Dead Island Review (Xbox 360)

Game Review: Dead Island (Xbox 360)
Release: September  6, 2011
Genre: Zombie Action RPG
Developer:  Techland / Deep Silver
Available Platforms:  Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Players: 1 – 4 Online Co-op
MSRP: $59.99 US (Consoles) / $49.99 US (PC)
ESRB Rating: M for Mature

Dead Island takes place on the Island of Banoi, in and around the luxurious Royal Palms Resort.  A mysterious and contagious zombie outbreak sends the entire island into chaos.  Among the guests at the resort, only four are immune to the virus, and they are called upon by all of the other survivors to risk their lives to go find everything from gasoline to Champagne.  The main quest is to escape the island before an approaching monsoon hits.

Playing as one of the immune, you explore the huge open-world island, finding weapons, looting luggage, drinking energy drinks (health packs)… and killing zombies.  Each of the four playable characters has a special skill (guns, blunt weapons, blades and throwing weapons) and just enough back-story to explain why they have their specific skill.


The huge island is divided into areas (resort, city, jungle, etc.) and access to each consecutive area is earned  by completing quests.  Weapons are literally everywhere and degrade with use, so scavenging for money to pay for repairs and supplies to modify your weapons are an important part of the game.  Fortunately there is no karma system in the game, so feel free to loot everyone’s luggage, steal medical supplies and help yourself to whatever you want in the church.

Dead Island is a culmination of some of the best features of many great games.  Imagine a Franken-game created with parts taken from the following:

  • Sound design from Dead Space
  • Four playable co-op characters from Left 4 Dead
  • A huge open world map unlocked a section at a time from Borderlands
  • Lots of NPCs with scavenging quests from Fallout 3
  • Assorted zombie types from Left 4 Dead
  • Skill trees from Borderlands
  • Weapon mods from Dead Rising
  • Vehicles from Far Cry 2
The four player co-op is brilliantly designed and executed.  You can easily drop in or out of other player’s public games or have them join yours on the fly.  This is like the four player Left 4 Dead co-op with the drop in and drop out ease of the Lego video games.  The only drawback is no local co-op; it’s online only.

Dead Island has all of this, but the shining star is the melee combat and the selective damage inflicted on enemies.  Being able to dismember zombies is not only fun but crucial to getting past some of the tough parts of the game.  For example, thug zombies will pummel you with their long reaching arms – that is until you chop them off or break them, making it easier to move in closer to lop off their head.  Yes, it is ultra violent.  Yes, it leaves the ground littered with body parts and huge pools of blood.  Yes, it is one of the most fun survival horror games I have played in a long time.

There are a ton of great things about this game, and despite the shortcomings I am about to point out, this is a fun, must have, game

I’ll overlook the day one patch and the steam release issues.  I feel all games get a mulligan for release day.  With the complexity and scale of today’s games, I would much rather put up with a week of bugs than to have developers stop pushing the envelope. The negatives I want to focus on are all problems I have with Dead Island even after the first Xbox 360 patch, some of which are design related.

After the first console patch was released (September 15, 2011), there are still some clipping issues – zombies stuck in walls, attacking through doors, etc. but this is not what drives me crazy.  With all of the great things Techland got right in this game; it amazes me that the main source of frustration is the inventory system, which was apparently imported directly from Hell especially for Dead Island.  How much can you carry?  How much space is left?  Why can you sometimes pick up items and other time you must swap the item for something you are holding?  Who the hell knows?  And let’s not leave out the disappearing inventory items ala David Blaine.  If Techland can get this part of the game stabilized and reasonably consistent, there would be very little to stop this game from being a game of the year contender.

As for design issues, and at the risk of sounding a bit like a casual gamer, the re-spawning zombies drive me crazy.  If I clear out an area, it should stay clear – at least until I leave the area and come back – or restart the game.  For example, if I hack my way through a three story City Hall, eating up my weapons and resources in the process, why does everything I have killed re-spawn and block my way back through the building?  Sometimes, they re-spawn with me still in the room if I stand still long enough.

While these flaws seem like a big deal, I’m confident that they will get fixed or balanced in the near future, or I will learn to deal with them, because I am hooked – strike that, I am completely addicted to this game.  There should be a special warning label on Dead Island that says “Highly Addictive Game” just to let consumers know they will lose hundreds of hours of their lives to this game, because I know I will.  See you on the beach.

  • Best of the Best Culmination of Features
  • Awesome Targeted Enemy Damage
  • A Blast To Play In Spite Of Flaws and Bugs
  • Re-spawning Zombies Harsh My Mellow
  • Dismal Inventory System

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Be sure to take a look at the rest of the screenshots in the gallery below and check out all the additional Dead Island coverage on Platform Nation.

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  • WhiteCheddar360

    I completely agree. Great review, you have put everything I have experienced about the game into words. Also, just a warning to you and any readers. If your inventory is full and you remove items from Jin they will disappear. Not drop on the ground like the majority of RPGs when you attempt to acquire items exceeding the limit.