Joystick: “Dead Island” has live gameplay, dead execution.Published 11:42am Thursday, September 8, 2011
Rated M: PC, 360, PS3
At the very beginning of “Dead Island,” there’s an ax near the room you wake up in. Though you can run around and collect things from the get-go, you can’t pick up that ax. It’s sitting on the floor, in between two dead bodies, just waiting for you to pick it up. It looks mean. It looks effective. It looks like it can smash in a zombie head or two. But no matter what you do, you still can’t pick up that ax. You get to pick up a stick instead, and that’s after you get chased by the zombies.
“Dead Island” looks like that ax and plays like that stick. There are a lot of fun concepts in this game, but in reality it’s a case of over-hyped expectations.
The game is free-flowing (to an extent) and the premise is simple: There are zombies on this island. You must get off of it. Repeat steps one through three.
There are plenty of redeeming qualities to “Dead Island.” It’s very open-world (once you start playing on your own), there’s a lot to explore, and the game’s disjointed tone makes for plenty of fun. It’s haunting to see the sunny beachside landscape littered with dead bodies, or hearing moaning cries by the water, knowing a zombie’s found you, and frantically trying to find where it’s coming from.
There are plenty of ways to kill zombies, too. Light them on fire, knock them over a cliff or into the water, beat them with your bare hands or kick them, shoot them or find the nearest big stick to smash them up. Needless to say, you can get pretty creative.
That doesn’t excuse some of the ridiculous things about the game, from major clipping and graphic issues at times to hoaky fake cutscenes that, if anything, take away from the plot rather than move it forward and a somewhat frustrating lack of direction when it comes to objectives and missions. The game plays the same for each of the four characters you can choose, which means you’re playing a skin and skillset rather than a developed person.
Regardless, it’s a fun game for older gamers and definitely not for children. If you love zombies, open-ended RPGs and don’t mind the rough gameplay underneath the shining hype this game received, then “Dead Island” is for you.
—Decent zombie survival game with rough graphics.
—Lots of great ideas, but game design has a rough execution.
—Plenty of fun doesn’t mask rough clipping issues.