Game Review: Dead Island

Dead Island

I am not what anyone would call a “gamer”.  I enjoy playing a video game now and again but usually feel guilty for spending too much time in front of the TV and am very aware of how much time can be sucked up when in the thralls of a good story or puzzle.  When everyone was busy in the 80’s with their ColecoVisions and original Nintendos, I was busy trying to figure out how to use the craptastic Intellivision my dad was sure was going to be the future of gaming.  I eventually got around to buying a Sega Genesis in 1993 thanks to winning a gift certificate at work and played a great deal of Mortal Kombat, Earthworm Jim, and Ms. Pac Man with my then roommates, much to the chagrin of Mrs. Blahg.  In the late 90’s I got into playing X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter on my computer… then I retired the gaming side of myself.

It wasn’t until a few years ago when Mrs. Blahg wanted to get Wii Fit that I acquiesced and purchased a Nintendo Wii system for my wife and kids… and yes, occasionally for me… as a Father’s Day gift.  It is a fun system, plenty of games for exercise and you gotta love Mario Kart, but for an adult, the graphics and processing power behind the Wii are minimal at best.  I played Call of Duty: World at War and enjoyed having Kiefer Sutherland yell at me… I recently played Dead Rising: Chop Til You Drop… great deal of fun, but glitchy with crappy graphics and stupid zombified poodles and parrots.

A few months ago, The Walking Deadcast posted a trailer for a new game being released this month (it was released on the 9th I believe), Dead Island.  The trailer is stupendous!  Cinematic, bloody, and surprisingly moving (I posted it below).  My interest was piqued, yet I am fully aware of the fact that this trailer could not and would not represent the game itself other than showcasing some of its graphics, its gorgeous locale (tropical island near Papua New Guinea), and ultimately, getting the masses of zombie geeks frothing at the mouth for what may promise to be the zombie game we have been waiting for.  Unfortunately, it is not made for the Wii… only PS3, Xbox and PCs.

A word about what I’ve always wanted in a zombie game… as I already mentioned, I am not an avid gamer, so what I’ve always wanted in a game may exist out there.  I know Resident Evil, Left 4 Dead, and the two Dead Rising games are very well thought of on the PS3 and Xbox… but the Wii simply lacks what I want.  Good graphics, the ability to kill something and have it stay dead, the ability to wander where I want when I want, and something more than one mission at a time… and more to the point… good graphics, good graphics, good graphics.  I was hoping to someday have the opportunity to get lost in a world that can get my pulse racing and beads of sweat to form on my brow.

The weekend Dead Island was released, I found myself watching that trailer again… showing it to my kids (bad idea)… to Mrs. Blahg… then watching a review or two of the game itself.  What is a zombie loving, entertainment wanting, stressed out worker-bee to do?  Well… after a brief conversation with Mrs. Blahg and a number of internal back and forths regarding getting another gaming system, I came to a conclusion… get a refurbished 120GB Playstation 3 for $60 less than a new 160GB system and in the process get a Blu-ray player as a bonus.

After purchasing said system and a copy of Red Dead Redemption (I’ve only heard great things about that game, figured I couldn’t go wrong), I found out the Game Stop I was making my purchase from was sold out of Dead Island.  My older daughter and I then went on a quest… to find a copy of Dead Island in order for me to justify the money I had just laid out for a gaming system I won’t even allow my kids to see anything of thanks to the ridiculous level of gore, violence, sex and horrible language in games today (I have some serious doubts regarding the wellness of our mental state as a society that we find such pleasure in such abysmal subject matter… and obviously, I’m just as bad).  Drove up to Target because I had seen at least one copy the previous day when my idea began hatching… nothing.  Called Toys R Us while on route… nothing.  Called Best Buy… one copy left, will be waiting for me at customer service… woo hoo!  Victory!!

Got home with my booty, hooked everything up in the clusterfuck that my entertainment center is becoming (TV, cable box, DVD/VCR combo, 5 disc DVD player that is also the receiver for the 5.1 sound system, the Wii, my modem that is for phone and internet cable, wireless Apple router… and now, a PS3), bummed that my receiver only has one HDMI connection so I can go directly through the HDMI on my TV, but will only get stereo sound as opposed to 5.1 (hello… first world problem!), which is a bit of a bummer considering I will no longer be getting DVDs but Blu-rays (really… high class first world problem… I make myself sick at times).  Once everything was hooked up, I slid the Dead Island disc in… marveled at the awesomeness of this new system and all of its capabilities that I could see in the main menu (Netflix, VuDu, Hulu +, internet browser, etc.)… wiped the drool from my lips… kicked the kids out of the room and pressed play on Dead Island…

(Almost 1000 words in this review so far and I haven’t even mentioned the game itself… it’s coming…)

The game opens up with what appears to be a live concert by one of the four playable characters, a big burly one hit wonder rapper named Sam B, as a drunk guy (your perspective) stumbles through the crowd and we see the other three playable characters.  As Sam B’s hit song, ”Who Do You Voodoo Bitch?” plays the attacks begin and the drunk guy ends up in his room.  (I posted this opening sequence below)

From there, the game begins as you (either Sam B [good with blunt objects], Xian Mei [blades], Logan [all around] and Purna [guns]) wake up to find your previous tropical vacation island infected and infested with zombies.  As of now, I have only played about 9 or 10 hours worth of the game… and I’ve only played as Sam B (I’m a sucker for zombies and blunt objects… baseball bats are fun).  Immediately I was drawn into the story and loved each and every cut scene I’ve gotten to thus far.  Graphically, I can see a few glitches, but overall I find the experience and visuals to be extremely smooth.  Once I got used to the controller and how to control myself when fighting or attacked out of nowhere I was suddenly taking on all comers and having a heart pounding good time.

After two sessions I was at level 5 and feeling much more comfortable.  There are a number of main missions and side missions given to you by some people at the lifeguard station and a mysterious voice that directs you there after waking up confused in the hotel.  After my third session (about 6 hours in one sitting) I am at level 12 and have expanded all sorts of new missions as well as having made it to a lighthouse, shipwrecks, two gas stations… and best of all, getting a car and plowing through zombies on the road.  Smack into a zed at the right speed, it will get stuck to the grill… stop, let it drop, run over it again.  Scads of fun to be had.

Many of the missions so far have been very simple.  There was at least one though that tested my abilities a bit (I’m quite sure for an experienced RPG player this would be obvious and easy… but I am not such a person), and getting success on that was more than rewarding.

Weaponry is fun.  Beginning with such items as paddles and boards… eventually I began getting bats, a mace, nailed batons, knives, cleavers and a sickle (that was fun).  The game allows you to purchase new weapons or pick them up randomly as needed.  You can modify and repair your weaponry, and for me… I was excited to see that every weapon you use gets beaten up and eventually can break and become useless.  Adds a great sense of dread and a different level of concern.   Take care of your weapons lest you get stuck with a crappy diving knife.

I find the movement of the player and the controls to be fantastic… and there is nothing quite as harrowing as seeing a number of the undead running for you at once.  Yes, some run.  There are various types of the undead in this game… walkers are the slowest, infected are fresh and fast, thugs are just big and slow but powerful and apparently there are some called suiciders, The Ram, butchers and floaters.  I haven’t made it that far (I’m at ~15% of the main plot).

Obviously this is not a complete review… I do in fact have a life and I have things like work, wife and kids to consider… so I’m not quite able to devote as much time as I easily could loose while playing this.  What could be said at this point though is that I am loving every minute I’ve been playing this.  I’m adjusting to the controls and getting into a rhythm of how to deal with this island of undead… there is something wonderful about the pound of your heart as you have to figure out how to kill a flaming zombie running towards you… don’t punch it, I can tell you that much.

Negatives?  Sure… some of the missions are bland and overly basic, occasionally a zombie will be half in a wall and half out, there is some bug that causes disruption with save locations and weapons (apparently there is a patch for this)… but overall, I am all over this game and am looking forward to unlocking more of the plot and seeing what comes next.  I know the next mission I have to go on involves going into the town on the island and getting a big rig… from what I’ve heard, there are hoards of zeds in town.  I wonder how that will go…

Enjoy the IGN review of the game below… a number of great scenes from the game, and a more informed and articulate review. preview of their review.  I had seen the actual review the other day on my iPad and only had to put in my birthday, now YouTube is insisting I sign up to prove my age.  Bah, I say.  Enjoy the preview of the review I guess… if you feel like seeing more, sign up and actually watch the real IGN review.  It’s good.

Bottom line regarding this game?  I dig it… can’t wait to play some more.

Who do I voodoo… what?
Cornelius J. Blahg

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