Sunday, October 02, 2011

Tech: Dead Island review (PC version)

"Dead Island" first broke into the gamer consciousness with this video, one of the most memorable game trailers in recent years:

Developed by Techland and published by Deep Silver, the game is a first-person zombie adventure set on a fictional tropical island near Papua New Guinea; you play as one of four survivors attempting to escape the undead-infested island with brains and limbs intact. Along the way, you'll explore a lush beachfront resort, a city being ravaged by zombies, and many miles of uncharted jungle.

What separates DI from other popular zombie games is its emphasis on melee combat. Guns and ammo are relatively rare (you won't find any at all in the first third of the game), and it's surprising how tense it is to battle the undead when you have to do it with a baseball bat instead of an AK-47. The melee is fully "fleshed" out, too: there's locational damage (slice a zombie's knees and it crumbles to the ground), physics (sledgehammers can send foes flying), and a stamina system (each attack costs stamina - if you get winded, you do less damage and get knocked off your feet easier).

DI also has one of the most rewarding crafting systems I've ever used - you combine random junk you find scattered through the gameworld with base items to form cool new modified weapons. Jury-rigging a bunch of batteries and wire to your machete, for instance, gives you a chance to electrocute enemies with each hit. The mods aren't essential to playing the game, but I wager most players will enjoy experimenting with them.

Unfortunately, as much as I liked the actual gameplay of "Dead Island," I disliked the (numerous and severe) bugs in the game. Actually, the variety of technical and glitches in "Dead Island" is one of the most noteworthy parts of the game; in a single session, you might

- crash to desktop

- lose the use of your keyboard

- randomly disconnect from a multiplayer game

- get killed by a malevolent beachball:

- attain omnipresence:

- be forced into a parallel dimension where other players can see your chats and follow along in your quests, but you cannot see them.

- get teleported into a bottomless black pit where your health slowly drains till you die:

It's a shame, because without the bugs, "Dead Island" would easily be one of the best games of 2011. It has engrossing melee combat, plenty of interesting content, and it's a whole boatload of fun to play with your friends. As it stands, though, you might be better off waiting a month or two for the game to be patched before planning your post-apocalyptic tropical island getaway...

Rating: 80/100 (90/100 if it ever gets fixed by the devs)


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