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Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Deep Silver

 

Developer

Techland

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

September 6, 2011

 

 

- Up to four-player co-op

- A fantastic opening act

- Maybe the best first-person melee combat, at least since Breakdown (2004)

 

 

- Falls to pieces the further away from the opening levels the game gets

- Final boss...

 

 

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Dead Island

Score: 8.0 / 10

 

dead island          dead island

 

For all the obvious video game elements of Dead Island -- the upgrade, repair and modification of weapons, definite hit points, fetch quests galore, application of experience points, and so on -- what the game really succeeds in doing is crafting a world uniquely depressing and fundamentally terrifying.

Especially in the opening acts where the player traverses large swathes of tropical paradise and there are signs everywhere of "vacations, interrupted." Piles of

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abandoned luggage, swimming pools filled with blood, zombies feasting on piles of viscera and stumbling toward the player if they got too close. All the while there are the sounds of beach life: seagulls, surf, and gentle breezes. Visual punctuation marks like abandoned cars and makeshift barricades obviously overrun, work very well in tandem with the eerie aural

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punctuation marks, like gurgling human husks and screeching undead that run straight toward any beating hearts.

Even though there are other survivors throughout the game (and seemingly all of them have some kind of fetch quest for the player) there's a definite feeling of isolation; being alone with no one else to rely upon. Even though Dead Island features great jump in, jump out co-op, I actually felt that some of that terrible feeling of isolation snapped with three other human players along for the ride.

 

dead island          dead island

 

But after the player "escapes" the beach, hotels, and swanky swimming areas, the game aspects of Dead Island take over and it becomes like most other zombie games, aside from the fact that guns and ammo are a rarity rather than the rule. The path gets narrower and narrower, like being pushed down a one-way alley. And then the game culminates in a disappointing boss battle -- it's big, it rushes you, and all that anticipation and awe generated by the opening environment is mostly forgotten.

 

dead island          dead island

 

The story, offered piecemeal by other survivors, collected newspaper clippings, and voice recordings left behind by a journalist is something I really liked. Not knowing right away what happened or why; that method works for. It's not as if players will need to leave no stone unturned to figure out what's going on but take on enough missions and there will be little problem figuring out what's happening.

I thought the game fell apart in the final moments, which is unfortunate only because it clouds my memory of the opening where the vibe and horror clung to me like a wet Hawaiian shirt.

- Aaron Simmer

(October 18, 2011)

 

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