Dead Island Review [PS3]

Zombies have overrun the games industry, infecting hundreds of thousands of people with their undead games and game modes. But when Dead Island was announced, the industry didn’t respond with their usual roll-of-the eyes. Instead, we took interest; an island filled with zombies sounded like Dead Rising, only more open. At the same time, the game began sounding more ambitious the more we heard.

There’s a lot of good things to be said about Dead Island, but everything good can be countered by the one thing I couldn’t overlook. We’ll cover that later though. The premise is simple, you wake up in a trashed resort, wander around as a voice directs you over an intercom, until you finally come across your main enemy in the game – zombies. You run, and meet up with other survivors, but wait, YOU are immune to the virus, so you get sent out to do their bidding in hopes of escaping the island.

Not exactly the strongest part of the game, but the plot is at least buyable. Minus the little fact of waking up, and while you have no idea what is going on, you still manage to rifle through tons of baggage scattered around. As the player, we know what is going on, but this completely broke the immersion into the game immediately, because if I woke up in this situation, I wouldn’t be rooting around for supplies without knowing what was going on first.

So you play as one of four survivors, each having their own special skill and strongest weapon type. I played through as Xian, who was better suited with bladed weapons. Your skill tree, which you get to assign points to as you level up, has a special power branch, a branch for your weapon type, and a survival branch. This game has been compared to a handful of games, so I will try to spare you with comparisons until the end, however, this setup feels very familiar.

Combat feels great with melee weapons, and that is the bulk of what you will use. Bats, oars, clubs, wooden planks, crowbars, axes, knives, etc., are all at your disposal. And I mean that literally. I, unlike some people, actually like the degrading weapon health. If you break certain weapons, they will break for good, but meat cleavers and knives and such don’t break completely. It brings back a little more of the realism back to the game, and makes you think a little more before rushing into combat.

I only got to use one gun (you’ll understand at the end), but the way it handled didn’t feel near as solid as the melee. And ammo is so scarce, that for quite a while, you won’t need to bother with a gun. Again, that’s a good thing though, because the melee combat is so satisfying, and it sets it apart from every other zombie game on the market. Severing limbs and decapitating zombies with a machete will bring a smile to your face every single time. Guaranteed.

The scenery, from what I got to experience, was gorgeous. While the graphics aren’t necessarily something to write home about, the way everything is laid out is what gets you. And the atmosphere can be tense, especially the first time you come to a new area. I found myself moving incredibly slow through the environments most of the time. The music is just as mood setting, and the moment you hear a zombie that you can’t see, you tense up and whirl around trying to find your soon-to-be-attacker.

Another familiar aspect of the game is the quest system. Techland made sure their were plenty of sidequests for the average sidequest junkie. You can literally spend hours in the first major area of the game just mopping up quests not even related to the main story, but still giving you a deeper understanding of the tragedy that took place. From simple things like fetching a teddy bear, or breaking into a bungalow to find some booze, you’ll never wander around looking for something to do. And they do a great job of marking quest-givers on your map, and who to return to for your reward (with one instance of not working, where you have to find an airplane in the jungle. Your not told where to go on that one.).

My single favorite part of Dead Island is the loot. You’ll find different weapons that are almost the same, except a few values are swapped. So you get to decide which of those is more important. Some weapons are more rare than others, being highlighted with different colors, and in turn, offer stronger base stats and a much higher resale value. The only minor complaint with this system is the fact that I couldn’t find a way to sort the weapons. I always liked to keep a few bladed weapons and a flew blunt weapons, but they were always mixed up in my weapons inventory. You can only carry so many weapons at a time, but the other loot you find has a limitless inventory.

You’ll run across anything from duct tape, to bottles of water, to barbed wire, to scrap metal. And that’s barely scratches the surface on things you’ll find. I had a rather horrible complex of hoarding everything. So instead of selling off items, I kept it all because you never know when someone is going to request it for a quest, or if you need something to modify a weapon with.

Which is another fun point in the game; creating amazingly-nasty weapons to mess up zombies with. You’ll get blueprints from various ventures, and with them, if you have the right materials, you can create modified weapons. A bat wrapped in rags and on fire? Yes, please! And all custom weapons have some sort of benefit if you land a critical hit, like lighting the unfortunate zombie on fire.

With all of that said, I didn’t get to play the multiplayer (the explanation is coming soon, I promise). But unless you share picked up money like another popular game, I really don’t know how much fun I would be having trying to hog all the loot. Weapons are rare at times, so debating who gets what could become a major annoyance. But I was honestly looking forward to playing with some friends, even though none of my friends were playing on PS3 at the time of this review.

I can look past glitches, so some of the stuff I am about to mention aren’t what is giving this potentially-awesome game such a low score. Quests can be broken, causing you to have to load the previous checkpoint, or quit the game entirely. Sometimes you’ll enter a room of zombies, all of them are still standing there minding their own business, yet they sound alerted. I kind of freaked out a few times at this, looking around trying to find the one coming at me to attack it first, only, no one was alerted. If you die, it’s not game over, instead, you lose a little cash, and start so-many feet away. Well, in one case, I started roughly 500 feet away- at the main camp. I was kicked to the XMB once while randomly walking around exploring.

Again, I can look past all of this, and still honestly give the game a great score. I gave Fallout 3 an A or A+ when it came out, and gave it my Game of the Year award, like many others. And that game was so glitchy if you sneezed, something bad happened.

The problem I had with this game was the save system. There is no “Save and Quit”, or “Save/Load” section on the pause menu. Instead, it randomly saves the game for you, represented by a little red icon in the top right, and some white text informing you that the game was just saved. Now, while that may not seem too bad for the lazy-folk, I prefer to have an autosave as a backup, but I want to manually save my game, especially in an open world environment like Dead Island.

If that’s not bad enough, the game was patched two days into me playing it. The patch reset my stats and pretty much made it impossible to save the game, because after 4 hours of playing nonstop, I decided to quit. I also noticed around this time that three trophies I had earned (the game keeps track of them in the game for you too, and not only do you get the system pop, but you get an obnoxious box telling you you just unlocked a trophy), weren’t actually earned. So I loaded the game back up, saw all my stats erased, and it started me back up with the save just before the patch; roughly four hours and 5 character levels earlier.

So I deleted the patch, in hopes of being able to save again so I could at least get this review written, and it seemed to be working for awhile. Until I noticed a few more trophies not popping. But I played some more, got to Act 2, quit, same thing. Started me about 2 hours prior. Not wanting to play through the same set of quests three times and still unsure of when I could quit, I have decided to stop playing the game. I can not continue with a broken save system. I can play through a game with glitches, with bad graphics, with bad writing, but as long as it’s fun, I don’t care. But not knowing when it has saved, or even if it has saved when it said it did, I can’t do that.

To be fair, this is a great game, and if they fix the save issue, I would honestly give it a , 4 or higher. But, regretfully, I can’t do that in it’s current state. I will come back and play this again, because when it works, it’s addicting. To my knowledge, this is pretty common on PS3, as I read some forums to see what the scoop was. 360 owners, whom I have seen quite a few of, seem to not have the same major problem with saving.

With a strong gaming season upon us, this is still a solid competitor and can stand its own in the sea of good games upon us. Again, if a patch comes out to fix the game, don’t hesitate to pick this up, because when it was working, I spent most of workday wishing to be back at the resort, bashing zombies with my flaming baseball bat.

Pros: excellent melee engine, tons of loot, weapon modifications, beautiful environments, plenty of side quests

Cons: a broken save system that won’t save correctly, lots of glitches, no manual save option

Score: When/if the game is fixed, a small post-review editorial will be posted, scoring the game then. (read the review to understand)

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Author: Don Parsons View all posts by
Starting out as a founding member of Gamingcore Podcast, Don ventured on to start Gameciety; which began as a podcast, and ended as a blog. Don now handles Vagary.tv's PR work, is part of the reviews staff and has various other little projects he does for the site.