Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Full Review: Dead Island (PC)

What says "Christmas" more than being on a tropical island?  How about killing thousands (my total came out to 3,641) of zombies and their ilk?  That's where we will spend our post (albeit a day late).

50 hours, 38 minutes later, roughly, I completed the main campaign for Dead Island, playing as the fallen copper, Purna.  For my First Impressions of the game, you can read about that here.  This however will be the more traditional full-on-review.

As I mentioned in my FI, not comparing the game to the announcement trailer from 2011, the story in the game is somewhat lacking.  The game opens with your character waking up after a night of partying/binge drinking while on the fictional island of Banoi, off the coast of Australia/New Zealand/Papua New Guinea, hence all the Australian-esque accents.  When you come to, everything has gone to shit.  Zombies have very well established themselves as being a part of this island world.  It really feels like something that would have taken at least a couple of days to happen, but it appears that events happened only over night.

Throughout the game you are able to locate articles titled "Facts" although accessing them is something that I was unable to easily figure out.  You also find audio recordings left by a journalist.  At first it seems plausible that you just happen to be following the exact same path as this journalist-man, but when you find the last recording, why he is "there" doesn't make any sense.

There were some story elements told through cut-scenes that also didn't make much sense.  Thankfully this game didn't use cut-scenes to tell the story of the game (as if you were playing a movie), but were mainly used as transitions between pseudo-key events.  Even then, there were a couple of times when I felt that the cut-scenes were revealing information that I felt like I was supposed to have known earlier or would leave me confused as to what just happened.

Throughout the game, you travel between the beach side resort area, downtown Moresby, the jungle, laboratory facilities and an offshore prison.  The frequency of changing locations is nicely paced.  There's the first stage of getting used to an area, the second stage of being familiar enough that you know where you're going and the final stage of being tired of said area and wanting to go somewhere else.  Then there's the nostalgia factor when you revisit a previous area and you're happy again.  This is done very well here.

The game ended with a boss fight that also didn't make much sense.  It felt like it was tagged on at the end to give the game a Resident Evil feel to the end after the game was finished and some executive/producer said, "There's no boss fight?  Throw in a monster that we haven't really seen yet and have it be that guy.  Now rewrite that one part in the game so it makes sense why he's a bad guy, ignoring the 90% of the game up to that point."

As previously stated, the controls took me a little bit to get used to, having just come from playing Left 4 Dead 2 and being familiar with that control setup.  The keyboard layout was "relayouted" and axis' were inverted and all was right as rain after an hour or so.

Now, I'm sure that somewhere online there are FAQs about how to properly build your character.  Yes, build.  Dead Island is an FPS with RPG skill tree elements.  As you kill zombies (and the occasional human with a gun), you gain experience points and level up.  When you level up you have three skill trees that focus on either special attacks,  or increasing HP, types of loot drops and increasing the integrity of weapon customization.

I already stated that I felt that certain aspects of Dead Island felt like it played like an online game, a claim which I am able to make not having played m/any online games.  But the fact that there were times when I would get mauled by one or two zombies (walkers, infected) and die very quickly, only to respawn seven seconds later.  I stand by my assertion that death wasn't something so much as something to be feared as it was something that was a great inconvenience.   During the final boss battle, I stopped caring about using my health packs as I knew that I could get a couple shots in with the shotgun and do a bit of damage before I died and especially since the boss did not regain any noticeable amount of health whenever I respawned.  I was basically an immortal god who just lost consciousness frequently.

I had no issues with the graphics.  There were two cut-scenes that skipped a bit, but nothing too distracting.  Overall, the game looked really good.  I wasn't going in expecting life-like semblances of limbs strewn about the place.

Regarding the zombies and their types, with the exception of the Butchers and Tanks, I felt that there was enough variation in who I was killing.  I liked that I didn't feel like I was killing the same five zombies over and over.  Also, depending on which area you were in, the clothing changed, although sometimes heads were reused, but that didn't bother me.

I was very pleased with both the music and the sound effects used in the game.  Specific zombie growls were easily recognizable and when wearing headphones, it was a lot easier to tell from which direction the attacks were going to come from.  There was one particular sound effect that was never explained, which I kind of like, but at the same time, I wish that I knew what was going on.  Throughout the game (I think it was present in all areas) there was the sound as if a zombie (possibly a Thug) was being broadcast over a loudspeaker, possibly after having it's legs cut off.  I found that this sound was occasionally unnerving especially while trying avoid large groups of zombies.


I think it is safe to say that I enjoyed Dead Island as I spent 50 hours playing the game.  There were times when I got frustrated with the frequency of dying and respawning seven seconds later and felt as if I should be playing with other people online, combined with the 164 times I died, that works out to dying every 18 minutes.  At times, the game really felt like it was a mash-up of Skyrim and Left 4 Dead 2, which are two games that I really love playing and Dead Island did both of those games successfully, and while not a perfect combination of both games, it certainly achieved its goal, despite the weak ending.


Destination Chaos

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