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July 10th, 2012, 20:02
Dead Island
Dead Island is the second first-person action roleplaying game dedicated for Co-Op that I know (the other is Borderlands). So is it any good?

Banoi Island is a resort for the rich and famous but also the four heroes you can select between as your character throughout the game. After a night of wild partying you wake up in the middle of a zombie outbreak. After getting bitten but rescued it's revealed that you are somehow immune. For the rest you become their only hope. That means you are go out there to find food, transportation and you know, the stuff survivors need during a zombie outbreak. Soon enough you get in contact with an unknown man over the radio who promises you help to get off the island, but you have to reach him first which is difficult since he's pretty much on the other side of the island.

I have to make a specific mention of the quests in DI. While they are no shakespeare, they feel more like you are actually helping someone than in Borderlands where you simply pump a terminal. Each quest is delivered through actual dialogue here.

I did finish the DLC for the game as well. The story driven one that is (I will not mention it's name here, look it up after finishing the main game). I recommend all of those who played the base game to the end to grab it. It gives you a very different perspective on both the game and the ending.

Engine: Graphics & Sound
Dead Island is optimized for consoles so the graphics looks a bit dated on PC, but it makes up in detail. The sandbox maps are mostly handmade which makes each section feel unique. You can often navigate simply at looking at your surroundings without looking at the map. This isn't true in the entire game however and sometimes you have to rely on the minimap to find the way. The games damage system is particulary unique, DI might just be one of the goriest games out there. Prepare to see heads and limbs chopped up, broken, squished and bodies burnt to crisp.

The audio deserves an extra mention. This is one game you benefit from having surround speakers. Each zombie have a very distinct sound and you can just by listening extract a lot of information from each area. Normal zombies, "walkers", are the most common opponent in the game and whenever you hear more than their growls you need to be careful because one of the tougher zombies are nearby and you do not want to get close. Not only that, but this is a Beat-Em-Up game in first person. That means you can't see what's behind your character, but you can hear. I could plan combos, hack two zombies in front of me and a third behind me in a fluid motion simply by detecting the zombie behind me through sound.

There's a lot to speak about here. If you have ever played Borderlands before you can imagine a Beat-Em-Up borderlands with weapon customization and stronger NPC interaction. If you haven't played Borderlands then do so first, because Borderlands I would say is a better game. Unless the zombie theme attracts you more.

Dead Island is an action roleplaying game. The roleplaying mechanics here is pretty much what you would get in Diablo; a selection of 4 different characters/classes, each with a couple of skilltrees, many ways to earn experience points and on top of that randomized looted weapons.

The characters follow your old formula, a tank who can take more punishment, a glass cannon who's squishy yet deadly, a firearms specialist and a throwing weapon specialist. The four characters have a stronger background and sometimes during the plot this gets important, but no not expect yourself to feel much for them. Specialization isn't that interesting really, think for a moment and you realize that most of their skill trees are crap and you get enough points to buy all the skills you like until the end of the game.

There are a lot of weapons in the game. Each type comes in various appearences and with special qualities. They are colored in white, green, blue, purple and orange which means that they are better than average. Weapons also improve in levels and you want a weapon close to your own level unless it's colored. Weapons can also be upgraded to be stronger, faster and more durable. They can also be upgraded with mods such as adding electricity damage or fire damage. Weapons also decay, so you have to repair them a lot. This is actually one of the games flaws, since you have to repair so often you are cycling through 3-4 at a time, this and since you need to upgrade weapons to your level all the time you never get the "beloved weapon" feel. Later in the game you get firearms. They do not decay but bullets are few outside areas filled with bandits who use firearms themselves. Beyond melee and firearms there are also a lot of throwable weapons such as molotovs and grenades, some of these you can build yourself.

Dead Island is a very optimized game but it's not without flaws. The most glaring one is that the game autoequips the latest weapon you picked up, including medkits and alcohol. Prepare to accidently drink alcohol over and over again and end up using medkits when you didn't mean to. The game also autodrops your equipped weapon if you are overloaded when picking something new up. I accidently dropped a fully upgraded and modded pistol which I realized only after leaving the area.

Dead Island is a really solid title. It's packed with content and you can tell there was a lot of effort put down in this one. That said, the game lacks that rinse-and-repeat feel you get in Borderlands where you level up all the time and find really awesome weapons. Here leveling is slow, it takes up to level 20 before you feel you are getting better and weapons are almost always "meh", often only giving slightly better damage than the four you already use. The decay were too fast and were just annoying. Modding didn't feel realistic. The characters aren't likeable and it's difficult to get emotionally attached to anyone. All that can be overlooked if you seek a coop-title that allow you and 3 friends to go through the game together.

Dead Island is a cracked gem.
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