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in my world, today (or, more accurately, tonight) is Hallowe'en, although in yours it could be anywhere from a day to many weeks after that. isn't time fascinating? no? well if you're fairly non-plussed by time and have lots of it to waste, then allow me to introduce Dead Island.
Dead Island is set on an isolated land mass off the coast of Papua New Guinea called Banoi - wait, that sounds a lot like (shh, there there, let's not look too hard for political parallels that most likely don't really exist).
despite its reputation as a Pacific island-paradise and its generous supply of luxury hotels and private beaches, Banoi has fallen foul to a fast-spreading infection. you know how 'coughs and sneezes spread diseases'? well it turns out that biting people is equally problematic from a infection-control point of view. we should probably have a rhyming phrase for children to learn - hmm, OK i'll work on it.
fine, so the zombiesque trope isn't exactly brand new, but Dead Island does have some genuinely novel ideas of its own. for example, while traditional zombies are all lumbering and slow, several of the 'infected' on Dead Island are in fact extremely fast - which, as long as you haven't seen or heard about the popular movie 28 Days Later, or its sequel 28 Weeks Later, will perhaps be a total revelation to you.
other unique inventions of the development team include the fact that instead of being the survival horror game that you might expect from the setup, Dead Island is in fact an open world, sandbox adverture/RPG - a trait that will be surprising and refreshingly new, as long as you've never played or heard of the popular game Dead Rising or its sequel Dead Rising 2.
thanks to a near-pointless plot point that establishes that the main characters in the game have O-negative blood and are therefore somehow immune to the infection, you/we/they are perfectly situated to venture out of our high-end holiday resort and go on various quests, many of which have little or nothing to do with the issue of the rampaging, infected hordes.
raises a question as to whether 'immunity' is a benefit, or in fact a curse.
i say it's pointless that the characters are immune, because all that means is that if you get got by one of the groaning masses you don't get infected. you do, however, get dead - which sort of raises a question as to whether 'immunity' is a benefit, or in fact a curse.
luckily, that issue is ironed out by the fact that in Dead Island when you die, you quickly and fairly inconsequentially re-spawn nearby. now to my mind, it is this ability to come back from the dead that is really the key here, not a simple immunity to one infection, but alas no narrative explanation of how or why it is possible is offered.
as mentioned, the key benefit of being able to regenerate - i mean being immune to the infection - is the way in which it enables you to throw caution to the wind and explore the island taking on quests for cash, and, in so doing, gaining experience points by slaughtering rampaging infectees in numerous and humorous ways (assuming you find smashing people's heads to a pulp with a big stick, or slicing off all their limbs with a chain saw, amusing).
although graphically slaughtering 'bad people' one by one with a wooden oar or some other blunt object you have picked up and are employing as a weapon (think Dead Rising) is the bulk of the entertainment offered by Dead Island, being essentially a 'zombie' themed RPG, it actually forces you to spend much more of the extensive playing time navigating menus, managing itineraries and plotting successful paths along 'upgrade trees'. which i found brain-rottingly dull.
assuming that you've bought whole-heartedly into the 'mutilation is fun' mantra, which Dead Island does do a decent job of installing and reinforcing, then one nice inclusion is the workshops in which you can spend the currency you've earned on repairing, upgrading and modifying your arsenal of improvised weapons. i don't think that's a new idea though, although i can't quite remember... oh right, Dead Rising.
and you thought Jude Law's Australian accent in Contagion was bad.
although by the time you encounter your first workshop you might be getting really fed up with all the features of Dead Island that seem to have been stolen straight from Dead Rising, there is no doubt that modding weapons is awesome - after all, adding nails to your baseball bat means that not only does it crack and smoosh on the down swing, but it claws and shreads on the up. yay, take that, infected waiter.
to be fair, there are a couple of things that Dead Island has that the Dead Rising games didn't/don't. for starters, Dead Island is first person, not third person. and then there's... um... wait i totally had something else for this.
oh, right, there's the neat co-op mode which can be initiated via an in-game 'jump in' toggle which appears as an option when another online player is nearby. oh wait, Dead Rising had that too. but, you know, it is good.
OK, well there's the clunky, glitchy map, i don't remember Dead Rising having that. and there are the ugly, ultra-retro menus comprised of dark backgrounds swathed in colourful text which i found reminiscent of early command lines, they're fairly unique.
sludgy controls, a weak, dull plot, crypto-racist overtones.
and, while the sludgy controls, a weak, dull plot, crypto-racist overtones (Sam B's demeanour/backstory, for example, make for a masterclass in negative black stereotypes), hidden misogynistic undertones, hilarious voice-acting (and you thought Jude Law's Australian accent in Contagion was bad), patronisingly poor textures and clumsy, jerky character models hardly set Dead Island apart from all sorts of bad games out there, on the bright side, those elements don't seem to have been lifted wholesale from Dead Rising.
all in all, Dead Island seems uncannily like an old game that encountered production problems and ended up shelved for about five years while other games beat it to the punchline then, rather than being reworked or even properly finished, was rushed to release half-baked, and as a result has both no novel ideas and looks and plays shoddily.
returning to my original point, however, one thing it does offer is time consumption. there is at least twenty hours of play if you fastidiously follow the main plot, and plenty more than that if you allow yourself to be open to more of the side quests than you strictly need and to general exploration.
one thing it does offer is time consumption.
solid possible uses for Dead Island therefore include: alibi, way of distracting friend who's house is appearing on 24-hour secret makeover show, moderate entertainment for kidnap victim.
anyway, as i write, menacing, grotesque hordes of sugar-hungry children are gathering in the street outside my house and i don't have anything to offer them. as such i need to go and explore my window barricading and everyday-item-turned-weapon modding options.
right now, given my lack of treats, my worst fear is that, as a trick, they will sell me a full priced, recently released, seemingly high quality and throughly imaginative game that appears to contain lots of novel ideas and features, and then when i play it, it will be Dead Island.
[if you'd like to see more of the weird and wonderful world of reallyquitetired then the door is always open at his semi-detached house/blog]
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: