Spoiler warning! Read at your own risk as I may reveal major game spoilers. Enjoy!
I wrote this some time ago, and now that the HD remasters for Dead Island and DI: Riptide are on the way, I thought I'd post this here. I am actually quite a fan of Dead Island, flaws and all. So without further ado, let's talk zombies!
Holy shit. That was beautiful, I'd wager a bet that it's probably one of the greatest game trailers of all time. The game coming out of this will be nothing short of amazing right?
Not quite... if I said the end product reflected that trailer that would be... inaccurate. But that's not to say the Dead Island still isn't a blast to play. Sure, many of us are still waiting for that zombie game. The one that provides the horror and emotional impact that the DI trailer provided. The Telltale Walking Dead series could be argued to provide that, and I am inclined to agree. However we don't get the bone crunching satisfaction of caving in a zombie's skull, and that's precisely where Dead Island excels.
To say Dead Island is divisive is an understatement. It's definitely a love it or hate it type game. Many felt betrayed by what was suggested by the heart wrenching trailer. Others are simply turned off by the less than stellar graphics. The game is glitchy, the story is stiff and the voice acting isn't very good at all...
But it is fun. Goddamn it's fun.
It's a melee Borderlands filled with all kinds of crazy weapons used to smash, shoot and dismember the undead. This is all enhanced by a unique analog control system. I remember playing one of the Fight Night games years ago that had a similar system. Even the Skate games are comparable. In Dead Island you can choose to switch on the analog combat for an incredibly immersive way to dispatch zombies. Basically you flick the right analog stick to swing your weapons instead of the normal shoulder buttons to trigger your attack. This made combat tense, precise and above all FUN! To date I would say that this is the most effective zombie killing simulator on the market.
In addition to the great control scheme, there is a crazy amount of ridiculous weapons to use in your slaying adventures. Work benches across the game world allow the crafting of unique melee weapons with special abilities. Build a machete coursing with electricity. Make an old-fashioned nail bat. Craft some grenades that poison your enemies. It gets pretty diverse in what weapons can kill in what way, and that leaves for some creative combat situations. Guns are indeed present, but don't play a big role until later in the game. They are so scarce anyway you may not even use them much then. Dead Island is very much melee oriented.
And while the game may be lacking what could have a great story, Dead Island is actually quite scary. It works well with some atmospheric music and some great organic scares. Sometimes you'll be exploring an abandoned hut only to first hear the shambling of a zombie behind you. The sense of terror is heightened when you are surrounded by zombies, and you need to find some sort of high ground to keep from getting overwhelmed. Shoddy graphics and repetitive sounds aside, the game really does do an effective job of giving a sense of pants shitting terror. Or maybe I just scare easily.
So what does that leave us? Story? Nah. It's about 4 stereotypes trying to help other stereotypes while they try to defeat a stereotype.
Graphics? Eh. Purpose is served, but cutscenes are stiff and models tend to get repetitive. As a whole it looks fine, but when the individual aspects are scrutinized it unravels as an ugly looking game.
No, Dead Island is a game that survives pretty purely on it's fun gameplay. That doesn't sound like high praise, but this one does it very well. Well enough to forgive the rest of its shortcomings in my opinion. Dead Island was popular enough to permit the sequel "Riptide", but that was little more than a glorified expansion with a few new gaemplay elements and a new character.
And now we've gotten a couple more for the current generation. Dying Light, which was developed by original Dead Island developer Techland included some great parkour/Mirror's Edge style gameplay, while getting rid of my beloved analog combat system. A bit of a double-edged sword on that one, as I still think it's a great game, but lacks that great combat mechanic.
And now Deep Silver, Dead Island's original publisher is working on (well trying to at least) a true sequel to DI.
They're really good at trailers
Dead Island 2 is going through a rough patch however since the game's developer Yager has left the project, so who knows what's gonna happen with it. (as of ths writing Sumo Digital has taken over development duties!) Early gameplay looks fun though!
I think that most of us need a bit of a breather from zombie games given the prevalence at the moment. If you're one that can't get enough however, then Dead Island is an example of a zombie basher done right, if flawed. It provides an excellent template that is still being improved on and hopefully we'll get that zombie game that's as good as the trailer it represents.
You can say that about any game really.