Dead Island - Xbox 360

  • Publisher: Deep Silver
  • Genre:Shooter
  • Developer: Techland (Poland)
  • Release Date:Sep 6, 2011
  • # of Players:1 player
  • ESRB:M - Mature (Blood and Gore,Drug Reference,Intense Violence,Sexual Themes,Strong Language,Use of Alcohol)
  • Platforms:
Game Description:Dead Island is a non-linear first-person shooter in which you find yourself on an island plunged into chaos. It's a place where the word "dead" has an entirely new meaning. Face the nightmare and fight for survival. Use anything you find in your surroundings as a weapon. Make decisions that influence the entire world around you, take advantage of opponent behavior and game physics, and explore the secrets hidden in the darkest regions of the island.
G4TV Rating
3 / 5
  • Avg User Rating
    (152 Ratings)
    4.1 / 5
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Dead Island Hands-On Campaign Preview -- A Three Hour Toooour...of Hell on Earth

Dead Island Hands-On Campaign Preview -- A Three Hour Toooour...of Hell on Earth

By Sophie Prell - Posted Aug 01, 2011

Dead Island. Its debut trailer was heralded as one of the most daring and emotionally-charged of all time. The slow, somber music – which I'm listening to even now as I type this preview – was even a small meme for a time, covered by Toby Turner of literal video game trailers fame and inserted into Lord of the Rings. And damn if it doesn't make me tear up just thinking about it.

Dead Island

But having played Dead Island for a good three-plus hours (one hour per session, as it was a timed build), I can't help this nagging feeling that itches at the base of my neck like an infected love bite from one of the island's inhabitants. I can't help but wonder: Would we be here, talking about Dead Island, if it wasn't for that trailer? Keep in mind the copy I played was clearly a preview build, and developer Techland still has a little time to polish things up between now and the Dead Island release date of September 6, so take the following criticisms with a grain of sea salt.

Dead Island feels like a hodgepodge of good ideas without supporting bridges to connect them. When mixing a tropical island paradise setting where the Chrome 5 engine can flex its muscles with a classic zombie apocalypse scenario and first-person melee controls, one would think the end result might be a proverbial peanut butter and jelly sandwich: two items, each delightful and scrumptious on their own, combined to make a unified, tasty whole. But that's not how Dead Island feels. Instead, it's more like a peanut butter and T-bone steak sandwich covered in gummy bears.

One major problem is that Dead Island is supposedly an open-world game, but in truth works best when performing in highly-constructed areas like the hotel or garden pools which sit just outside tourist bungalows. Should you decide to blow off the survivors and just aimlessly whack away at zombies – and who are we kidding? You will – the incentives and rewards for playing practically disappear. While side missions encountered on or near the main quest's objectives often reward you with unique items or access to new areas, the extremely few I encountered while exploring in the opposite direction of the main quest basically amounted to someone trapped by a handful of undead.

“Help me!” they would scream from within a besieged lifeguard shack or stranded atop a concert stage as zombies reached and clawed hungrily at their meal. Skulls would pop up on the radar, indicating which zombies had to be killed before the area was considered safe. Once these were cleared, the victim typically gave a small variation on the short and sweet, “Thanks for saving me!” And... that's pretty much it. One survivor had a wrench and several health-restoring apples nearby, but these and similar items are littered everywhere on the island.

More maddening though was the fact that, despite having just been attacked, cornered, and subsequently rescued, most survivors were stationary. “Oh, that safehouse you came from with metal gates, more survivors, and weapons? No thanks, I've got apples.” Fellow survivors are similarly lifeless, both in terms of physical construction and personality. There just wasn't any depth or complexity to anyone I encountered. Similarly, quests never amounted to more than “Go here, kill/get this.” I would hardly expect the variety of a Saints Row, but there are only so many times and ways I can kill zombies without it feeling repetitive.

When I was sent to fetch gasoline to burn the corpses of my fallen foes, the quest-giver hardly blinked, figuratively and literally. Because while the game world looks great, with wide open views, exceptional draw distances, and dramatic lighting effects, textures are murky and humans look static and angular. The flat, dead eyes are particularly disturbing when viewed up close. Long initial boot up and loading screens between some areas are also indicative that the game may be pulling a weight too heavy for its own good.

Dead Island

All of this keeps the game from feeling unified or strung together. At its best, there were moments, flashes of intense satisfaction and direction. At its worst, it felt like a haphazard mess. Many elements we take for granted just don't come together here. A bat swings almost exactly like a cleaver, and neither gives recoil, so weapons feel weightless and flimsy. Controls can be jerky, there's no block button, and the environment doesn't react much to player presence. Even swatting a beach ball somehow feels... off.

This isn't to say that Dead Island is completely without merit. Smashing zombies is just plain fun. Get a good headshot off and you can crush in the entire skull or cleave right through the neck, depending on the weapon. The occasional slow-mo gives just enough time to shout, “Awwww yeahhhhhhh,” and when infected start to gang up on you, adrenaline flows like wine, generous and exciting to the senses. Having a buddy with you increases the number of zombies – though sometimes they spawn right on top of one another – and the game becomes even more engaging trying to tackle the island as a team.

The leveling system is also a fantastic way to encourage play and rewards players by making their progress reflect on their unique character. The tank class can become an extremely heavy-hitter, while the leader class can boost everyone's overall effectiveness. Combine this with the emphasis on loot and weapon statistics, not to mention the customization options available for said weapons, and the whole thing has a very Borderlands vibe to it.

Dead Island

So while I question the validity of Dead Island claim of open-world exploration, struggled with some flimsy controls, and found the overall tone of my few hours with the game lacking, I nonetheless say the game is fun. Even if it is a bit disjointed and unpolished in its current state.

Comments are Closed

  • Nimblesloth

    I can not believe parts of this game were unrealistic to the reviewer. Rescued survivors not running for safety totally bothers me and would cause me to focus on this dreadful VIDEO GAME issue. It is a good thing your being chased by flesh eating animated dead folk, much realism there. I just can't stand when my video games are unrealistic........

    Posted: August 3, 2011 12:50 PM
  • ArcherMage

    This looks amazing, I' wonder if they will release a demo before buying. The graphics is gorgeous.

    Posted: August 3, 2011 2:14 AM
  • ArcherMage

    This looks amazing, I' wonder if they will release a demo before buying. The graphics is gorgeous.

    Posted: August 3, 2011 2:12 AM
  • SoxFullOfRox

    hmm.. I'm still rich enough to buy it and any other game I want.. so yeeah..
    Thats what happens when you don't have kids or get married really young, and have a job.. ^^

    But on the level, a month isn't enough time to do anything, because the last few months are when they're making the copies and getting the actual game ready to be shipped off. So lets just hope they made that demo a while ago to show off, and have fixed all the annoying bugs by now. Although.. I've never been one to trust a guy who wears a scarf in the middle of the damn summer... lol

    Posted: August 2, 2011 4:38 PM
  • ZoMbIEx23x

    I think it would be best for everyone to keep the visions of this game's initial trailer out of their minds for it is a dual edged sword. I think keeping expectations low in this case is going to be the way to go.

    Posted: August 2, 2011 2:10 PM
  • TedEnergy

    I can only get two games this year. This or assassins creed revelations....... tough choice

    Posted: August 1, 2011 8:12 PM
  • ZoMbIEx23x

    I"m a little worried now after reading this preview, I may just buy Mortal Kombat thursday instead of this game. But I probably won't, I think I'll go with my gut on this one like I did Duke Nukem Forever and if it's fun for me then so be it but if it get's horrible reviews i'm not going straight to here to comment on it. Hell, that's a lie I know will.

    Posted: August 1, 2011 6:58 PM
  • RPG-fan

    Please let this be good. Techland made Call of Juarez: The Cartel and that was bad but hopefully it won't be the same for Dead Island. I need my zombie-killing fix and I already played the hell out of Dead Rising 2 and Left 4 Dead 2, even with the user-created maps you can download.

    Posted: August 1, 2011 6:27 PM
  • redtide19

    the game is going to be legit did the guy playing it exspect it to be perfect while it wasnt even completed yet? what an idot

    Posted: August 1, 2011 4:39 PM
  • NickhatesAlabama

    i know this game is probs gonna be disappointing like brink or homefront but i still kinda want it

    Posted: August 1, 2011 1:42 PM
  • jungan

    Ah, so what your saying is, just another zombie game I'm going to pass on.

    Posted: August 1, 2011 1:04 PM
  • iNuwanda

    This is exactly what I was expecting. The gameplay videos reminded me of the old America's Army games. Clunky and lacking in features, but a ton of fun.

    Posted: August 1, 2011 11:56 AM
  • doinyomama

    All I care about is the juicy blood. Talk about that more in your reviews.

    Posted: August 1, 2011 11:35 AM
  • silent_deadly_6

    With only a little over a month till the games comes out I think Techland will be able to fix at least some of the problems pointed out in this preview. Though I'll wait till reviews come out to make a decision.

    Posted: August 1, 2011 10:35 AM
  • Cathartic Denoument

    You may want to update the "Genre" & "Game Description" at the top, to instead say *Melee* & *First-Person Melee* (respectively).
    Although the game has guns/rifles, its not a Shooter, it's emphasis is more on Melee/Hack&Slash gameplay.
    Hmmm..Not what I wanted to hear about Dead Island, but at least it doesn't seem THAT bad.
    Just seems like technical limitations to me, is all. At least its still fun..?

    I'm gonna take a shot in the dark here & say that those survivors just stayed there because they're probably tied to the main plot & missions you're given, and won't follow you, or flee to safety, unless you've completed a particular mission. (As far as my experience goes with open-world games. [Unless these are side-missions that aren't tied to the main story/missions.] )
    It seems Techland gave more focus to the main story (in hopes of living up to their trailer), and weren't able to spend enough time in the open-world aspect of the game.
    And if anything else, the shortcomings you listed seem to be limitations in their Chrome 5 engine.

    Nonetheless, I'm still looking forward to this game, as well as it's final review from G4.

    Hope your critique makes it's way to Techland so they can apply the appropriate tweaks to the game before it launches next month.

    Thanks for the preview, Sophie! =)

    Posted: August 1, 2011 10:07 AM
  • ninenightmares

    Ok,..... i'm almost done paying it off so should i wait until the game comes out and a lot of reviews are made? Or should i just go with my gut and buy it anyway.....

    Posted: August 1, 2011 9:32 AM
  • JustTheBeginning

    Sounds like a 2/5 to me. Funny, it became famous for pretending to be what people really wanted, a emotional realistic story driven zombie game. And turned into soul-less arcade dead rising clone.

    Posted: August 1, 2011 9:19 AM