hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Dead Island

One hour (and more) on Techland's Dead Island

5:30 PM on 08.12.2011 // Nick Chester

Save your now-tired complaints about the over-saturation of undead flesh eaters in videogames: Dead Island is definitely a game to keep an eye on.

I've come to this conclusion after exploring a one-hour timed Xbox 360 preview build of the game... and then immediately turning around and spending one more hour to see what I had missed. Then I did it again. And when I'm done writing this, I may very well head back in for some more.

As a long-time fan of basically anything involving zombies, Dead Island is a pretty easy sell for me. It's Left 4 Dead and Borderlands in equal parts, set on a beautiful resort island swarming with infected ghouls. If that doesn't do it for you, how about this scenario...

I'm armed with two weapons: a hunting knife and a large, wooden paddle. With the knife in my hand, I'm backing away from an approaching zombie, attempting to keep my distance. I pull the left trigger on the Xbox 360 controller and take aim with the blade. I toss it into the shambling creep from several feet away, the pointy end digging deep into its chest. Quickly swapping to the wooden paddle, I dash towards the zombie and shatter its skull into chunks. As it falls backwards, finally and truly lifeless, I reach out and quickly retrieve the blade before the monster hits the ground. All of this, in only a matter of a few seconds. Dead Island, it seems, promises to be full of these "Holy crap, that just happened" moments.

While I made comparisons to Left 4 Dead and Borderlands, that's only partially accurate. Certainly, the game's four-player cooperative zombie killing reminds me immediately of Valve's stellar shooter. And like Borderlands, Dead Island is as much about quest completion and leveling up as it is about finding loot scattered all over the game's fictional Palm's Resort. But unlike both games, it's not fair to call Dead Island a shooter, because in my first hour there was nary a firearm to be picked up.

Instead, Dead Island is more about finding whatever you can -- knives, wooden planks, the aforementioned paddle -- and cracking it upside the heads of the undead. It gives the game a different feel, forcing you to get up close and personal with your attackers. It's a visceral experience, with well-placed hits capable of crippling a zombie or even completely obliterating their rotting faces.

Whereas Left 4 Dead features seemingly endless hordes of zombies, within the first hour developer Techland shows some restraint. It didn't take the undead brush and liberally paint them in every nook and cranny of the island. In one area, I walked along a quiet, seemingly empty beach. Suddenly, off in the distance I hear screams. And moans. And grunts. And gurgling. The dead, they're somewhere... and suddenly, one is upon me. A quicktime event (the left trigger, followed quickly by the right) knocks them back, and I regain my composure before delivering a few brutal, crushing blows.

Dead Island also made me feel a bit like a kleptomaniac. The game begins with you waking up alone inside of a hotel room. As you step out into the empty halls, you find luggage and other objects strewn all over the place. You just pick through them, finding money and other random items that you can later sell or combine with objects to create weapons. With only an hour to play my preview build, I still couldn't help myself from picking through everything I found: trash, guest bags, corpses, the trunk of an abandoned car.

From the game's start, you can choose from one of four characters: Logan, ex-quarterback and master at throwing stuff; Purna, a foul-mouthed female bodyguard who's a crackshot with a firearm; Xian, the Asian sharp weapons expert; and Sam B, king of the blunt weapons and internationally known hip-hop star. If there's one negative thing I'm ready to level at Dead Island before its release, it's about this collection of stereotypical nincompoops. (Yes, I said "nincompoops.") Long story short, every one is annoying in a different way, and will incessantly say stupid shit while you try to get down to zombie-killing business. 

Fortunately, I was able to look past that, and focus on the gameplay abilities that will make each character unique. For example, Purna is more effective with guns, and her unique XP-based character progression and skill tree reflects that. Remember how I said I didn't find a single gun in my travels? That's true, but Purna keeps one at her side; it's part of one of her "Rage" attack abilities. By simply smashing dead things to bits, you'll build up your "Rage" meter. Once full, a single button press let me pull out a small handgun and bust caps in zombies for a limited amount of time.

Given I've only played through a single hour of the game (several times, mind you), it's hard to get a sense for how Dead Island's story will play out. The plot appears to be "zombie outbreak, resort island, we gotta get off this rock." Whether Techland can even come close to striking the same emotional chords of that now-infamous initial trailer is questionable. Even so, there are hints in the first 60 minutes: at one point, I find a man sitting in a swimming pool tainted red with blood, sobbing over the lifeless body of his girlfriend. He's completely shook, rambling and in tears as he recounts how he had to put his infected girlfriend down at his own hands.

But hey, even if Dead Island is simply a violent romp around a tropical island that has me killing zombies for 20 or more hours... I think I'm cool with that, too.

Dead Island preview code personal statistics (for a single playthrough)

Overall Time Played: 1h
Quests completed: 8
Explored zones: 5%
Distance traveled: 7.18

Challenges: 1%
Achievements: 2%

Items modified: 0
Medkits Used: 1
Food consumed: 22
Deaths: 2

Walkers Killed: 93
Infected Killed: 15
Humans killed: 1
Floaters killed: 0
Butchers killed: 0
Suiciders killed: 0
Rams killed: 0

Photo Gallery: (4 images)
Click to zoom - browse by swipe, or use arrow keys

Nick Chester, Former Editor-in-Chief (2011)
 Follow Blog + disclosure Tips
Editor-in-Chief @ nick at  more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our moderators, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

Dr Mel avatarDr Mel
Remember Black? That PS2 era shooter from Criterion? It has a REALLY good orchestral soundtrack. I'm gonna throw that in my MGSV iDroid. Why not.
CaseyCor avatarCaseyCor
Can't sleep cast: Donkey Kong Land Any% [url][/url]
ooktar avatarooktar
Defeated a sniper in MGS V by dropping supplies on his head. 10/10.
Nat Monney avatarNat Monney
I'm with 3 other guys and we're about to release a mobile game we started almost 3 years ago. What should we do ? [youtube][/youtube]
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
Guys I'm on a train what should I do?
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Traded in a bunch of old Star Trek novels and other books at a used bookstore. Made $10 and got Tori Amos' "Strange Little Girls" album along with it. They made me take the William Shatner novels back. Smart clerks.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
Can this be Toy Story 4? [youtube][/youtube]
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Also I will be reviewing freedom wars. I didnt make it to the end. I will not be kind to it. There will be blood.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Yeah....been there before.
techsupport avatartechsupport
MGS V review: When using a character other than Big Boss for missions, the intro credits still say, "starring Punished 'Venom' Snake." Sloppy work, Kojima - no wonder Konami dumped you. 0/10.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Grim Fandango......some real good sruff here. As soon as I complete it (vita version, of course) will probably see about a write up. Not perfect, but theres some good stuff here. Glad it got brought back from obsolescence hell.
Rad Party God avatarRad Party God
*sigh* If only Disqus had a "block/ignore user" option :/
Must. Use. This. Blog. More. But. School.
GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
Just started playing Hyrule Warriors again. Man is that game fun. A bit mindless at times granted, but fun nonetheless.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
I ate vanilla ice cream and didn't put on any chocolate syrup. Now wondering if that was racist whitewashing #thanksjed.
Jiraya avatarJiraya
The cat dragged in some action figures !
[img][/img] [img][/img] [img][/img] [img][/img]
Dr Mel avatarDr Mel
There's a Custom Soundtrack folder in MGSV. I can't think of a better thing to put there than the old episodes of podtoid I've been running through lately. I'll be fultoning guys and Holmes will be puttin' on mesh tank tops. Perfect.
Shinta avatarShinta
MGSV Pro Tip: Turn your brightness down to 0. It actually makes the view distance for the guards correct, and doesn't make nighttime the best option for you every single time. When guards shoot flares in the sky, the lighting looks like Dragon's Dogma.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Proof I listened to too much Weird Al growing up: I really do hear "Living in America" as "Living with a Hernia."
Nic Rowen avatarNic Rowen
I've been playing a shit ton of Heroes of the Storm recently. It's my first MOBA and I'm SHOCKED at how much fun I'm having. Anyone else into it? Would love to get some games in with Dtoiders.
more quickposts


destructoid's previous coverage:
Dead Island

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -