Originally published on GameInformer.com September 8, 2011, at 2:00 PM.
Selected for Blog Herding -- The Best Blogs of the Community, 9/15/11.
6,181 views as of June 4, 2018.
In this new pictorial, I explore my first few hours surviving the horrors of Techland's Dead Island. As always, I'll give my impressions while also trying to make observations that others have overlooked in the reviews I've read. My hope is that you gain a better understanding of the island of Banoi to help you make your travel plans (though you might want to wait until things die down!).
One of the first things I noticed was the poor collision detection. It's less a factor in combat, thankfully, then just aesthetics. Nevertheless, watching objects phase into and out of each other whether bodies, weapons, tools, vehicles or otherwise, is an annoying technical faux-pas and symptomatic of the inconsistencies in this title's presentation.
Loot grinding is one of the favorite pastimes on Banoi and this tourist trap is just the place to stock up on essentials whether cash, health pickups in the form of energy drinks or bars, or various items that can be used later to craft more deadly weapons. Exploring the island for the plethora of goods is essential and rewarding.
The atmosphere Techland establishes early on is effectively creepy, showing off a world overrun by a deadly menace as brutalized corpses, copious spilled blood, littered streets and buildings, and abandoned vehicles combine for a claustrophobic sense of isolation and despair.
This amusing book is ubiquitous on the island, making you wonder if it's included in every hotel room along with a Gideon's Bible. And just like the latter tome, tourists might have never bothered to open it, at least to judge by how many opted to stay.
I thought the cut scenes were decent, not terrific but not annoying either as some have found them to be. They further the story and the presentation is adequate for this gen.
The open world offers tremendous exploration opportunities, though there will be limits to your travels (no wonder no one simply swam away). That said, such limitations are within the restrictions set by other open world titles.
Indeed, the world of Banoi is huge, at least to judge by how much of the map isn't even visible at the beginning. A nice RPG element is the Fast Travel feature that will allow you to move quickly and easily between found locations.
The presentation is inconsistent at best. Whether a shiny coating like this gen's launch titles, poor textures up close, jagged edges or lumpy character models, this title can lack technical polish. However, you'll just as often see quality lighting, detailed textures, decent animation and well crafted characters, not to mention an impressive draw distance.
The same goes for the audio. Voice acting can be overwrought and dialog is sometimes forced, plus at times dialog is on a loop so, for example, a few sentence conversation between NPCs might repeat incessantly. At other times, however, these are well done. Importantly, ambient noises are superb and the feral screeches and roars of zombies are chilling.
I'm always amused when I can loot zombie corpses, though it makes sense that they would still carry items from their former lives. It's just part of the elaborate loot grinding system present in Dead Island.
Much already has been made of the value of the soles of your feet in this melee oriented game, and in fact it proves the most efficient weapon at your disposal. Whether boot stomping a fallen zombie or jump kicking the undead, it's not only fun but highly effective. Indeed the jump kick feels like an innovation due to its ease, power and ability to save on stamina and weapon degradation.
Zombies in Dead Island reflect a diversity not only of appearance but of AI too. Some will stand still despite your standing only a few feet away, whereas others will sense your presence from several yards away. Similarly, some will take the shortest route even if an obstacle prevents movement, though others will take alternate paths.
Indeed, in one instance I was pursued by a fast zombie and a slow one. The fast one stared and gnarled at me even as it made a beeline around rocks I was standing on top of to scale the seemingly one route to my position. The other slower zombie shambled to the base of the rock formation and stood menacingly in the street below.
Map design is thankfully diverse and even in only the coastal community you begin in, there are multiple elevations, a variety of structures and interior layouts, multiple paths and various landscaping. The world of Banoi is wonderfully realized, adds to gameplay scenarios and options, and helps counteract some of the presentation issues you can encounter.
Much has been made of the similarities with fellow RPG Fallout, and deservingly so, however combat in Dead Island seemingly owes much to Condemned. That melee-centered survival horror title had weapons with heft and forced you into close quarters combat. Strong physics and realistic animations helped immerse gamers more. All are qualities Techland's title shares.
While some have criticized hit detection during combat, I've found targeting and damage radius to be pretty accurate. There are situations where I will miss wildly, but they are usually of my own making when I'm surprised by a random zombie or descended upon by a horde of the undead.
There are a variety of NPCs to talk to, and many will have quests for you to undertake. As the resident immune habitant, you're the unlucky candidate for the majority of jobs so expect an earful. Thankfully they can be interesting to talk to, and sometimes even betray the fear or anxiety such a dire situation would elicit in most people. Short of dialog trees, these interactions reminded me of Fallout 3.
Blunt weapons are copious on Banoi and plenty seemingly can have a bloody impact such as braining a zombie on the top of the head with a paddle. But blades are likewise available and they can cut a bloody swath indeed. In fact, using one against a thug is essential as they are tough to knock down and can drop you in one shot. Lopping off their limbs helps even the odds.
Techland is not immune to quick time events so expect to add some timed button presses to your combat itinerary while visiting the island. Especially when surprised by a zombie or overrun by the undead, submitting to a QTE will allow you to throw off your assailant, or die trying. Thankfully they're not complicated and the pattern repeats for each encounter.
The gameplay has been compared to Dead Rising and for good reason. You can make use of virtually anything in the environment that's not nailed down. I've found that propane tanks are great for knocking down a group of walkers and can't wait till I have a gun to really set things on fire! Also, use the environment to you advantage by kicking a walker into a burning car. ; )
Whatever activity you engage in you have a chance of earning trophies or upgrading skills. Wading through water, walking, bashing the undead, all are eligible for some recognition. In fact, from these awards or upgrades to the hit points and exclamations, there is a strong arcade element in the gameplay that increases the fun factor.
Normally when getting RRoD your gameplaying time is over, at least on the 360, however this ring appeared while I was inside a house, confusing the heck out of me. After following it, I realized it was a map marker. Moreover, it appeared whenever I stopped our truck, and even at our destination. Whether glitch or by design, it was an unwelcome distraction.
Who knew this would become such a favorite pasttime on this island resort? Forget bowling for the undead with propane tanks; dressing up your ride with their entrails is so addictive it should be illegal. And don't worry if they soil your windshield, you'll punch it out without even braking! So start your engines. BTW, vehicle handling is quite serviceable so don't hesitate to get rolling.
Dead Island is deep with detail and variety, from a wide assortment of main and side quests, to a broad inventory of deadly weapons and practical items, to various branching skill trees, the open world is rife with gameplay possibilities. There is plenty to do in Banoi, even if all you really want to do is brain some zombies. So have a visit, and enjoy!
For the record, I've played into Chapter 2 with Sam B. (blunt weapons expert) and have ranked up to level 4 after a few hours. As you likely can tell, there is much yet to unlock in terms of the map, quests or skills, but so far I've been having a blast and can't wait to return to the game. I also have yet to play co-op, but touring alone has kept me plenty busy. In closing, I hope you've found this helpful!
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