Saying the hype for Dead Island was big is a great understatement. Gamers and developers rushed like moths to the lantern to see the most-talked about video game trailer in recent memory, greatly anticipating the sort of zombie title we've been craving for years. After months of waiting we have finally arrived at our Dead Island destination. Is this the Left 4 Dead meets Dead Rising title we've been craving, or is it something a lot more?

Players take control of one of the four playable characters (Purna, Logan, Sam and Xian) as they take on the task to save the rest of the survivors on Banoi, an island filled to the brim with members of the undead. Your character is apparently the only one immune to zombie bites, so you (and up to three co-op buddies) can run around the island to gather supplies, save others and battle many different shapes and sizes of the walking dead. With a ton of weapons at your disposal and a breath of hope players will have to give it their all in order to save the people from becoming those that seek human flesh.

The trailer that shook the world...

In Dead Island gamers take up missions in order to raise their levels and gather the necessary equipment to get off the island, ranging from simple search & rescue to warding off zombies while turning off fire hydrants to save the island's water supply. Throughout the island you'll have to search for any weapons to use in order to kill what is already dead, but use a weapon too much and it becomes blunt or exhausted. Fortunately within some of the confines you will find work benches where you'll be able to fix your weapons up, and on occasion upgrade them if you have the proper funds. To find said funds you scavenger around areas with packages, bags or corpses that may be carrying some extra cash (and, at times, a new weapon for your personal gain).

The zombies' difficulties can range from the simple to the most extremely difficult. On most occasions you will find yourself battling with at least three undead creatures at a time, and sometimes it will take more than one swipe to off them. Though you can aim for the head and decapitate a zombie for a one-slice kill it very difficult to achieve that when you're neck-deep in undead chaos. To add a sort of realism to it players can experience fatigue if they swipe too many times or run fast for too long, and while it might hinder your experience it gives players the opportunity to think of more creative ways to tackle on the undead. (HINT: kicking helps.) While on Dead Island players will be able to sharpen their skills with an RPG-styled leveling system. The more successful kills you make the closer you get to leveling up your character. A tree system is also in play, where you can upgrade your abilities to help achieve your greatest advantage points.

One of the most unique things about Dead Island is its usage of sound in order to seek out zombies to kill. When entering an area you'll hear a scream or roar from a zombie, and it's your task to figure out which direction they'll be coming from. By listening carefully you can determine if they'll be charging towards you up front or partaking in a sneak attack from behind. Sometimes, however, you won't know when or where they'll be coming, especially indoors or in dark places. Your flashlight will come in handy for the latter, but by the time you see a zombie it will have already seen you. Believe me: your heart will jump at times when those things come attacking.

If you die in Dead Island you will have money taken away from you as penalty and then revive back at a certain checkpoint. Where the checkpoint is, however, is a bit of a gamble. Sometimes you will come back around in the same area, whereas other times you'll find yourself further away from your questing spot. I once died in the gas station trying to defeat one of the more tougher zombies, only to find myself revived on the other side of the island. After running back as fast as I could to the gas station I wound up dying via the same zombie, and again found myself at the other side of the island. In short: some of these revival spots can hinder you more than do good, especially if you literally come back within a massive zombie attack.

I was impressed with the heavy details put into the world and creatures around you. Techland is known for creating some of the most gorgeous worlds, as evident in their last title nail'd, and it shows greatly in the most tropical of areas on the island. From the swaying trees and the beautiful oceans to the buildings and cathedrals the world of Dead Island is a perfect contrast to the horrors you see in the game. The undead walkers are scary as hell, especially when they're charging towards you at top speeds. Granted there will be some clipping in a couple areas, but for the most part the game looks great. Regular human characters, however, kind of look subpar and emotionless.

While the aiming system is a bit tough -- especially when surrounded by zombies -- the rest of the control scheme is very easy to figure out. Using the quick inventory comes in handy for whenever you're in the middle of an undead melee, with simple kicking playing in to just knocking down a few zombies like dominos. You can even throw your weapons at either zombies or nearby explosives, and with its lock-on aiming system it makes playing undead darts a breeze. Driving around handles pretty well, but there will be some vehicles that will make it a bit difficult to see through the front window. Having said that driving head-on through a ton of zombies is a gory blast, with some of them splattering amongst your truck like jelly.

When co-op mode comes into play the true fun begins. You can tag along with other players to accomplish missions, or wait around for others to join yours. When you have at least one other person with you it makes zombie killing much easier. However be aware that if you are to join in on another person's game that your progress from that point will not be counted in your mission log. If you aren't the type that likes to repeat a level then it'd be best to wait for someone to join your quest rather then join theirs.

The storyline in Dead Island is pretty straightforward, and while there isn't much of originality within the tale there's enough going on within the game that will keep players intrigued. Completing the main part of the game might take roughly twenty hours, but that does not include the side quests that will help build up your levels and skills. With tons to accomplish and much land to cover you can probably expect a good forty hours to complete every single task, and with excitement around every corner there will be many reasons to book another vacation in Banoi.

PROS:

  • Zombies are scary as hell!
  • Many quests to partake in
  • Co-op mode is a blast to play
  • Gorgeous visuals

CONS:

  • Some clipping areas during levels, cutscenes
  • Human characters look more lifeless than zombies
  • Can't save progress if you join another player's game online
  • Storyline could've used a twist or two

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Dead Island takes what we've loved in past zombie-killing titles and cranks it up a few notches. While there are a couple hinderances that make this game not flawless there is so much to accomplish and love that these hinderances are a minor itch in the gaming system, one that can easily be fixed with a patch. Dead Island is the horror title we've been dreaming about for years, giving as many frights as there are quests and obstacles to enhance the experience. For once you can believe the hype: Dead Island is the real deal!

FINAL GRADE: 9.5 (out of ten)

Review copy provided by Aubrey Norris and the folks at Deep Silver.

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