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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Review: Dead Island - Sponsored by 'Energy Drink'

This is going to potentially be a two-parter. Here’s the thing, I’ve played Dead Island now for about six hours and I feel that it’s made its impression. If for whatever reason I miraculously discover something spectacular and new in my later playings of this game, I’ll throw in an update, but for now, this is Dead Island.

From the beginning of the game you are bred to rifle through luggage – not your own luggage mind you, but other peoples. In the luggage that you are consistently stealing from you will find various small items like phones, batteries, and most often money. The money and the luggage are what upset me most about this game and I’ll explain later why.

Dead Island is a ‘free’ roam first-person game. The paths are fairly straight-forward in the same vein as Red Faction Guerilla if you will, but allows you to roam about them freely. There are areas to the sides of the roads such as bungalow villages, outposts, gas stations and other various forms of commercial structure. In them you find people that need assistance or help in one way or another and prompts a side quest that you can complete or not. It’s a fun distraction from the main game and makes the island a more interesting place to explore.

The graphics are decent, a little better than Oblivion, but I can’t imagine it will even compare to Rage or Skyrim later this year. Don't get me wrong, the water is brilliant and reflective and the foliage looks real enough. The only issue I take with the graphics is that killing a zombie in a pool doesn’t make any of the water turn red around it. It’s curious because either you find pools with crystal blue water, or filled with blood. I wish there was some in between. It’s not a complaint per se, but something that would have been a nice touch.

The gameplay and mechanics are nice. It sounds just right when you hit a zombie with a pipe as opposed to an oar or a knife. One cool thing I’ve found is that the game does a pretty great job of limb-specific damage, so if there is a zombie that is a higher level than you, you can incapacitate it’s legs and all of a sudden there is not a whole lot to fear any more! It’s pretty great as far as a melee-focused game goes and I highly enjoy it. The combat is satisfying and leaves me wanting to kill hordes of them.

Which leads me to my biggest issue with zombie games – durability with the weapons. I understand that an oar would break if repeatedly smashed into the face of a zombie despite the fact that most of it is composed of rotted flesh, but a wrench? A steel wrench has a durability when it comes to smashing zombies? Doubtful. A wrench probably hardly has durability when it comes to smashing real people’s faces. I want to say that you would be hard pressed to try and break a wrench. It happens in every zombie game and Dead Island is no exception.

The other thing that bugs me, that shouldn’t about open world games, is the lack of ability to go in every building. It’s ridiculous, because in the beginning you can open every door, but later in the game it’s just some random bungalows and buildings that are just plain inaccessible. It’d be nice to see some freedom for once.

The strangest thing I’ve noticed has to be the excessive amount of ‘energy drinks’ on this island. They must want people up all night because there is no shortage of these things, which is good because they translate to health. Unfortunately, water and alcohol do no such thing. Peculiar I think… Strangely enough too, only some of the cans can be consumed (I’d like to think it’s because the other ones are empty). It goes unexplained, but I rationalized it in my head for my own sanity’s sake. The other really strange thing I learned was that any item thrown at a propane tank will detonate it like a grenade. If I want to throw an oar at a propane tank and blow it up, conveniently I can do that. Then I can go pick up the oar and continue using it like it never was part of an explosion.

As far as the story goes, it’s super basic. This came as a major surprise being that the trailer released earlier this year was a heart-wrenching internet sensation. I came into Dead Island expecting a more emotional take on the zombie apocalypse, only to be greeted with a shallow story and even more shallow characters. I wish that there was some crazy twist like there is in TV shows like Dexter. That would be great. I can’t say for sure because I haven’t beaten it yet, but I doubt it.

I’m going to now discuss why I loathe Dead Island. Why I hate the money and the luggage so much. You must ask yourself, “why does this man hate luggage? What could be so awful about it?” I’ll tell you, friend. There is luggage absolutely everywhere in this game. I mean, this island looks like every plane that’s ever flown over it dumped out its entire cargo bay on it. The worst part about the luggage – you can only open certain pieces of it. Not all of it – and this drives me bonkers. When a game sets a precedent, it needs to keep up with it. You let me open luggage? Then you let me fucking open all of it.

With regards to the luggage, like I said before, you most commonly find money in it. Do I get to use my money at the shops that survivors have conveniently set up!? Nope. You get to use it to repair your weapons and upgrade them - hundreds of dollars each time. “Oh man! That’s a lot of money,” you might be thinking, and it is! Especially when you’re not even paying anyone. I kid you not, you get to a workbench – alone, and spend money on upgrading and repairing weapons. This is the most ridiculous concept in the world to me. Why am I spending money, especially hundreds of dollars to repair a knife that I could easily hammer out for free? I understand the need for a currency to combat upgrading weapons all the way in the beginning of the game, but get creative! Giving money to NO ONE, is not the answer. It irks me to no end as it should you.

That’s it as far as my initial impressions. If I were to rate Dead Island right now it would be three and a half stars. Not quite four, but definitely above average as far as games go. If only for the new-ness that is a first person open world zombie game.

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