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Review: Dead Island

by Steven Williamson on 19 October 2011, 12:06 3.0

Tags: PC, Deep Silver

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Customise your weapons for ultimate zombie-slaying fun

Your character is chosen from a selection of four, each with their own speciality. Throwing weapons, blades, blunt weapons and firearms are the distinction the game draws between characters, yet in reality the difference is minor. Although each character does have a slightly different skill tree, there’s no real penalty for using weaponry outside of your character’s comfort zone. In fact, in the case of the firearms specialist Purna, a disgruntled and disillusioned ex-cop, her weapons of choice don’t even make an appearance until the game’s second act. Each character also has their own ‘Fury’ ability, charged by dealing damage to the many zombies of Banoi.

Ultimately, which character you choose doesn’t play a large part in the outcome of the game. When playing alone, the rest of the protagonists will mysteriously appear for cutscenes, and then vanish into the ether as soon as the sequence has ended, with no thought for immersion or continuity. The NPCs with which you interact for the majority of the game also don’t seem to pay much heed to your character choice, referring to even the female character choices as “he” as you accept or decline side quests from them, details listed on an oddly out of place sheet of bloodstained note paper. The living inhabitants of Banoi do little to help the flow of the story, instead serving to highlight the flawed narrative. Some characters will beg for supplies a few feet from an infinitely respawning crate of canned food and soda, while others will send you on gathering missions for resources with the same resource located on the other side of the room.

The more serious side quests themselves are standard fair. Fetch quests and escort missions galore await you in Dead Island, yet the sheer number of them and variety in environments at least provides a compulsion to keep pushing onwards, to do “just one more quest”. Beginning in the idyllic resort areas of the island, the game moves through Banoi’s deserted shopping malls and hotels, onto the slums and sewers of a town torn apart by the infection and even into the depths of the jungle.

The looting and weapon customisation systems serve to make the game a lot more enjoyable and in turn add a considerable amount of depth to what would otherwise be a fairly bland experience. Those of you who have played Borderlands or even Dead Rising 2 will find many features familiar. Random loot has its rarity and function denoted by the colour of its text and an often humourous adjective or two attached to the weapon name denoting the effect that your weapon has upon the undead populace.