Written By J.W. Shumate
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It's OK to not kill zombies: Dead Island review
I am a zombie junkie. My love for the flesh-eating undead began some fifteen
or more years ago, long before the Zombie Craze took over America. As an   
O.G. zombie fan, I have certain tastes to which later zombie initiates (and here
I mean anything post-
Shaun of the Dead) may not subscribe. My favorite
zombie film (and favorite film overall) is George Romero’s
Dawn of the Dead.
As such, I am a fan of “blue” zombies that walk slowly. I also abhor much of
the stuff being released today and in recent years—fast zombies,
cheerleader/stripper/prom night/turkey zombies, zombies for the sake of
zombies, zombies for a profit and not a scare.

Remember that awful movie
House of the Dead, that is loosely connected to
the video game of the same name (in that it has the same name), and scantily
clad racial stereotypes battle the undead while we try desperately to care for
them?

Yeah, that takes place on an island too.

Dead Island (another release in the great chain of titles to daringly place
“dead” in front of a noun of some kind) welcomes us into the most recent
zombie crisis, and this time ground zero is the tropical island Banoi, where
America’s rich and pretending-to-be-rich gather to have sex and act self-
important. I’m presented with four stereotypical characters to emulate, each
with a weapon specialty and ridiculous backstory. I choose the ex-rapper with
a penchant for blunt objects.

I wake up in my hotel room, groggy of course from another night of boozing,
and the first thing I notice is that I’m walking very strangely. My strafe is
awkward—slower than my forward and backward. At first, I pass it off to a
night of drinking. “Okay, I get it, I’m hung over so I’m stumbling around like a
clod,” I chide myself. But no, four hours later, the same awkward movement
hinders my every step, making it challenging to fit through one of those door
hole thingies. Even turning around the corner of a stairwell feels awkward and
cumbersome. And of course there are zombies after me. Everywhere. And
they all kind of look the same.

Dead Island has quite a bit of potential—players are invited to a vast world of
fun summer violence and terror (a la
Shark Night, Piranha, or my personal
favorite,
Sharktopus). The gameplay offers an experience that begs to be
called “Oblivion with zombies.” First person action combined with role-playing
like experience and item gathering makes for a promising start, and gamers
will have fun playing for a couple hours just on the juicy premise alone. The
colors really pop out—tropical horror gets its due in the visual treatment here,
especially in the background land and seascapes, which look downright lovely
(“Looks like a fuckin’ postcard!” says my ex-rapper as he looks at the
shoreline).

But after the tenth quest for cans of food at some distant hotel so the other
survivors don’t starve to death, I had trouble appreciating that potential. The
world map is quite large, and there are plenty of sidequests and story quests
and quest quests, which usually involve beating through a pack of zombies to
get something or someone to take back to other, more stationery things or
people. Beat up zombies, collect, beat up zombies, return, rinse, repeat.  
There isn’t enough variation here. For such a large sandbox on such a big
island, everything sure gets similar fast. That is, if the game lets you play    
long enough.

Did I mention there are glitches? There are glitches. And they’re creative
glitches too. Weirdo glitches. The kind of glitches that make you wonder why
you paid sixty dollars for a glitchy game, or worse yet maybe your PS3 is
finally burning out—I walked into a little bunker, killed some zombies and
flipped some switches, and on my way out, well, I wasn’t allowed to go out.  
An invisible force kept pushing me back down the stairs. The charm of it all
wore out quickly, so I turned off the game for the night. As of this writing, there
have been no patches offered on the PSN. Glitches should not be as tolerated
as they are these days. Players are willing to put up with quite a bit of
punishment just to play a new game. And it seems downright spiteful on the
part of the developer to release a game for sixty bucks, knowing full well the
Invisible Force will keep their players from leaving that damn bunker.

I want this game to succeed. I want it to be more than just another bad for-
profit-first-and-entertainment-second zombie outing, but I can’t shake away
the images of
House of the Dead dancing around in my head. This game is
eating my brains, but not in a good way.

I can’t help but feel like I’m playing a fake game here. A lazily developed game
that goes out of its way to offend and annoy. It’s like there’s a layer of
cheesecloth separating me from the real game. I have to squint past the
subpar graphics that are just simply rushed good graphics. I have to squint
past the horrendous racial stereotypes spewing out of my character’s mouth.  
I have to squint past the wonky physics and odd textures. I’m done squinting
now. Sorry, Techland, but this game should have been in development for
another few years. This is just another rushed product that is sure to sell like
hotcakes but ultimately be a disappointment for more serious-minded gamers
and zombie fans such as myself. Zombies deserve more respect than this.  
And for those developers who get in a tuff about folks who don’t consider the
video game a true art form, take a long look at what some of you are
developing. If you aren’t taking your art seriously, neither will I.
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For The Fans, By The Fans.  Look Beyond The Mainstream.
REPORT CARD: Dead Island
Graphics/Presentation:
Sloppy and underdeveloped. Bright and shiny, but too messy to matter.
C-

Sound: I turned off the music volume after an hour of playing. The voice
acting is not only annoying, but downright offensive. Racial slurs abound.
D

Gameplay: Essentially a decent but predictable foray into survival horror.  
With more development, could have been the zombie equivalent to
Oblivion. There are worse ways to waste time, I suppose.  
B-

Story: Zombie crisis on a tropical island. More of a story loaf—
made from real story parts chunked and formed.
C

Replayability:
For the willing and trophy-hungry, this may be worth a couple playthroughs.
B

Overall: Frat boys and underage kids thirsty for sex and violence will
make sure this game is a best-seller (they already have!), but this game
is not simply for frat boys—it is a frat boy.
Dead Island ogles women
inappropriately, drinks way too much, and beats things that are
different from it with sticks and tire irons.
C