Developed by Techland and published by Deep Silver, Dead Island is nearly everything one would want in a zombie apocalypse -- a tropical island, booze, bikinis, tons of weapons, and a bug here and there.
Dead Island has players choose one of four characters in the one-hit-wonder rapper Sam B, former police officer turned bodyguard Purna, mysterious resort employee Xian Mei, and shamed pro football player Logan. Each player has their own strengths and weaknesses as well as preferred combat styles. The actual player choice, though, doesn't matter too much as players will spend the majority of the game utilizing various melee attacks.
The game opens up with your character passing out in his/her hotel room after a night of too much drinking and partying only to find that the resort is all but deserted with all of its occupants leaving everything behind, luggage included. It's here that the game's unofficial focus as a luggage-looting simulator really takes off. Looting luggage, trunks, and trash cans prove to be a good way to find loot to sell as well as useful items for the player's character.
The game moves on from there once the player exits the hotel and gets to the beach, where the quest and sidequest-based gameplay takes off. Players will find themselves traversing the island either on foot or via pickup truck going from point-A to point-B and back again. Luckily, there are a number of safe zones that can be fast-traveled between. The actual core plot of the game isn't anything too outlandish and follows a number of already tried-and-true storyline formulas as far as zombie games are concerned, but the game's various sidequests (some which are very menial) is where the meat of the game is and it's the sidequests that will keep players playing.
Techland could have been content having the player deal with the game's different zombie types around the resort and its immediate surrounding jungle area, but a second venue (a ravished town) add a different gameplay feel with its narrow corridors and streets. In addition to various zombies, the town also has its fair share of ruffians that don't like the player parading around their turf. The town, called Moresby, really extends the game's entertainment value.
Something that also extend Dead Island's play value is the ability to go co-op rather than single-player. The developers did well to have drop-in/drop-out co-op gameplay for those who decide to enable it. Furthermore, a game lobby makes it easy to join-in with strangers and help with their playthrough as they can do the same to yours.
As briefly mentioned earlier in this review, Dead Island has its fair share of pesky little bugs. The biggest culprit is an auto-save bug where the game won't actually save though the auto-save icon comes up on the screen. Of course, players won't realize the problem until they resume a game only to find that they have to redo three or four recently-completed sidequests. This bug alone is frustrating and unacceptable. Other glitches include zombies sometimes getting stuck in a pose and slow-loading textures.
Another (unofficial) bug might be pointed out with some of the game's storyline. As mentioned before, the zombie apocalypse kicked off while the player's character was blacked-out from too much drinking for (presumably) one night. Looking around the island, there is no way that all heck broke loose the way it did in just one night. There is a level of decay around parts of the resort and town that look like they've been in disrepair for quite some time. It's an inconsistency that will bug the players who notice it.
But still, the game looks mostly good with its pretty environments and well-themed areas. The NPC character models are fairly well done, though the males look much better than the females, and the zombies are very zombie-ish. The voice acting could use some work and there's a bit of a difference in quality between main NPC voice acting/lip synching and those of the random NPCs.
Dead Island has its problems, but it's still a very good play. Despite its issues (which will likely be fixed in a patch or two sooner or later), gamers should give this "M-rated" title a play.
Final Game Guys grade: B-