Dead Island: GOTY Review.
Last summer, Deep Silver decided to scare the hell out of the gaming community by posting this video:
People weren’t entirely sure what to make of it, beyond the fact it’s that’s a more heart-rending, imaginative, gory and emotive piece of film than anything Hollywood has churned out for quite a long time. Oddly, though, it didn’t feature any gameplay whatsoever. Cynical minds suggested that between the Dead Rising and the incredible Valve’s (Of Half-Life and Portal fame.) Left4Dead, the zombie genre was pretty much sewn up. Deep Silver wouldn’t have anything beyond fancy film making skills.
Then Techland started talking to the press. They talked about sandbox areas, skill trees,driving, non linear gameplay. Oh, and it would be insanely violent, too.
It didn’t take long to realise that they weren’t mucking around, either.
Badly received on its initial release, due to being insanely buggy, almost unfinished and suffering dubious pixel collision, Dead Island didn’t benefit from being part of the Christmas line-up of 2011. Compared to polished fare like Batman: Arkham City, Gears Of War 3 or Skyrim, people soon dismissed it as an also ran and started their multi-player Modern Warfare 3 campaigns. As Bill Hicks once said ‘Bad Call, Brother.’ Being pretty bored of space marines and soldiers running about, I carried on with Dead Island. As I carried on, patches were uploaded to smooth out the rougher graphical glitches and such. Pretty soon, Dead Island was taking up a fair amount of my time.
Reviewer’s complaints have seemed a bit…odd to me. Suggesting the story itself or the voice acting are poor is to misunderstand the genre itself, I imagine. Somewhat like complaining that Kelly Brook didn’t seem very convincing in Piranha 3D or that the zombies in Return Of The Living Dead are a bit articulate for animated corpses. It’s trash! The whole point is that it’s unconvincing, badly acted nonsense. The plot has always been a vehicle to drive our protagonists into a series of convolutions involving face-eating, explosions, nudity and violent, wise cracking fun. Depth and subtext is there, but it depends how clever you are, really. And if you watch the news…
The plot is stupid, and it’s far,, far too violent to be healthy for anyone. It’s even been banned in Germany. Not only that, It’s too long. Most of the game is ‘Meet a person. They ask you to do a Thing. Do it. Come Back.’ (A Thing can be anything from killing someone’s children to finding champagne or a plaster.) After a while, you start to feel like a cross between The Good Samaritan and Leatherhead. You start to dread saving people from zombie attacks because they will want you to do something! Most of them nag at you The promo comic tie in was shockingly bad. So bad that Marvel seem to have deleted it from their site. As in Aircel or Eternity bad. Somehow, you lose money when you get knocked out. Because Zombies are notorious muggers.
It’s also gruesome. I mean, my levels of desensitization are somewhat silly. I’m that guy laughing his arse off in the back row whilst Jason plunges a guy in his underwear through a plate-glass window or the zombies start pulling out Dylan Moran’s guts while Daisy From The Office holds onto him until only his ankles remain…
But Dead Island? At one point, I hit a giant zombie with a car, threw a propane tank at him, followed by a dozen blades to take his arms off so he couldn’t punch me while i ran back and shot the propane tank which blew him to pieces. Lots of pieces. The severed head landed by the tide and liberally pumped blood into the sea. Later on, the sickle i threw at a female zombie embedded itself in her arse just before she fell off a cliff when I kicked her in the head while she was down. I had to chase her down the road before throwing a crate at her head to get the bloody sickle out of her bum. I was a bit..taken aback.
These are not isolated incidents. This is Dead Island.
But of course, the awkward question hanging in the air is…’Is it better than Left4Dead, Walking Dead or Dead Rising?’
In short order ‘Er…’, ‘Fuck, Yes!’ and ”Yes, but it’s not as funny.’
Dead Island nicks the innovation of Dead Rising’s homebrew weaponry. A fair amount of time is spent running about and picking up seemingly pointless bits of junk that later becomes amazing! You will eventually need guns, but the sheer evil joy of running up behind a zombie while he’s gnawing giblets from a corpse. kicking him in the head and then slicing his arm off with an electric katana? Dead Rising can’t beat it, especially with its odd time-sensitive missions. It is funny driving a motorcycle wearing a dress though.
Walking Dead: I could click an icon into infinity and talk for ages. Or drop a propane tank off a roof onto a zombie’s head. You figure it out.
And then, there’s the main event. Left4Dead.
Where Left4Dead excels is creating tension. Try playing it in the dark, headphones plugged in with no subtitles on. You’re low on ammo, no health packs left. everything’s gone black and white, because you’re close to death. The next safepoint is in sight…suddenly, you hear the growling, you flat up against the corner of the door. He’s still growling. Suddenly, your idiot team-mate Ellis runs ahead.
And this happens:
You empty what’s left of your clip into his back, but Ellis is dead. Coach is hobbling. And then out of nowhere, a Boomer throws up green bile on you. You run towards the door, hoping you can get in before the horde the vomit will attract can descend on you…..
All of Left4Dead is like that. You can never, ever relax. The only reason you can have an idea of what’s coming next is certain situations have their own musical motifs. We’re not going to talk about The Witch here. Oh, and their comic was awesomesasaucea, by the way!
Dead Island doesn’t work like that. The soundtrack is a low-key affair. You can walk about for quite a bit without running into any Infected. In fact, in opposition to Left4Dead’s dour palettes, alleyways and dark (and stormy, obviously) nights, Dead Island is a lush and pleasant place to wander around. Boot around a beach ball. Go to the bar and eat an apple if you want. Splash about in the sea. Go for a drive. (Filthy Orphans in joke, sorry.) Heck, you can even get drunk. Given that you’re going to be popping into a number of safe houses and people are going to complain to you about finding missing jets, needing drugs, food, wives and the like, a few beers might be a good thing.
Where Left4Dead pretty much telegraphs ‘Something is going to try to eat your face …NOW!’ sonically, Dead Island leaves you in totally in the dark. One minute you’re wandering about some cars, picking up bits and pieces and admiring how well drawn the trees are, the next minute, your vision goes blurred, you’re staggering about, it’s a zombie. Oh no, it’s two, three, four. Five, one of them is shambling to your right flank and trying to punch your head in, they’re all growling and screaming as you flail about with a knife, kicking the horde away and running back.
Boom! Bullet to the head. One down, 2nd takes out the knee cap. You’ve got enough time to jump in your car, and run them over. For extra giggles, they squish into your windscreen and are clawing through the door, you swerve into a nearby burning coach, and the zombies keep at you as you jump out, but they’re on fire now. They drop to the ground as their limbs melt. You loot their bodies and find a weapon called ‘FRIGHTENING SICKLE’ and $500.
In the space of 30 seconds, you’ve gone from calm to actual fear to elation. REAL emotions. Not the little ‘Woop.’ you get when you see something along the lines of this:
But an actual feeling. Heart pumping, sweating,. With the exception of my beloved Saint’s Row The Third (Which takes such delight in both knowing it’s a video game and taking the absolute mickey out of the gaming world.) I’ve played nothing else recently that makes me feel anything. That transcends the reality that we’re trying to escape by playing these things in the 1st place. For reasons I’ve not been sure of, It’s remained a high ticket item and been about £25 even in 2nd hand shape. Now The GOTY edition is around the £20 mark and has all the stuff some of us had to shell out on chucked in for free. Build disgusting weapons, run around a beach. Shoot some nuns. And children. Kick a beach ball.
Go scare the hell out of yourself.