04 October 2011

I tear "Dead Island" a new one (rated R)

There are many reasons why this game sucks ass. I simply can’t believe that a game this bad could be released, I’m also pretty sure the developers are hiding in shame somewhere and if they aren't they really should.

To understand anything at all you first have to watch this Dead Island trailer released earlier this year. Over the top artsy and emotional trailer that gives the impression of a adult and serious take on the whole zombie apocalypse subject. Watch the trailer first before you proceed reading any further.

Now, my own thoughts having seen the trailer was that, OK this is probably be something new as opposed to stuff like Left 4 Dead and their like. Would it not be interesting to have, at least once, a story more involving than the usual “bunch of characters cursing and gunning down infinite amounts of zombies”? Imagine if the game was about that family trying to get out alive from a zombie infested holiday resort. If you played a guy protecting his family, just trying to stay alive and find a way out of there?

Think about the possibilities of such a scenario and then watch the following videos before you proceed reading the rest of my review.

This is the first thing you see when you start the game.



And here are your characters, listen carefully to the writing and characterization of these people.


How fucked up was that, you control 1 out of 4 stereotypes, though I actually think the white male is retarded on top of being a jock. What the fuck is up with their backgrounds, who the hell wrote them, and did anyone actually think those morons would provide anything but annoyance and teeth grinding fist clenching reactions?!

So let’s start the single player mode, in which you have to pick one of those Neanderthals. The interesting thing here is that each character has a “proficiency” displayed beneath them. Such as blunt weapon/sharp weapon/ranged expert etc. They are also displayed with a weapon in hand. So I figured, I would try out the only character that had a ranged weapon displayed and proficiency in that area as I always prefer ranged attack characters in games. I can tell you right now – that no matter who you choose – you start out without any damn weapon and there are no ranged weapons until the near end of the game. Awesome huh!?

95% of the weapons used are melee weapons. And it does not matter who you play, all characters can use whatever weapons you find. Making the choice based on proficiency completely useless and a lie.  The first minutes of the game already show how poor this game will be as controls are utter shit, and your character moves with the grace of a drunken ape. There is also no feature to look around corners which is a clear indicator that ranged combat will not play a big part in this game and you will not find any use of cover or stealth. The hints tell you to look around for useful items, and here starts the moronic search through every single tourist bag you can come across.

Because this game is apparently an RPG.  A pleasant surprise you might think, and it would have been if made right. You search bags (they are just like crates/treasure chests) often finding shit items that grant you a couple of dollars. This is weird already. A money system in a zombie apocalypse game? I guess there will be some point where I need those dollars. Having raided 37 bags and having found awesome items such as glue, deodorant, nails and such (no joke) you are let out of the hotel where you wake up and the “real” game begins.

You are attacked by zombies, bitten, dragged into a hut with a bunch of other survivors but somehow you prove to be “immune” to the zombie virus which of course means that the other survivors (I refuse to call them characters) will send you on important missions which will take you through 3 large open world maps filled with endless disappointment.

Waking up you are immediately sent outside the hut to save the lifeguard pulling you into the hut away from the zombies in the first place. This is a gentleman with a tramp stamp tattoo to his face and an over the top “Australian” accent. You are hereby introduced to both the quality of the NPC’s and the fighting system of the game. The characters sound and look stupid. The fighting in first person with close combat weapons is a chaotic clunky mess as you have to judge the distance between yourself and the incoming zombies before you swing, if you miss they jump you and you have to punch yourself free. In the end combat boils down to this procedure:

Zombie sees you and runs towards you.
You wait until he almost reaches you, upon this you spam the “kick” button as if there was no tomorrow.
When the zombie is kicked on his back you move up and bash the head in (thanks to auto aim??)
Repeat ad infinitum.

Basically five minutes of playtime gives you a hint on how the entire game will be, every combat situation is identical, no change of tactics and just boring button mashing. Bashing zombies over their back and caving their heads in with a canoe paddle gets old faster than you think. But the awfulness is just beginning here. You see, this game is an RPG, as such you have an inventory system, collect weapons, items, upgrade your character, earn experience points and level up. Usually, when done right, all of this works really well. This game however is such a clusterfuck on all accounts.

Weapons suffer from the idiotic “weapon degradation” system. I hate it. No game, not even the one’s I like like Fallout New Vegas, Diablo 2, STALKER etc could get this right. Dead Island however brings the shitty’ness  of weapon degradation even further. Say you have a solid canoe paddle, how long do you think it would last if used in self defense against decomposed human bodies? Well I’m not 100% sure myself, but I suspect it would last longer than 6 hits before it shatters. How long would a lead pipe last in the same situation? According to the game 11-12 hits before it shatters.

Your inventory isn’t based upon any weight or size restriction, so you are pretty much Guybrush Threepwood from Monkey Island, hauling 7 canoe paddles in your pants.  The experience system simply awards you for killing zombies and completing stupid quests. You level up automaticly which becomes a real problem because guess what? Dead Island includes another moronic and loathed game feature called “scaling enemies”. This means that as a Lvl 1 character you encounter lvl 1-2 zombies. As a lvl 2 character you encounter level 3-4 zombies. You see a pattern? So while you get to spend you single character development point on a useless skill – and often you have to buy the same useless skill 3 times in a row to get past it in the” tech tree” the zombies you face get tougher and tougher. Weapons collected remain shitty and break just as easily, so you make the equation.

Zombies are often encountered in groups of 3-7 early on, so you will use up your weapons quicker than you think. Now I mentioned money earlier in this review, and money can be used to barter useless items that you can find all over the Island with a select few traders but primarily you use your hard earned cash to either repair or upgrade your weapons on “work benches”. Again, this makes no fucking sense. How does it cost money, and who do you pay, to tape together a baseball bat or put nails through a wooden stick? The crafting system should just be based on items you can find (the important components are rare enough), in the end crafting is a waste of time and money because anything you craft will break after 15-20 hits anyway and you cannot repair unless you visit one of the “work benches” of which there are like 4 in each of the huge areas… This is brilliantly stupid.

The stupidity of the crafting system is rivaled by certain weapons being character lvl restricted. A military machete could require a lvl 14 character before you can use it. Why? I can buy the idea of having restrictions tied to a characters strength, or weapon training. But just limiting to how high your level is, that is just incomprehensible.  And why the hell would I even want to hurry up and level up my character for when the enemies just get tougher and that shitty weapon will just break after a few hits anyway!?

Another feature in this game that could have been good is that you can find intact vehicles all over the island, although  not too often, which can be used for transportation. The vehicle driving however is a mess and the controls for cars are choppy at best.  In the end the ability to drive does not enrich the game at all, you just use the vehicles to take yourself from point A to point B somewhat faster which just brings me to another point.

There is too much “dead time” in the game. Moving from point A to point B is a boring chore. Sure the game looks good, but if you paint a turd in gold paint does not mean it becomes worth more.  Everything else aside, this game suffers from being extremely boring, repetitive and a lackluster gaming experience. I could accept every stupid shitty feature and character if only the gameplay was fun. But it’s not.  Just because you throw in zombies as the main opponents in the game does not automatically make it good.

The main quests given to you by the tramp stamp tattoo faced Australian lifeguard stereotype are the only sensible ones. I say sensible because they are nothing else than glorified fetch quests with little impact and characterization. You are sent to find a keycard needed to unlock a gate, you are sent to clean out a lifeguard station, you are sent to find components to repair the satellite antenna. You don’t really feel that anything you do is all that important, there is no weight behind your tasks. I could just compare two side quests, one from Deus Ex Human Revolution and one from Dead Island.

In Deus Ex: HR your wife gets killed and the Police investigation seems dodgy. While walking the streets you bump into your dead wife’s mother who asks you if you would be willing to look into the whole thing which in the end leads you to digging through police reports, interacting with police officers who were on the case and come up with actual important information that you can relay back to your mother in law.

In Dead Island on the other hand you come across stuff like this:

And this example is really Dead Island in a nutshell. The whole game revolves around this complete utter shit, barely any story, boring gameplay, scaling enemies, weapon degradation, annoying main characters – nothing remotely similar to the trailer you saw at the beginning of this review. This game is not scary, it is not survival horror, it does not allow for any stealth approach around the zombies, it just requires you to kick them on their back and hit them with your paddle 2 times until it breaks. The graphics and zombie survival RPG potential is completely wasted in a spectacular fashion. Oh and the enemies and objectcs picked up respawn within minutes.

Do I even need a final recommendation after all of this? Just play L4D or any other game with a zombie apocalypse mode/extra level. Anything but this.


11 comments:

  1. Everything after the release of the emotional trailer had indicated this game was going to be bad, and it was. I have heard the amount of leveling you can do is someone entertaining, but I won't be picking this one up myself.

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  2. Now that is how to rant, had no interest in this game after a few reviews and videos but you confirmed it, thanks for the excellent prose.

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  3. @ Adam, I saw the original "emotional trailer" and then the game vanished from my radar. Zombie theme is not enough to pull me in, so I didn't really follow up on this game. I too had heard that it was "somewhat different to the trailer" but I had no idea it would be this bad.

    There is a free to play Flash game called "Last stand" which I really recommend over this dungpile. It (and the sequels) can be found on the "Armor Games" site. The guy making the game really improved the concept from the first to the second game, and even more so in the third. Check them out.

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  4. Nice review, confirmed what I thought about this (Weapon degradation is a PITA, even in the best games of the world [STALKER, Fallout 3])

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  5. I have to say, truly epic review, if nothing else what this game has given me is 10 minutes of pure laughter from your awsome review Anatoli, it sounds like your experience with this was as bad as my experience with Far Cry 2. Which left me screaming that is not propogating fire at the monitor until my wife brought me tea.

    My review of Far Cry 2 is hear, if you haven't tried that steaming pile of dung

    http://uk.gamespot.com/pc/action/farcry2/player_review.html?id=618509&tag=all-about%3Breview2

    Cheers Anatoli, bloody funny review.

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  6. Heh, don't get me started on Far Cry 2. I played that game too, even finished it. It was nothing like Far Cry 1 (which was actually a decent game). FC2 was just shit through and through.

    This game actually shares a lot with Far Cry 2, made by people who thought that a "nice looking pretty open world would be enough to satisfy gamers".

    Your review of FC2 is pretty much the same experience I had.

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  7. I'm glad it's not just me then, I get a bloody twitch whenever I say FC2

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  8. Wow.That's a really harsh review. It can't be that bad-can it?:)

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  9. Thanks for the review - thanks to it I can dodge a bullet.

    I also wish people would learn how to swear as is it clearly obvious those who wrote the scripts can't.

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  10. @Rempage , sadly it is....

    @Shelldrake, yeah the script for this game had to be written by halfwits.

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  11. LOL, to funny, good review,:)

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