“Dead Island” is a let down: A video game that fails to live up to its trailer

By Glenn Battishill

At the beginning of this year an amazing trailer came out for a new game called “Dead Island.” And it was arguably one of the most creative, inventive and controversial game trailers ever. It played forward and in reverse and showed a little girl being attacked by zombies, her parents fruitlessly trying to save her, all set to very sad piano and violin music. It was heartbreaking, awesome and made me so excited for this game.

Which is why I’m heartbroken again, because the game is nothing like that.

Set on a Pacific island resort, “Dead Island” is a first-person open world zombie game for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. It emphasizes melee combat and a role-playing game leveling system. Players can choose between four playable characters each with their own weapon specialization and advantages. I went with the girl who specialized in sharp weapons, based on a recommendation from a friend who had already beaten the game.

Combat is where the game takes its first misstep. A game with melee combat should have more than one button for attacking, blocking and more powerful attacks but “Dead Island” relies solely on one button for attacks. This makes the combat simple but leaves little room for combos or finesse; you basically have to mash the button repeatedly in combat.

My favorite zombie game, “Dead Rising 2” had a one-button combat system as well but you could perform different attacks based on how hard or fast you pushed the button. That concept seems to be absent here.

When the combat works, which it does sometimes, it can be satisfying to lop of the head of an undead person in one clean stroke, but these attacks are so dependent on the player’s aim and weapon that they rarely work when you want them to.

The other thing the game takes, but doesn’t execute as well, from “Dead Rising 2” is a degrading weapons system. In “Dead Rising 2” any given melee weapon could get you through at least ten zombies. In “Dead Island” you’ll be lucky to get through three. This forces the player to think faster and improvise, which is really great but it’s done out of frustration, not curiosity.

The game isn’t all bad, quite the opposite; the atmosphere is flawless and the visuals of the game are impressive. Some of the levels in the game are very, very well done and I got genuine chills while I was searching an underground bathroom, covered in blood of course and echoing with undead moans, while trying to find a key. The map is also huge with hundreds of locations and secrets. Admittedly I loved the first five hours of the game but the frustration at the later parts of the game where you get rushed by dozens of zombies but have no real way to take on groups of zombies. I made it about 52 percent through the game at about 16 hours through and had enjoyed myself just enough to keep playing.

I want to say that “Dead Island” is a great game but it’s no more than what it looks like; a sandbox zombie game with decent atmosphere, shallow controls, an entire island to explore and one kickass trailer. Worth playing, but I wouldn’t rush to buy it.