Dead Island Impressions

The world is open, quite pretty, and full of zombies.

Having played Dead Island for 5 hours, completing dozens of side-quests and only 8% of the main story, I feel I am more than qualified to fill you guys in on the game.   Dead Island is all about an event that has happened on this island which caused people to turn into zombies.  Somehow you are unaffected by this blight and have been tasked with helping the locals, those who have not been infected, survive.

The gameplay reminds me of Grand Theft Auto meets Dead Rising.  There’s a main story line that you can push through right away but littering your path just about everywhere you go are side quests.  The world is open for you to explore and hunt or avoid zombies.  In addition to side quests there are side people in distress that you have the option to save and work benches to create weapons.  Think Dead Rising — you have nails and a bat which makes a spikey nail bat or a saw blade, some tape, batteries, wires, and a rake and you have a chain saw polearm.

The core of Dead Island gameplay is smashing zombie faces (Warning: It’s graphic).  You get a decent variety of weapons, although so far it’s all melee.  You can kick, jump kick, and sprint.  You can even drive vehicles (which is a TON of fun to do with friends).  What sets Dead Island apart are its RPG elements.  You choose a character that specializes in a type of weapon at the beginning of the game but you get to specialize points that you earn each level into three different trees.  These trees are all very different from the other characters.  My brother, friend, each chose a different character and all of our trees are unique — that’s a lot of individuality!

A few technical issues found their way into the PC launch. I don’t know if it’s the game or Steam, but joining friends takes a bit of luck an patience.  We figured out a trick to get it working almost 100%:  Have someone start the game and invite all the players who need to be waiting at the main menu.  Have the players not accept the invite but instead right click the portrait of the person inviting (in the Steam chat window) and click “Join game” on the person’s name.    Other issues include:

  • Sound issues.  Graev gets a lot of static/popping with his speakers but his headset works fine.
  • Mouse sensitivity is way off for me.  There’s a huge disparity between in-game and menu.
  • Apparently the “wrong version” was released on Steam.
  • Minor polish issues best characterized within the “feel” of the game.

Exploring the beautiful world completing quests, mowing down zombies with blunt objects, customizing a character, driving trucks, and having the ability to do it all quite seamlessly in multiplayer coop makes this easily a contender for the best zombie game I’ve played.  Depending on how the rest of the game plays out, it may surpass Dead Rising.  It’s fun — fun enough to play 4 hours straight.  Based on my initial feelings of the game, I feel comfortable recommending Dead Island.

UPDATE: I would like to amend my recommendation.  I do not recommend the PC version until all issues are resolved.  Buy the console version.  The game us fun but the PC’s multiplayer has been down for two days which is unacceptable.

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  • Hmm might give this another look, I was watching some intro plays and such for this and everything I saw annoyed me UNTIL the moment they actually stepped outside and I saw the beautiful scenery, shortly followed by zombie fists and exploding guts.

    Is that scenery actually used or is it just a glorious backdrop?

  • All the scenery can be explored and visited. It’s a free roaming game.

    Go anywhere you please. Do any mission you want.

  • I might need to check the game out. I liked Red Dead Redemption’s zombie expansion more than the normal game.

  • They’ve had the multiplayer down all day because the volume of people wanting to play overloaded their servers. I’m hoping that they bring up the servers soon.

  • I haven’t tried it yet but from all the videos that I could grab, it seems quite a bit “on rail”. Some people say it’s actually open world but all I see is people following dots on their minimap from a quest to another.
    Another thing that I feel is missing badly is the fact that in most zombie apocalypses lore, zombies are just a background problem, the real issue being the conflicts between survivors. The fact that all these NPCs are just sitting there, invulnerable, is…meh. Likewise, too many scripted events everywhere, often completely illogical.

    Really feels like a waste of a potentially good idea.

  • I watched your streaming session yesterday and my interest has gone up in the game. I am a bit concerned about the scaling of the enemies in that the game may suffer the Oblivion syndrome a bit. I sometimes like to just be able to run around and mow over low level baddies in an RPG, just passes the time.

    What bugs me more than anything is the Co-Op. Namely that I am the only PC gamer of the friends I have in the real world, they all play on 360. Kind of sucks to not be able to play with them.

  • @Mutonizer: GTA and other games like this all have waypoint markers. When wanting to do the missions/quests/objectives, chances are people will follow the markers. Nothing says you have to follow them.