What is a level 24 cleaver?

I have long been a fan of the survival horror genre and zombie games in particular. Though I’d heard mixed reviews of Dead Island, I decided to give it a chance nonetheless.

This was a poor decision.

The premise of Dead Island is that a hopeless git wakes up in his hotel room after a night of alcohol, randomly taking drugs he found lying on the floor of the women’s restroom, and attempting to woo women who were entirely uninterested in him. In between last night and now, zombies have taken over the island resort where he is making an idiot of himself. A voice over the radio entices him with the promise of rescue in exchange for his help.

Gameplay wise, Dead Island wants to be Boarderlands: it is a level-based action game with randomly generated loot and auto-scaling enemies–Diablo with guns and zombies. The whole thing takes place from a first-person perspective and features both melee and firearm combat…sort of.

Despite having a character who specializes in firearms (the one that I picked), ammunition doesn’t ever seem to appear until almost a quarter of the way through the game. Worse still, even when firearms are unlocked, ammo is scarce and the weapons themselves do far, far less damage to the zombies than the melee weapons–even when using head shots.

But then, maybe that doesn’t matter, the game’s only penalty for death is a 7 second respawn timer, 10% of your money, and being randomly relocated to a nearby respawn point. Once you’re back on your feet, you can rush blindly into the enemies again with full health and little in the way of repercussions. In fact, on at least one occasion, I completely subverted a difficult area filled with enemies by dying inside of it and then respawning in a place I hadn’t yet reached–the room that I was trying to get to.

This problem is endemic of something that permeates the game. That is, the game feels like it hasn’t really been thought through. You’re tasked to run from objective to objective– all too often through the same few areas–but the objectives seem arbitrary and unrelated to your ultimate goal of escaping the island or even saving survivors. Zombies start inexplicably carrying weapons about halfway through the game which seems bizarre given that they are never shown to have anything like intelligence. Whole plotlines are just dropped on the ground as soon as your characters get more than 100 yards away from their participants.

Eventually, I decided to skip all sidequesting and just run down the main quest path as quickly as I could. This made the problems of the main quest all the more glaring as I wasn’t spending time doing other things that might make me forget about the idiocy of it all.

This game is irredeemable. The only way to win is not to play.

Dead Island: 0

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