31 Days Of Halloween – Day 10: Dead Island (Solo Campaign)
Oh, sweet Jesus’ tits, I’m late on this. I have no excuse for this one, other than normal life getting in the way. I’ll make it up to you with several other reviews posted later today. I will be reporting to your room at 10PM for my lashings. Wear that thing I like. Oh stop, you know the thing. It’s got the little dangly part that unzips in the back, with the green feathers and mechanical codpiece. Yes, you know the one. Good boy/girl.
Where were we? Ah, GAMES!! I’m violating my pledge to try to cover games that haven’t been talked about out the wazoo this evening, because, well….this one’s simply been far too enjoyable to keep bottled up. It also knocks out one of the days for me. Huzzah! Who do we voodoo, my dear readers? It’s DAY 10: DEAD ISLAND!
BODY PARTS ON THE CONCRETE
You start off with the choice of 4 main characters, each backed with a text/voiceover intro. Don’t let that fool you. For character development, that’s all you’re getting. Zombie outbreak. You’re immune to the “disease”. Therefore, everyone needs your help. Things will pick up a bit towards the end as the nature of your immunity becomes clearer, but you probably won’t give a damn by then. Having said that, it’s not really what the game’s about anyway.
DO NOT OPEN. DEAD INSIDE.
I won’t waste time on gameplay details. This game came out last month – you’ve already made your decision on whether or not to buy it and have formed your opinion on it. So here’s several or a bunch of paragraphs on why this game is guaranteed a spot on my Top 10 at the end of the year.
Dead Island pretty much nails first-person melee combat. I haven’t felt this satisfied with a combat system like this since Dark Messiah Of Might And Magic. This is in spite of the fact that there is no real blocking. It kind of makes sense – who the hell could “block” a fucking machete? I do not want to meet the man who could. The size of his balls would create a gravitational pull that few could survive. Ah, there’s that word. “Survive”. That’s what the fisticuffs in this game feels like. Every fight I partook in felt like I was going up against opponents who, while not necessarily worthy, are nonetheless insane motherfuckers who want my brain out of my head. That’s what first-person melee should be. It feels harsh, brutal, and kind of hilarious. This is owed to a fantastic damage modeling system.
You see, in games like Fallout, you can “break” or “disable” a creature’s arms or legs. Cosmetically, however, it doesn’t really do much. Not so in Dead Island. When you take a swing at a Walker’s arms with a police baton and break one, that thing hangs there. It’s now useless, and absolutely disgusting to look at. Stab at an Infect with a machete and watch bits of flesh start to fly off, resulting in the inevitable decapitation. Kick a Zombie face down into a pool of water and they’ll start to drown. There is no doubt when you land a satisfying blow, and Dead Island’s gory visual feedback is a solid strike in it’s corner. Your mileage may vary depending on your tolerance for this sort of stuff. If you installed that mod for Oblivion that adds entrails, Dead Island has you covered.
The tech tree is also filled with perks that are actually useful and worth leveling up for. This is a game that is constantly rewarding you for your actions, be it with cash, XP, or a weapon called Gabriel’s Hammer. What does it do? I don’t know, but I want it. And when I get it, I’m electrifying it.
I was also pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed battles against human enemies as well. Sure, this isn’t exactly Rage, but these gun battles are a refreshing change of pace should you tired of the excellent hand-to-machete brawling. After hours upon hours of dicing up the undead, landing a headshot was oddly satisfying. Indeed, firearms are pretty much a waste on the dead ones, so encounters with random gang members offer a decent means of snapping you out of melee malaise. When both attack at once, though – have fun. And don’t listen to the game when it tells you that ammo is scarce. Take someone down and their bullets are now your bullets. Blast away.
Oh, you wants quests, you say? Here. Dead Island has about 1 million. That’ll shut you up for a while. It seemingly has little interest in setting you on a linear path, instead setting you loose in a playground filled with lots of giant toys to decapitate. Half the fun of this game was just walking around the island and seeing what kind of stupid shit I could get myself into before dying terribly and laughing hysterically. Side quests aren’t particularly revolutionary (“Hey, there’s a thing in a very inconvenient location. Could you go get it?”), but there are a few standouts. Having to dispatch a man’s wife and daughter who have turned into zombies feels both sick and awesome at the same time, and a mission towards the latter part of the game makes sure to get you all fired up on the evil deeds of a gang leader before setting you loose as a hitman. It’s more than enough to make up for the usual “OH GOD I LEFT MY TOOLBOX AT HOME! PLEASE GO GET IT!”. And even those quest, I don’t mind, because it’s a chance to introduce more undead to the business end of my spiked cudgel. The business end is the sharp one, by the way.
As I’ve mentioned twice already, I played this one FOREVER ALONE. I’m not quite getting the reviews warning soloists to stay away. This is a fine single player experience, if peppered with some absurd difficulty spikes clearly meant to get you to bring a friend. Story cutscenes will make absolutely no sense, showing a roving pack of 4 zombie hunters kicking ass, only to have it be just little ole’ you when said cutscene is over. It’s jarring, but these are the only two spots where I felt like I was being pushed actively towards co-op. Every time I call Rob to see if he wants to join my game, he is always suspiciously sitting on the toilet, unable to excavate his bowels fast enough to help me ward off a Ram. Pity, too – the vehicle sections seem like an absolute blast to play co-op, if only to sit shotgun as your partner careens madly about, sending brain-eaters flying over the dashboard.
Upon booting up, I was disappointed at the lack of graphical options and abundant screen tearing. I’m no graphics snob, but I absolutely can’t stand screen tearing. A quick dip into the video settings file, along with the excellent Dead Island Helper, revealed a game that is absolutely marvelous looking on the PC. In the same way Cryostasis makes you feel frozen at all times, Dead Island feels sweaty, blood-caked, and reeking of death. The sun is almost always pouring down on you, flies buzz around corpses, and beaches would look tantalizing were it not for all that death and such. Pop-in is a bitch, but I’ll take it over screen tearing.
YOU’RE OUR LAST HOPE
I’m not usually the biggest fan of Techland’s work, but they made a great thing here. An open-world horror game, the likes of which I hope I get to see again. Wade into the waters of Dead Island – they’re fine. (Editor’s Note: Gamecrashers does not specifically endorse wading into the waters of Dead Island. We are not responsible for any bodily or emotional, but probably bodily, damage that may occur.)