REVIEW: Dead Island – the trailer was awesome, but is the final game any good?

Well, it’s alright. It’s certainly not terrible, but it’s definitely not great.

I decided to give Dead Island a go because the original trailer was so powerful and successful in promoting the game’s announcement that I was curious to see if the actual game could possibly live up to the expectations it set.

Here’s a recap:

At the time, many gamers rushed to express their doubts, saying that the awesome trailer wouldn’t really mean squat when it comes to the final game experience.

Unfortunately it seems they were right, although Dead Island is still worth your time if you like first person action games and you’re intrigued by the game’s premise of good old fashioned undead frolics in a fantastic ‘holiday resort’ setting.

After playing through the first few hours of the game, I concluded it was enjoyable enough, but I couldn’t really be bothered to see it through to the end. I didn’t really care about the weak story or characters and the dialogue is hardly pushing any boundaries in an era of titles such as L.A. Noire and Portal 2, and considering the trailer featured a family we connected to so quickly and powerfully, this is perhaps the game’s most obvious shortcoming.

“The dialogue is hardly pushing any boundaries in an era of titles like L.A. Noire and Portal 2”

However, the action is pretty good, which a visceral fight system that has a sense of weight and tactility to it, whether you’re throwing desperate unarmed punches and kicks, whacking your batshit mental attackers with random objects and weapons, or of course shooting the shit out of them.

The holiday destination of Banoi is very pretty, there’s a nice atmosphere to be soaked in (at least until someone starts talking - especially the main character I was playing as) and the level design is fairly interesting and non-linear.

Having said that, there are plenty of flakier moments in terms of control, and little visual glitches quickly break the illusion of being in a physical world.

An interesting and rather well executed cinematic opening to the game is shown from an unknown character’s first-person perspective, and is narratively rather puzzling; it didn’t make much sense to me but presumably there’s an explanation for it as things unfold.

Meanwhile, the more RPG-like elements such as tediously looting through bags to get money and other items and the ‘experience’ system is the kind of addition to an action game you’re either going to like a lot, or as in my case, not pay much attention to. 

As far as zombie or undead type games go I kind of prefer the humorous or offbeat approach taken by games like Capcom’s Dead Rising or Suda51′s upcoming Lollipop Chainsaw. Techland, the Poland-based developer of Dead Island, who is previously best known for its Call of Juarez titles, might not be scaling new heights when it comes to subtlety or emotionally engaging mechanics in its new action game, but as far as I can make out what it has turned in is certainly passable.

“It’s nice to see a genuinely high profile title come from UK publisher Deep Silver. The success of the trailer gave the company the balls to put some decent marketing weight behind the release…”

Although I’ve also heard that the length of the campaign is significant at over twenty hours, it doesn’t say much that I can’t be arsed to continue through to the end (and I definitely have no interest in playing the co-op version of the game), but so far there’ve been some good moments and Dead Island probably worth a look if you’ve been interested in the game (rather than the trailer). Just don’t expect Game of the Year material, or for that matter anything that feels genuinely new.

On a related note it is nice to see a genuinely high profile title come from UK publisher Deep Silver. The success of the trailer gave the company the balls to put some decent marketing weight behind the release, and if it ends up doing well, hopefully the combination of a pile of cash generated in sales and the experience of a larger scale product launch under its belt will allow it to do higher profile stuff in future, which can only be a good thing for the games publishing scene and for gamers.

7/10

Dead Island is released tomorrow (September 6) in the US and on Friday September 9 in the UK.

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