With one of the most ear worm infectious theme song hooks ever 2011’s Dead Island from Techland asks, “Who do you voodoo, bitch?” I can safely answer that question with “you sure as hell voodooed me!” Dead Island takes us to the resort island of Banoi somewhere in the South Pacific where after a wild party headlined by one hit wonder, Sam B, the players awaken to find themselves in a viral outbreak that is turning other island vacationers and residents into zombies. Starting the game you have the choice of four different player characters each with their own specialization be it melee or firearms. Picking a survivor is purely personal taste and you can choose from Xian Mei, Purna, Sam B, or Logan. Word of warning to the gaming firearm enthusiasts though: Any firearm worth anything isn’t available until late in the game and it will be almost useless against the undead. Melee weapons and thrown items such as Molotovs and grenades are the way to go.
Dead Island progresses from a beautiful island resort through a rundown, zombie infested city, a jungle, a mysterious laboratory, and finally a prison. At all times you are surrounded by the walking dead of varying strengths and abilities. Our player characters are survivors and apparently immune to the source of the plague. Is it coincidental they’re all together and the only four immune people on the island? Well that’s pretty doubtful and it should come as no surprise that the human population of survivors throughout the island are just as dangerous as the zombies. In fact, the humans are a bigger pain in the ass with their firearms. The goal? Well to get off the island alive of course. Immunity doesn’t mean shit if you get eaten, after all. While not terribly original the story is grabbing and a lot of fun.
Dead Island has a top-notch music and sound. Moody cues and an atmosphere of tense terror give the game as much of a scare factor as a good zombie movie. Excellent voice actors, including Justice League’s Phil LaMarr round out a believable (though not always likeable) cast. And as I said up front the theme song may be one of the most infectious I’ve ever heard.
The graphics are a little cartoony (not a bad thing). Most importantly, what they are, is beautiful, lush, and goddamn spooky. The graphics combined with the music make one of the most stressful and fun video games I’ve ever played. Playing Dead Island I really began to dread closed, dark spaces and my paranoia led me to slug any corpse I saw on the ground for fear it was going to stand up as I passed it. Okay, so maybe not paranoia considering I was right more often than not…
The controls for the game were pretty easy. A quick weapon switching mechanic using a weapon wheel and a decent skill system make up the background. The combat is fun and geared toward melee. Sometimes it became hectic and panicked but seeing as we’re in a zombie apocalypse in the game that’s appropriate. The only negative I can give is the inventory system which was limited and at times frustrating but didn’t take away from the game.
Story: 5/5: Easily as spooky and as fun as the classic zombie movies of the 80s Dead Island tells a lengthy, well thought plan.
Sound: 5/5: I’ve said on more than one review that the music and voice set the mood of the game and I think it is very likely that Dead Island may do this the best of any game I’ve ever played.
Graphics: 5/5: Ditto on the graphics. They were combined expertly with the sound to generate a real and scary environment. Certain sections of the game (the sewers, for instance) I had to play in small sections because they were honestly, overwhelmingly stressful and scary. I’m not bragging when I say it takes a great deal to spook me let alone outright scare me and Dead Island could do it.
Control: 4/5: Pretty simple first person controls.
Playability: 4/5: Insanely fun, insanely addictive, and surprisingly scary Dead Island delivers everything it promises. If you’re a fan of first person games and a fan of zombie thrillers I highly recommend this game. I found myself so engrossed that more times than I can count I was on my feet to play it.