Dead Island is one of the first games that finally got me to break my “I hate FPS” rule. It was made even more fun thanks to co-op online play with a friend. Well, don’t expect FPS or co-op play with budget game Escape Dead Island. This is simple 3rd person hack n’ slash survival horror that looks like a graphic novel, complete with onomatopoeia sound effect bubbles.
Before starting the game, the first thing you should do is turn the gamma way up or else the game will be pitch black. Then, be prepared for a stupid fun game that can be frustrating and repetitive at times, but pretty playable right through the end.
After a pointless intro segment with a character you never play again, you take control of a cute guy heading to Dead Island on a boat to investigate rumors of weird shit going on there. You spend the rest of the game running around the island, battling a variety of zombies and interacting with other characters. Your character also starts to get loopy, leading to some “acid trip” moments that fail to provide anything groundbreaking to the gaming experience.
While the control layout is a little unusual, you pretty much get used to it after a while, although it does suck during fast and furious boss battles. Ammo for guns is sparse and the target system seriously sucks, so you’ll spend a majority of the time using melee weapons to fight zombies. You can stealth kill the zombies, but very often they sense you coming and turn around, so you have to fight them anyway. You also get an “execute” command after a certain amount of damage is inflicted (they all have a life bar over their heads), but be warned; zombie executions are animated clips from which you can’t escape, yet the other zombies can fucking come up behind you and beat the shit out of you! WTF?
You also don’t really have a health bar. There’s this energy gauge thingy on screen, and as it runs low, you have to rest to let it refill. Needless to say, this is so fricking annoying when you’re trying to fight or run from enemies. There are “health bars” to pick up, but I really can’t figure out what purpose they serve, since it appears that if you get “hurt,” you just have to stop and chill for a short time to heal.
Good news is, most of the time, the auto save checkpoints are not far apart. They do get a little less frequent as the game gets harder (video game designer logic), so later in the game, you’ll be stuck repeating annoying shit to get back to the part you had a hard time with, just to die there again and…well, you know how it goes.
You start the game with only a knife and have to stealth kill until you find your first melee weapon, and those upgrade occasionally, so you have a somewhat better weapon by game’s end. There are also items you need—gas mask, grappling hook, etc.—to go to certain areas you keep passing, but those items show up later. I wish there had been a hint about that before I tried repeatedly running through a room filled with gas grabbing all the yummy items taunting me within before dying.
There are postcards to collect that give some backstory, files you pick up are read out loud to you so you can continue moving and playing while listening, and you have a camera that you can whip out to take pix. Certain parts of your surroundings will be highlighted, and you can capture nearly 100 photos to complete that mission. But honestly, once the game heats up, you will forget you even have a camera, and wouldn’t even have safe opportunities to whip it out anyway.
You’re always sent on specific missions, so even though you can free roam, it’s pointless, especially since every mission requires annoying backtracking…with respawned monsters. Grrr…argh! Missions vary, but some add different elements to the game, like covering someone while they try to open a door, or running like hell from an oncoming threat. What a joy, considering that doing so drains your energy bar and you have to STOP. And yet, the monster is still on your tail and you’re running around a maze to find the exit. There’s also a useless map—instead, road signs on the paths better help you know where you need to direct yourself, as well as an onscreen arrow system that pops up when you hold a button, telling you the direction and how much farther you need to run.
Finally, there are the enemies. Initial zombies are laughable. Next come the ones that jump at you from across the way and can dodge your attacks. Then there are spitters that relentlessly hit you with acidic goo from off screen.
Screamers announce your presence so you get swarmed by zombies.
But the biggest pain in the ass is this Wolverine-looking fucker with arm blades. He starts as a boss—after you get two hits on him, he blocks your blows easily then takes cheap shots at you—and game designer logic again decided that since you beat him once, he’ll just become a regular enemy. This fucker made my life miserable! And wait until the end, when you’re in the final boss arena and have to go through three rounds of old enemies coming at you, including this SOB. ARGH! Half the time, you don’t even have to kill all enemies, just one type, but the game never clues you in. So be prepared to replay the final boss rounds numerous times with only one bright side to keep you from giving up; the game saves after each round.