Yet Dead Island’s Memento-esque first trailer, released way back in February, was so artfully, beautifully put together, it created a ridiculous level of hype for the game itself. Which was all the more impressive considering that at the time no pictures, in-game footage or real detail had even been unveiled.
Inevitably, the finished product comes absolutely nowhere near achieving as captivating or engaging an experience as its trailer, but get past the jarring disconnect between teaser and reality and there’s a fun, if not annoyingly flawed zombie game to get your head and shotgun-toting mitts around.
Set on a lovely tropical paradise overrun by the shuffling undead, you’re tasked with navigating your way around and ultimately off the island by way of bashing a lot of munch-happy zombies over the head via your generic FPS-blastathon and some Fallout 3-ish RPG elements that add longevity – but only if you manage to work your way through its buggy, unresponsive and ultimately unfinished set-up.
We’ll get the frustrating bits out the way first. Much like your enemies, Dead Island is a game that isn’t always pretty on the eyes, can be an utterly punchable bastard to manoeuvre (if you thought the zombies were shambly, you’re in for a treat), and possessing a hand-to-eye (and weapon) response time that wouldn’t look out of place in a morgue.
It’s obvious that the game was rushed out following the insane reaction early on in its development, and while that doesn’t excuse the bugginess, it does contextualise it.
Soldier on though, and there’s a hefty and varied beast to explore. By relocating the now tried-and-tested zombie outbreak formula to a sunny seaside setting, the locale feels fresh and offers a unique playground. The RPG-element is strong too, probably stronger than many were expecting. You’ll need to spend a serious amount of time levelling up your character and their abilities before you can really sit back and enjoy the zombie-slaying, but once you’re along for the ride and you’re upgrading and modding your walking pack lunch, it’s undeniably satisfying.
For a game focused on a group mechanic, the co-op is functional if not exactly revolutionary. You’ll continually find yourself tasked with relying on extraneous character C to help get past generic tagteam puzzle B, so it’s a given that you’ll enjoy the game much more playing with a buddy.
All up, it’s a mixed bag, but given time, success and the inevitable sequel, there’s every hope developers Techland could resurrect its mildly mouldy core into something exciting, adrenalised and with the potential to come back biting.
Dead Island is on General Release now, and available on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.