Monday, February 13, 2012

2011 Games of the Year #2 - Dead Island

As someone who's got a history of liking zombie games, I looked forward to Dead Island for a while. From Left 4 Dead to Dead Rising, and through a plethora of lesser games, I've always been on the lookout for another zombie game. Something about killing zombies just feels gratifying, more so than Nazis or wild beasts. It's like I'm doing God's work...

Dead Island is a slightly different kind of game from a lot of the other zombie games out there, though. It draws on two games in particular: Left 4 Dead (obviously) and Borderlands (not so obviously). The basic scenario (zombies overrunning everything) and many of the enemies seem to hearken back to Left 4 Dead. And it definitely induces the same sort of panic when you start getting pummeled by the infected.

But overall, the game is actually more like Borderlands, morphed into a melee-heavy game. You spend a lot of time accumulating gear and doing quests. The missions are fairly straight-forward: kill X zombies, collect Y supplies, escort Z bastard back to base. Yes, there are escort quests, and yes, they suck ass, just as they do in every other game. But the innate universal bullshit of escort quests isn't enough to counter the substantial awesomeness of Dead Island.

One of the cooler facets of the game is the crafting of new weapons. You can take a simple weapon like a baseball bat and add barbed wire or razors, or take a machete and charge it with electricity. You can also create bombs, Molotov cocktails, and ammunition. Guns aren't all that useful in the game, but they have their place. Mostly, though, you're hacking and slashing up close and personal, which gets pretty tense. Especially because you really can't take many hits before you're toast.

Multiplayer is enjoyable, though you'll likely miss out on some of the cutscenes because people click through, or because you're hearing your friend talk shit. Truthfully, though, the story in my experience so far has been fairly blah, so you're not missing much. The negatives of missing plot points are far outweighed by the enjoyment of partnering up with three friends and stomping on zombie skulls.

Though there are ways to improve upon it, Dead Island one of the strongest zombie games out there.

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