Friday, September 16, 2011

A Fist Full of Crowbar: Dead Island Review

They really need to check their pH levels...

I've spent a week with the PC* version of Dead Island and hot damn is it kicking my ass!  Kicking my ass in the best way possible.  In the way that only zombies can.   Read on as I detail my journey through the island on Banoi, taking hammers to folk and helping strangers along the way.

Let me start by taking you for a walk down one of my favorite places.  It's a place called "Truth Street".  It runs parallel to "Honesty Boulevard" and "Integrity Avenue", good, wholesome places where only the truth is allowed.  The reason for our visit to the shrine of truthiness?  So that I can tell you something that I'm a little ashamed to say, but that I think you should know.  I didn't finish Dead Island. There, I said it. Don't hate me, because this game had so many more layers, so much more substance than I originally anticipated. As of this writing, I'm 43 hours into the game, and I have only seen 70% of the story. Damn. I really wanted to review the whole game, but in order to have a somewhat relevant and timely review, I've got to do this thing now. I'll keep on trekking through the game, however, and if anything noteworthy comes up once I've finished, I'll update this review.

That poor man spilled his cherry cobbler....
Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the fun stuff! After about a week of playing, I can readily say that smacking zombies upside the head hasn't gotten stale. The combat remains fast, brutal, and immensely satisfying. This is partially because I learned a few really cool tricks, like jump kicking. You see, if you jump kick a zombie, even a charging one, you'll knock them flat on their stupid back every time. It never stops being funny. Doing this can be dangerous though, as it can drain your stamina quickly, leaving you unable to swing your Impact Mace into a zombie's solar plexus.

Oh what's that? you don't know what an Impact Mace is? Well, dear reader, that's just something that I cooked up with the game's ABSOLUTELY INSANE crafting system, using a mace, some wire, and a battery. It's basically an electro-mace that messes shit up, real quick. This system is insanely deep, and it rewards all the hoarders of the world in spades. Why grab that can of deodorant? Because you can use it along with a few other components to make a hand grenade. That's right: two spray cans of deodorant plus duct tape equals a homemade grenade, don't ask me how. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. I haven't discovered all of the weapon blueprints yet, but there are tons of deadly weapons for you to make. You can even add all sorts of mods to your weapons, including nails, bolts, electricity, fire...all kinds of stuff. Just find the blueprints and the required items, and you're all set! As a side note, why does my guy need blueprints to know that he can drive nails through a bat to make it more deadly? Just sayin... Also, a lot of people have asked me about guns. I haven't encountered many, and ammo for them can be very scarce, since you only get it from enemies who also have guns. Long story short, don't use a gun against zombies, stupid.  Also, using a gun deprives you of the following sweetness...

                                                                   Oh hell yes!

Moresby- scary as hell, even in broad daylight...
The game features a nice variety of locations for you to visit, too.  Starting at the gorgeous resort, you'll move on to the city of Moresby, and then into the jungle.  Moresby really stands out for me, because being there is a constant exercise in  nervousness.  I was never able to really relax here, as there are always about a half dozen ways for a zombie to get at you, and I found myself getting attacked from behind quite often. This wasn't annoying, but it definitely made me jump.  Awareness is key, since only a handful of zombies can really mess you up.  Moresby also provides you with a nice break from sifting through all the effing luggage at the resort!  Granted, you're still sifting, but this time through not-quite-as-ubiquitous garbage cans, but still, after just a couple of hours I was tired of looking through suitcases for money or wire or whatever.

Possibly one of the game's least-publicized elements is also one of it's best: the game features a fairly good RPG system of gaining experience, leveling up, and devoting points to three separate skill trees.  Each of the four characters has a unique tree dedicated to their Fury ability, as well as one tree devoted to their particular weapon specialty. The third tree seems to be a generic "Survival" tree, which just has abilities to give you a health boost or let you carry more stuff.  The leveling system works really well, and I genuinely felt like I was making my character a lot more powerful every time I chose a new ability.

Hey look it's the guy from the commercials...
A lot of fuss has been made about the game being glitchy or buggy, and since my first impressions writeup, I have only encountered a couple glitches.  On one occasion, I fell through the world and died, and on another, I loaded up my save only to find that I was now in a place where I hadn't been yet, and wouldn't be for another seven or so hours.  None of these issues were game-breaking for me, and in the latter case, all i had to do was find a Fast Travel point about ten feet away from me, and I was right back to where I needed to be.  There have been a couple funny things, not glitches per se, but for example, one character I spoke to was voiced by two different actors in three lines of dialog. I just found it funny.

Since I didn't complete the game, I can't really give it a proper score, so for now I'd have to say it definitely deserves at least a rental.  However, if you're like me and you just love mashing up scads of zombies, you'll probably want to add this game to your collection.  No other game offers such satisfying zombie killing, or so many ways to get them kilt. I'll add an update to this writeup once I've finished the game and add anything that might have changed my viewpoint. Also, I captured a handful of really awesome videos, but don't really have all the space for them here, so I've uploaded them to our YouTube channel.Check it out here.

Verdict: Rent or Buy

 *Specs for the system used-
CPU- Intel Core I7 920 ~2.7 ghz
RAM-6 Gb DDR3 1600
GPU- ATI Radeon 4890 1Gb GDDR5

The game was run at 1440x900 resolution, with all settings maxed. The game ran at an average of about 90 fps.

Rock kind of wishes for a zombie apocalypse...
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