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October 1, 2011
Dead Island - PS3 Review
Release Distributer Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
9/9/2011QV SoftwareDeep SilverTechland12-4
Media HDD Install Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Overlooking the island from a vantage point.
Dead Island is a game that almost instantly rose near the top of many gamers "most wanted" charts due to impressive visuals, strong gameplay and simply the idea of an open-world zombie slaughter gets people excited.

The island of Banoi is a lush, tropical paradise in the South Pacific where its flagship Royal Palms Resort serves as the ultimate getaway for vacationers with money to burn. However, all good things must soon come to an end and the picturesque resort falls into madness, carnage and chaos after a mysterious and contagious zombie outbreak claims its once peaceful atmosphere. Cut off from the rest of the world, only four individuals who strangely find themselves immune to zombification have the power to protect the remaining survivors from the horrors of the island, to discover whats really going on and find a way to escape before their own fatal ends. This is Dead Island... a paradise to die for.

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This big enemy is a pain in the ass!
Before starting the game there's a pretty nice little intro video which not only has a great little rap song "Who do you Voodoo" by Sam B, but is presented in a very similar first person perspective to the video clip "Smack my Bitch Up" by The Prodigy. We loved it. After this you're dropped into the large open-world environment which offers locations such as beachside resorts, a township, jungles and much more. Indeed the size and scale of this game is very impressive.

Supporting up to 4-player online co-op this game is certainly built with playing in this manner especially as some of the later enemies are pretty tough to battle on your own. The game has a very heavy emphasis on melee combat with guns not becoming available until probably the half way point of the game. When guns do become available their usefulness is still limited against zombies and is mainly used to take on some rogue human enemies.

Each of the four selectable characters in the game - Xian Mei who is an employee at the resort, Sam B a one-hit wonder rap star, Logan a former NFL star and Purna a Police Officer from Sydney - have a stamina bar which needs to be watched closely as the stamina drains by sprinting, or swinging melee weapons. If you're out of stamina it takes a few moments to fill back up, but it's those brief moments that often sees enemies swarming around you.

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Talking to some of the survivers in Dead Island.
As you progress through the game completing quests, defeating enemies or completing side quests you will earn experience which sees you character levelling up, and earning skill points. These skill points can be used to purchase new abilities or upgraded stats for your character in an RPG-lite fashion. It's also possible to mod your weapons - and doing this can certainly give you an edge. A wooden cudgel for instance is a pretty weak item, but modify it so it's on fire allows you to set certain "gas surrounded" zombies alight.

So let's talk about the issues in the game, and there are quite a few. Nothing here breaks the game as such, or makes it terrible, but there's just so much here that makes you wonder why it wasn't fixed or polished off prior to release. Certainly the worst of these saw us, on more then on occasion, unable to complete a mission as a zombie had become stuck inside a building rather then outside - so we couldn't kill him. Restart mission time - although fortunately it's only a few mintues of lost game time given the regular auto saving and shortish missions. There's plenty more smaller niggly issues though...

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Using a pipe to take on a zombie.
Why is cash such a big issue? I mean you spend half the game running around opening suitcases but in a world where survival is key why should it cost you money to repair your weapons at workbenches? Likewise some of the goals of some quests seem a bit strange. In some you'll find survivors desperate for food or drinks, but there are Energy drinks and Snacks littered all over the place to top up your health bar - why don't they just eat and drink them?

Another annoyance is that when you kill a zombie, or open a suitcase, you may see cash or items available but need to physically point the targeting reticule to pick them up, surely walking over, or close to, the bodies or bags should be enough for the smaller items. Fortunately when you find some guns - which are a fair way into the game we might add - ammunition is automatically picked up.

Ultimately one of the biggest issues is that you never really die in the game. Sure you get killed, but after paying off a percentage of your money, you're back into the game only a few meters from where you were killed. On many occasions it's simply a case of rinse and repeat a section until you complete your goals.

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Xian Mei is one of the characters in Dead Island.
Using Techland's own Chrome Engine 5 Dead Island is a bit a game that provides mixed results visually. On a positive side the size and presentation of the game world is very impressive. When you reach a high vantage point you'll be able to see for quite a distance. It's not a sparse world either with lush jungles, plenty of resorts, a large city and plenty of of objects littering the world many of which, such as boxes and luggage, can be opened and looted.

There are some negatives though with the biggest being the amount of screen tearing in the game which is pretty excessive. Some character animations are a little rough too, especially the zombies whiel the collision detection is a little amiss at times too. Still, in general given the scope of the game this is a decent effort.

Finally we come to the audio and, you guess it, again we have a mixed bag with some positive elements, but also some negatives. Starting with the positives the music is pretty decent and keeps pace with the action pretty nicely. Sound effects too are good, although they do become very repetitive rather quickly. Finally the surround sound channels with get a good workout and they really add a lot of atmosphere when you hear the screams of a zombie running towards you from all directions.

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Battling through the resort location.
On the negative front a couple of times the audio started having a scratchy buzz to it at times until the game was reset. It could be our PS3, but we're going to say that's very unlikely as we've had no similar issues with any other game, or Blu-Ray we've played. The other major negative with the audio is the voice acting. While some of the characters sound passable, a large number of characters are Australian but they have that terrible fake Australian accent. For an Aussie such as I, that's very irritating.

Dead Island could have been a brilliant title, and indeed we still had a lot of fun, but developers Techland needed to keep working on the game for a few more months. Fortuantely Techland have been patching the game to fix many issues, but I also have to look at Sony (and Microsoft for the equally buggy XBox 360 game) for allowing this through QA testing. Still, it's not a horrible mess, and we had quite a bit of fun, so we still recommend this to fans of zombie and melee combat games.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSA large, detailed world with decent enemies, but plenty of screen-tear and glitches.
SOUNDDecent music, speech is pretty mixed, sound effects are good, but repetitive.
GAMEPLAYIt's a zombie hack and slash meelee styled game. Fairly entertaining, but quests are a bit repetitive.
VALUEA pretty lengthy game, a massive open world to explore, co-op is good fun too.
OVERALLDead Island is a decent game that lacks polish to take it to the top level. Everything here is functional, often fun, but just lacking. Still fans of zombie games should check out this release.

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