First off, lets start by saying that Zombie games so far have been one of the most popular genres of gaming. With Call of Duty Zombies, Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, Left 4 Dead, Nation Red, Dead Nation and various others, where run & gun and hectic frenzies of zombie slaying are it's standing points, you would be lead to believe that a game like Dead Island would be hard to fit in this genre with it's various fallout/borderlands gameplay mechanics. And much to my skepticism and dismay for the title, I am absolutely astounded by it's overall fun factor.
Dead Island is a game set on a fictional island paradise called Banoi, located in the Papa New Guinean Islands, north of Australia. It stars four unlikely heroes who find out that they're somehow immune to the disease that has caused a zombie outbreak among the innocent civilians of the lush wonder. It starts off with a nice in-game engine cinematic of a party, where you follow a man who's had just a bit too much alcohol. Once the cinematic ends, you're able to choose between one of the 4 protagonists.
Logan, a football player who lost it all, is the first choice. His specialty is throwing weapons (this means ANYTHING). And while he's great at taking out his foes from afar, he's limited in his stamina, and thus must be used carefully and tactically. Next, we have Purna. The spunky woman who is considered "the Leader". She's proficient with guns and her abilities revolve around buffing the others. After this, we have Xian Mei, the woman who was raised in China. She has a proficiency for sharp weapons, and is called "the Assassin". She's quick, and has high Stamina. And last, but most certainly not least, we have "the Tank", named Sam B. This man is a regular brick; being able to crush the undead under his feet (literally!). He has high health and takes less damage than the others. For this review, I went with the foul-mouthed Texan, Logan.
To start off, every character has three skill trees. Fury, which is a special ability that each character has, and can be used to quickly deal with the zombie infestation. Combat, which involves enhancing your damage dealing skills. And Survival, which revolves around well, surviving. Being able to lock pick, increasing your health, resistance to certain damage, and other various skills that will also aid you in your struggle to survive. Logan's fury allows him to enter a temporary state of circus freak knife throwing, allowing him to barrage multiple zombies with a flurry of knives. His combat tree enhances his handling with blunt and sharp weapons, as well as his ability to throw weapons more proficiently. His survival tree however, is one of the more interesting things to invest in, as he has the "boomerang" ability. This gives you the chance to have whatever is thrown, even if it misses, to return to your hand, and can be upgraded a maximum of three times (15%, 30%, 50%).
As you explore the vast island, you're left with the feeling of insecurity as you explore the dense paths of the zombie infested world. Your ultimate goal obviously, is to escape the island. Rather than just following a main story, this is done through questing, where you take on missions assigned by the small survivors for specials weapons, weapon modifications, money, and experience. And while there's a main story, there's also an abundant amount of side quests to do to help you gain the levels you needs and items you want. These quests revolve around helping others find their loved ones, retrieving lost heirlooms, gathering alcohol, canned food, or water, and various other tasks. This is where the game succeeds immensely. Through my time playing, I almost never felt that there was nothing to do. And when completing quests and earning rewards, you level up in the process, which slowly turns your ordinary protagonist into a zombie killing badass.
The infected aren't a pushover either. This isn't Left 4 Dead style killing where spraying your gun mows down hundreds of enemies. These infected are downright humanistic, and are as tough as nails. During the first act, you may not find too much difficulty when dealing with your foes. However, as the game progresses, you suddenly realize that at almost every turn, you're being overrun with enemies who are just as strong as you are. Not to mention, the undead aren't just mindless drones who stumble towards you. You'll find quite a variety of undead in the game, ranging anywhere from walkers, to newly infected civilians who can still run at their full potential. The thug, who is a slow moving, heavy damage dealing, high health zombie who will literally knock you on your ass if you come too close. The ram, who is a gargantuan monstrosity tied in a straight jacket, who does as his name implies. The suicider, which resemble a thinner version of the boomer from Left 4 Dead, will explode on contact and spit a vile that causes anything to become extremely flammable. The floaters, who have similar traits to the boomers, are able to take quite a beating and will vomit on you, causing you to take damage and be temporarily blinded. And last is the Butchers, who are fast and can do a lot of damage with their broken off limbs.
Another fantastic aspect of this game is the loot system. Throughout your adventure, you'll find a surplus of weapons, ranging from blunt, to sharp, from single handed, to two handed, to different guns. There's weapons ranging anywhere from weak, homemade weapons, to the rare colored ones you'd expect from Diablo. Once you have your weapon, you can take it to the work bench and upgrade their damage and durability and other various traits. Then, once you've done this, you can create new weapons from pre-existing weapons much like in Dead Rising 2. Where elemental attributes can be added such as Fire, Lightning, Poison, and Bleeding.
I don't want to talk to much about the story, as I don't want to spoil anything. However, I can say while it may not be the greatest piece of literature written, it does have it's surprises and is worth following.
Do I believe that this game is worth picking up? Absolutely. It's nothing but pure enjoyment, albeit filled with it's fair share of bugs. Is it for everyone? Probably not, but if you'd like to have your good ol' fashioned zombie killing with splash of RPG, you're set for a good time. It's not perfect, but it might be one of the best zombie games to come out this entire generation.