car, once done you can use this vehicle whenever you please. And there is nothing more satisfying than running down a group of zombies and having them stuck on your cars bonnet.
All in all, Dead Island’s a worthy addition to a gamer’s collection. With the variety it offers I know that it’s only going to get better with each play through. The way the online experience seamlessly integrates is well done, and as all good games need, it comes with a generous serving of pure, unrefined fun. Plus if it wasn’t for the zombies covering the island it actually looks like a nice place that I would go for a holiday!