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Dead Island 360/PS3 offers more game than I could swing a bat at. While played alone this can get a little monotonous, with friends this is a solid multiplayer experience.
You may read elsewhere about the trailer controversy of Dead Island. I've managed to keep myself clear of all that, and have been happily surprised that it actually turns out to be an enjoyable (if slightly buggy) zombie survival game.
There is a secret to enjoying this game though. The biggest clue is that when it starts you are automatically open to other players from Xbox Live. You may want to turn this multiplayer connectivity off while you get used to things, but resist that urge.
Dead Island only really comes to life when you play with other players. And unless you have a home network of Xbox 360's hooked up and four copies of the game this is going to mean playing online. While the lack of local split screen play limits the sort of local teamwork that Left 4 Dead was good at, the online multiplayer focus (even in the campaign) is to be applauded.
Alongside this are the role play features -- much more than in other Zombie games like Resident Evil. This is more along the lines of Dead Rising, but it applies that weapon modification mechanic and applies it to your characters as well.
As you progress you can choose to upgrade your character as well as search for all manner of mundane items that soon become critically useful to upgrade a shotgun or beef up a rifle.
It's this sense of multiplayer dependency that makes Dead Island such a good game.
The world itself may not be modelled with the same level of realism we have become used to -- being able to walk and drive underwater added a comical edge to proceedings -- but the detail here is impressive. There is also so much of the world to explore that at times you will need a good set of teammates just to cover the ground.
It's this sense of multiplayer dependency that makes Dead Island such a good game in my eyes. Whereas other games often work to make you feel isolated as you defend yourself against the plodding hoards, Dead Island does almost the reverse. But rather than diminish the fear and enjoyment it actually heightens it.
When you lose a player from your team in Dead Island you really feel the loss. Not only that their presence is missed but that without their contribution your own survival is now very much in jeopardy.
Around this central mechanic is a sprawling game that will take even the most determined players many many hours to complete. In fact, although I'm usually one for finish each and every one of these as I work through the story, the sheer volume of them meant I found myself picking and choosing which I would commit to.
When you lose a player from your team in Dead Island you really feel the loss.
If it has a weak point this is it I think. Dead Island is so big that you won't see the best of it without a very long time commitment. For some players this will be too much and they will be forced to walk away before they are done. That's a shame as the ark of the game as a whole is well conceived.
Dead Island won't win many awards this year, but it is a very solid multiplayer experience, and one that zombie fans should not miss.
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