Take the first-person, zombie battling action of Left 4 Dead, the quest system and the Co-Op part of Borderlands and combine it with the RPG elements of Fallout 3 and you get the closest possible definition of Dead Island. Techland's latest title successfully puts all of these together to create a highly enjoyable game that unfortunately falls a little flat in a few areas.
Dead Island follows the survival of a group of humans as they attempt to escape a holiday island by the name of Banoi after it's overrun by zombies intent on eating your insides. However, there is more to this than it originally seems; for some reason, you are completely immune to whatever caused the zombie outbreak. From this point, you join forces with different bands of survivors both to get home safely and back to your families while trying to understand what is actually going on.
Simply put, the story is not the reason you should be playing Dead Island. And you should look elsewhere in your local game store if you want to enjoy a deep, twisting plot like the ones found in Deus Ex: Human Revolution or any of the Rockstar games. There isn't any characters you'll attach to and the story won't have you guessing at every corner. Not to say that it isn't intriguing, but it won't be the drive for you to carry on playing the game.
That is reserved for the gameplay aspect of Dead Island and just how addictive it is. Instead of a few long side quests, the game instead gives you an endless list of short missions that can be finished incredibly quickly or may take about an hour depending on the difficulty of them. This adds a certain "Just one more then I'll turn it off" feeling to Dead Island that will have you playing for many hours on end. Trust me, I've had too many moments when I've wanted to turn the game off but the long list of missions I have left to do has made me play a little bit longer.
Practically everything you do in Dead Island will earn you XP which you can spend on fleshing out certain aspects of your character. Filling in the Survival tree will allow you to use weapons for longer before they break, or you could be able to regenerate your health slowly over a period of time. However, spending your points in another section could increase the damage of your weapons or allow you to get more health from an Energy Drink, the games version of health packs. This sense of progression will allow you to create your own character in the sense that you have the freedom to focus on the survival aspect of your tree or you could quickly turn yourself into a one-man army; it all just depends on your play styles.
But a zombie game wouldn't be a zombie game if it wasn't for one thing; zombies, and Dead Island has them in the thousands. The fact that the game is set on a holiday resort allows for some interesting undead designs, ranging from women in bikini's thirsting for your blood all the way to half-tanned men who also want your blood. And as the game progresses, different types are introduced, like the Floater that fires acidic juices at you or the Ram, a huge, hulking creature in a straight jacket that runs incredibly fast at you.
Of course, dealing the damage upon the zombies is a lot of fun. Dead Island is more of a title based around melee combat instead of the run and gun method of Left 4 Dead. There are guns present but they take more of a side role to the axes, pipes, knifes and paddles lying around everywhere. Hitting the zombies round the face with a paddle never gets old and the impressive damage model makes everything that much more fun; limbs literally fly off in a shower of gore and skin is peeled away as damage is dealt. The combat of Dead Island is easily the games strongest point.
However, the game is far from perfect. Dead Island, like Left 4 Dead and Borderlands, is best played with someone else. Unfortunately, the game can only be played online and lacks any aspect of two player split-screen, meaning best friends or families better have two consoles on hand if they want to play together at the same house. When the multi-player aspect of the game is one of its best bits, it's a shame that Techland didn't incorporate a split-screen option like Portal 2 or Left 4 Dead did.
The games other weak point is in its graphics. The island of Banoi looks incredible when you're wandering round the beaches or in the jungle and the draw distance is particularly impressive. But the indoors look a little bland in my opinion and the character models, excluding the zombies, look quite poor. The expressions they pull and the movements they make are incredibly simple and the mediocre voice acting doesn't exactly help matters, either. It's not an awful looking game, it's just not up to scratch in a few areas.
Dead Island is awesome in most areas and a little disappointing in others. The endless list of side quests is impressive, killing zombies will always be fun and the island of Banoi looks beautiful outside. But the lack of split-screen, a story that doesn't exactly ignite and mediocre graphics hinders it too. However, despite all these, Dead Island is a lot of fun and if you look past its problems, you'll enjoy every second of it. It won't win awards, that's for sure, but if you're just wanting to play a game that you don't have to think about and gives you a good time, then Dead Island is perfect in every sense. Just expect to put a lot of hours into it; you'll want to.
Very long list of side quests
Banoi looks beautiful
Original premise regarding the setting
More focus on melee combat instead of guns all the time
Online Co-Op is great
It's a lot of fun
Poor indoor graphics
Mediocre character models
Lack of split-screen co-op
Story doesn't exactly explode