Game Review: Dead Island

Zombies are everywhere lately, particularly in the gaming industry. Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising, Resident Evil 5, Dead Space, and even Call of Duty are all involving themselves in the lucrative business of zombie-killing. I guess you could say the zombie genre has been beaten to death.

But wait, one genre of games hasn’t been touched by the zombie apocalypse yet! We may have cooperative zombie shooting and solo treks through terrifying locals as well as hilarious chainsaw rampages through hordes of the undead, but we don’t yet have a zombie-based RPG. Well, Dead Island is out to fix that problem, and I guess it does the best it possibly can.

The controls are smooth and intuitive, and exploration is easy to figure out. The game operates very similar to Red Dead Redemption, with items of interest popping up on your mini map as you get close to them.

From the outset, Dead Island is gorgeous. The scenic island of Banoi seems like the perfect place to freshen up the zombie genre, and I guess in a way it’s about the only place that hasn’t been drained of all creative content by previous games. The gameplay is solid and the graphics are great, but not long after the first chapter starts, things get bland.

As great as the graphics are, one hut starts to look just like another hut, and one NPC looks just like another, especially when all of them are wearing either bikinis or khaki shorts. That’s the problem with resort island settings, but Deep Silver did their best to aid you in differentiating between places, whether through making one hot tub filled with blood and another one not, to one pool having slides and another having a bar.

This game is good, there’s no doubt about that, but I got bored with it much faster than I usually do. I’ve played everything from Fallout 3 to Viva Pinata, and nothing has failed to grab my attention this badly before. The game plays just like any other action RPG but with less variety. There’s something satisfying about kicking a zombie to death, but it’s just not satisfying enough to make me keep playing.

Maybe I’m spoiled. Maybe I expected too much from the hand-to-hand combat after playing through both Condemned games. Maybe I expected too much from the RPG elements after playing both Knights of the Old Republic games. That’s the thing though; if Deep Silver had managed to do both elements as well as the games I mentioned—and they should have put the effort in, because they’re both huge parts of the game—this would easily be in the running for my favorite game this year.


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