OXCGN’s Dead Island Review: Not Quite Paradise

Dead Island Review

Not Quite Paradise

by exterminat

©2011 Nicholas Laborde

Zombies are far too synonymous with modern gaming and current culture.

Whether it be DLC expansions, full-featured zombie modes, or dedicated titles, we’re experiencing an over saturation of the undead.

Hot on the heels of this, developer Techland brings us Dead Island, a title that has experienced a lengthy, rocky and perilous development cycle over the course of many years.

Bringing a different style of gameplay to the table, Dead Island offers the potential to be one of the better undead slaughter simulators… unfortunately, it’s not quite paradise.

Paradise Lost

The story of Dead Island is extremely hollow and lacks depth, as most zombie catastrophes tend to be.

Picking one of four characters with various abilities, players are caught on an island in the middle of an infection that’s spreading like wildfire, and nobody knows how it started, what to do, or if they’ll survive the night.

By some divine act, your character is immune to the infection, and that makes you the only person ‘truly’ capable of killing the undead; prepare to be everyone’s messenger boy/girl, assistant, mercenary and every other term that you could possibly apply, because no one else is remotely capable of doing anything for themselves.

A mysterious Englishman speaks to you and several other survivors over the radio, promising escape from the treacherous island and its unrelenting plague… and if video games have taught me one thing, it’s not to trust the Englishman.

You’re going to see nearly every twist and turn coming, and the game doesn’t even try to make the player question the events at hand. For a game in as long a development cycle as this, you’d expect more.

Overall, the story is extremely light, very disappointing and full to the brim of lost opportunities.

Not being left for dead

If you take one part of this review more seriously than other parts (which, if you do, you might have slight problems of the mind) it would be this entire section regarding gameplay.

Dead Island is the perpetrator of apocryphal, horrible advertising and is luring players in under falsehood, promising some sort of Left 4 Dead-esque, open world, action-packed zombie survival experience like none other.

I hate to break it to you, but none of the above things are true to any degree… except the part about the zombies.

Particularly infuriating to me is the launch trailer, which features not a single melee weapon, but oodles of firearms and action; none of which are main facets of gameplay.

Dead Island is an RPG-esque, open world zombie survival (survival being the border-line definition of the world) game with a focus on melee weapons. Rarely will you locate a firearm, and even more rarely will you obtain ammunition for one.

Players are going in with high expectations for a game that doesn’t exist; what they’ll get will disappoint many, and lead to many low scores as a result.

Dead Island Gameplay Video

I hope you have a sick obsession with beating the living daylights out of people, because that’s what you’re going to be doing in Dead Island.. a LOT. As stated earlier, the title focuses on melee weapons, making sense if a true zombie outbreak occurred.

Three types of objects can be used, with a specific character specializing in each: sharp, blunt and thrown weapons. Ranging from throwing knives to lead pipes, crowbars to boat paddles, sticks to molotov cocktails, variety is prevalent within this weapon range, and is one of the title’s strengths.

Each item can be repaired, upgraded, and for more specific things that can be located, such as blueprints and modifications, built from specific items. If you want to completely scavenge and not upgrade, more power to you; you won’t last long, because as you progress, so do your enemies.

Your quick-select inventory is managed on a weapon wheel, which is tied to the strangest button (at least on the PC version) – the mouse wheel. Managing your actual inventory is far more time consuming, having to click specific spots on the aforementioned wheel to assign specific weapons; couple this with illogical discrepancies within its design, and you have something every gamer fears seeing: an infuriating interface.

Along with your inventory comes quest management, and Dead Island reaches a new level of “What the [expletive] were they thinking?” For reasons unknown, you CANNOT choose to track a side quest when pursuing a main quest… which you almost always are. This is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever encountered in a video game, and it makes me angry each time I get the error stating that I can’t track this quest because I’m currently on a primary story quest.

While this may sound all great and fun, the entire experience is ultimately unrewarding. Even though the title sounds as if the heavens opened up and gave us the first true-blue zombie game, it falls vastly short of being anything fresh or unique.

The experience in general feels like a stale combination of the industry’s most recent cooperative titles, chiefly Borderlands. Slowly opening up area by area, players advance via quests, accepting these journeys from NPCs they will encounter along the way.

Each quest at the core devolves into go here, kill x amount of zombies, grab y amount of items, or move z amount of items into a certain place. Diversity isn’t experiencing a new high or low in Dead Island, and as if complimenting the main storyline, the quests are nothing to write home about.

The zombies themselves provide the biggest character type in this title. As the players level up, enemies will scale to the level of the players, attack more viciously, or come in greater numbers. New areas lead to new, stronger foes that don’t mess around.

There’s a difference between scaling and progression, and Dead Island doesn’t quite realize this, opting for the former; whereas most games would introduce players to new environments, entailing completely new enemies, characters, weapons and quests, Dead Island loads each area with much of the same, only differentiating themselves in terms of statistics.

In order to combat the vicious plague, players – as in Borderlands – receive a skill point after each new level has been achieved, and can spend them in one of three skill trees: Fury, Combat or Survival.

Each character’s skill tree differs slightly, but ultimately the abilities aren’t that useful. I can sense an attempt to cause players to feel overwhelmed by the undead horde with these abilities being strongly subtle, but at the end of the day, it’s just a failed attempt and poor design.


Four player cooperative play is one of the attractive callings of Dead Island, but poor execution bogs the experience down.

Any more than two players in one session ruins any type of atmosphere the game attempts to create, and the entire affair feels extremely unorganized. You’ll find that your group easily takes down enemies, messes about constantly, and feels unconnected to the main game.

In summary, they don’t feel like partners; they feel like extra players are joining your game. Little to no interaction occurs with said partners, apart from item trading, and it all adds up to a very passive experience that you’ll more than likely play through one time and never touch again.

Sound was absolutely repulsive to me; various audio glitches, little to no soundtrack, poor voice acting and terrible writing kill any atmosphere semblance of the world.

From a visual standpoint, the title has a large contrast between characters and environment; the world itself is very beautiful, showcasing lush, attractive life in the aftermath of an undead attack on an island resort.

Characters, on the other hand, look like high-res models from a last gen title at the generation’s peak. They’re ugly, pixellated and very untextured; the same goes for the undead you’ll be fighting.

Very alive verdict

Dead Island is yet another example of a great concept gone awry.

What was a game with limitless potential ended up being a title bogged down under poor design while having a plethora of technical issues, weightless writing and ungratifying gameplay.

Dead Island is a game that you buy for half price during the Steam sales and thoroughly enjoy; paying full price for this game is only recommended for those who enjoy wasting money.


©2011 Nicholas Laborde

Review PC Specs

  • AMD Phenom II X6 1090 T @ 3.2 Ghz
  • Sapphire Radeon HD 6970
  • 8 GB RAM DDR3

xxxxxx Support R18+ In Australia

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I'm an American from steamy Louisiana, one of the most electronically deprived areas of the United States. I've gamed since I was four years old as a result, and plan to do it onto my deathbed. I discovered I could write in June of 2010 when I started a little site called Fans of The Genre with a few friends, and that eventually collapsed three months after due to social lives kicking in. No less than two weeks after that I discovered OXCGN via the community gamer gab competition, and become a staff member shortly after. In February of 2011 I was welcomed to the Editorial staff, then in March of 2012 I was promoted to co-owner... and here I am!

4 thoughts on “OXCGN’s Dead Island Review: Not Quite Paradise”

  1. None of the above, during the early part of the game there are no guns.

    if your lucky enough to reach the half way point then there are guns to be had. Ammo is scarce but there are characters which offer you ammo in exchange for food.

    My guess is that this reviewer didn’t reach the half way point of the game as it is very challenging. An impartial review maybe, but for me a little harsh.

    For a game thats been in development for 6 years i guess they could of made the storyline a bit more potent, but for me this game is excellent its at a furious pace with a whole load of Zombie mayhem. A tough game not to be played solo as it can be very frustrating.

    Give it a try if you dare!! 8.5/10


  2. I really really hope you dont get payed for doing reviews you are terrible…

    Id like to firstly state you must have played about 1 hour most on this game. You seem to have this overwelming angst against a game that is so early in its release, not only that but you reviewed it only a few days after the game was released.

    I will only admit that the story line lacks something. That is because a few of the cutscenes you are are miles away from before they started. The story is as indepth as it can be on one island and leads you to ask yourself many more questions than most zombie games..


    The fact that everyone has the same blood type.
    The fact that the tribe had only now began becoming infected even though they have resorted to cannablism before..
    The biggest being the little smurk at the end..
    There are more but I have only played through the game once.. Ill start it again and get back to this.

    You havent really spoken about the huge amazing areas to play with zombies in… or that practically every single place on this game is interactable, and the secrets and im not talking about the brown skulls, or the white skulls with the flags or wings…. Im talking CHAINSAW! I think you need to put down your black ops and play on a truely amazing game.

    Yes it has it’s flaws as most games now do.. But thank god for updates and patches..

    I rate this game 9.5/10
    And you should be ashamed of yourself for not doing so either.


    1. Everyone is entitled to their opinions you know:), including you. It’s great you enjoyed the game so much.

      There are many games others have scored low that I enjoyed more than many AAA titles that others have scored highly (ahem…Killzone 2…ahem).


  3. Honest impartial review……very valid points regarding the co-op, however i think the experience was on par with the left for dead titles…if you’re looking for atmosphere..then the single player experience is the best. Overall, the game did have quite a few glitches in it. So many in fact, I think it needed a couple more months of development to work out the glitches..but I think these could be addressed with a few updates.


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