Dead Island: Stream-of-Gameplay Review

By Shamus
on Sep 11, 2011
Filed under:
Game Reviews

Instead of playing the entire game through and giving an overview at the end, I thought I’d assemble my minute-by-minute impressions and try to pass it off as a review. I’ve done this in the past, calling them “Twitter Reviews”. This is the same thing, but I didn’t go to the trouble of switching over to Twitter and cramming these ideas into 140 characters. So this isn’t really a Twitter review. This is something even lazier.

Okay, let’s get started:

Press any key to move to a screen where you’ll need to press another key.

Ah, useless title screen. You’re always there for me, to let me know I’m playing a console port. Where would I be without you? Besides one step closer to playing the game, I mean.

Is Logan’s special ability pulling knives out of his armpit?

Let’s see… I can choose between four characters:

  1. A guy who is good at throwing his weapons away.
  2. A guy who is good at blunt weapons.
  3. A chick who is good at edged weapons and having low health.
  4. Purna, a woman who is an expert at shooting stuff.

Given what I know about zombies (damn near everything) and what I know about guns, bullets, and the interaction between these and the human cranium, I’d have to say Purna has got to be my first choice. My second choice would be Purna again, followed by more Purna, followed by, “What was I thinking? Why didn’t I choose Purna?”

Her character intro tells me that, “I used to be a cop. A damn good one.” I think maybe there was something in there about her being a loose cannon who doesn’t play by the rules, but I’m in too much of a hurry to shoot zombies to investigate further.

Something about this room makes it feel like I just brought a bloody oar to a group therapy session.

Okay, so we meet ubiquitous voice actor Steven Blum in the tutorial. So that’s out of the way. I’ll give him credit: His Australian accent is every bit as good as the other Australian accents in this game.

Also, just the other day we were talking about the tendency for new games to make everything look like dull plastic. I offer this game as Exhibit A for the prosecution.

Okay, so I need to be very careful not to ever press J.

Man, the game keeps prompting me to hot-join other players. I was careful to specify that I wanted single player when I launched this game, not co-op. I feel like ten minutes ago I told the used car salesman I didn’t want the rustproofing guarantee, and now he keeps bringing it up in conversation. I don’t see any way to turn this off. Is this the game? This message, with random names, forever?

“Screw you and your sense of immersion, buddy. There are frat boys out there who need to tell the world how high they are and how much of a faggot you are.”

Summoning all my willpower, I somehow find the strength to not press J.

What key do I press to tell noob_sauce to piss off?

Okay, I think I get this game now. We’ve got the ability to carry a dozen improvised weapons. The weapons degrade over time, and must be repaired or replaced. And apparently every object in the game is made of laminated Play-Doh. I can understand the degradation of wooden objects, but a metal pipe should not be bent and ruined after a half-dozen blows to zombified noggins.

Swinging a weapon depletes the stamina bar, so you have to make your swings count. I actually have to line up my shots with the mouse, instead of just spamming attack. Also, there’s a stamina bar for sprinting, so you can’t just sprint everywhere and play hit & run with the undead.

Except…

Apparently I have a “kick” move. It uses no stamina, interrupts any attack, knocks foes down, can hit multiple enemies at once, and doesn’t degrade my weapon condition. I’m having flashbacks to Rutskarn’s series on The Boot Lord. It’s the same foot every time, in the same daring, high-stepping style. I feel like a Rockette! I’m half-tempted to join one of those frat boys now so they can experience the pure joy of a middle-aged man playing a woman who is dancing her way through the zombie apocalypse with heedless gaiety.

I’m level four and the game hasn’t given me a gun yet. I’m sort of feeling a bit cheated with regard to character choice.

Dear Lord, we thank you for this food we are about to become…

I’m not trying to be a puritanical busybody, and I don’t want to ruin anyone’s vacation here, but maybe if zombie bites are that much of a concern we should think about putting on some shirts and pants? The plastic sheen on your skin tells me you’re laying on the sunblock really thick. Maybe that’s good enough, but I’m just saying that having a layer or two of cotton and denim between your flesh and their teeth wouldn’t hurt. Just a suggestion.

Okay, I’m level six, and someone has given me a revolver as a quest reward. A revolver which requires me to be level 10 to use. They must have very loose standards about what constitutes a “damn good cop” in Australia. I would say that as a bare minimum, a cop should be capable of comprehending the point-and-click interface of a firearm. This isn’t a harrier jet.

This isn’t Nikolai. I forgot to get shot of him, so here is another shot of his brother in voice, Sinimoi.
This isn’t Nikolai. I forgot to get shot of him, so here is another shot of his brother in voice, Sinimoi.

I’m out to rescue a chopper pilot. I reach him to find the voice of Steven Blum again, only this time he’s Nikolai, a wise-cracking Russian pilot. No, wait, suddenly a different voice actor is reading his lines. No, now we’re back to Blum again.

I escort him (yes, escort missions) to a nearby fort, which looks to be the makings of my next quest hub. Nikolai gives me a quest, and then I hop downstairs to look for goodies. I end up in a very small room with an exploding zombie and get one-shotted to death. Sigh. Respawning, I return to find Nikolai is gone. His quest is gone. The quest to rescue him is listed as “complete”, but I have no access to him or the jobs he might be offering. So… I guess that’s it for this place? Hm.

None of this dialog is needed, since he’s telling us what we can see for ourselves.

The tone of this game is all over the place. Sometimes it’s silly, like when some nutty woman gives me a quest to rescue her teddy bear, or a woman tasks me with gathering up a bunch of champagne. There’s even a Fallout 3 – style thirst quest. One woman will pay me for water. She’s five steps from the bathroom where presumably the water is still on, but she complains of severe dehydration no matter how much I bring her. Nobody else ever complains about being thirsty, not even her bungalow-mates.

At the other end of the spectrum are these desperate, serious quests where people pour out their hearts telling me sob stories about their loved ones. These are sometimes really dark. They’re well-acted, but the acting is completely undercut by the dead-eye, plastic-faced character models. The voice actress is weeping her guts out to tell me about her lost love, and her character model is blank faced, and she looks over my right shoulder while her head bobbles around aimlessly. This wouldn’t be so bad if the camera didn’t zoom in on their face for these conversations. If the designers used a BioWare-style third-person camera instead of a Bethesda-style closeup they might get away this this.

Also, I’m level ten, and I’ve finally unlocked the secret knowledge that will allow my “damn good cop” to equip a gun and point it at people. And now I see that this gun, which I’ve been carrying around for four levels, came with exactly one bullet. None of the shops carry extra bullets. I’m starting to feel really cheated with regards to my character choice.

Don’t get excited. This is a pre-rendered cutscene. You don’t actually get to drive this around.

I’m trying to run over some zombies, but instead of flattening them under the tires of my mighty rolling fortress, I sort of shuffled them along in front of me. Thinking I was being clever, I decided to flatten them against the wall. But instead they just passed through the wall, and are now inside the building. Frustratingly, they are tagged as mandatory targets. I have to kill them in order to proceed. I need to kill them in order to get the people inside this building to open up the building so I can kill these zombies. Hm. Looks like it’s time to restart from my previous checkpoint.

Speaking of which, this save system sucks. It decides when I get a checkpoint save, but a checkpoint save isn’t a real save. If I die, I come back to the checkpoint, but if I leave the game or (ahem) crash, then I’ll end up at some random point in the past. How do I know the difference between a checkpoint save and a real save? I don’t. I have no idea. Any time I quit the game I end up losing some random amount of progress. And it won’t let me manually save, not even in a safe house. I can force a checkpoint save by using fast-travel from one safe house to the next, but this doesn’t always result in a real save.

You’re playing single-player? Well screw you, we’re going to pretend you’re in a group anyway.

It’s really jolting when I get to a cutscene and suddenly it depicts all four player characters.

Hey, somebody has given me fifteen bullets as a quest reward. I guess I can start thinking about using my character class now. I had to reach level ten before I was allowed to use the weapon. I had to spend a bunch of skill points before I was allowed to use guns in general. And I had to reach level twelve before I was given any bullets. I am now feeling like this entire character class is some sort of elaborate trolling on the part of the game designers. Guns had better be a world-shattering gamebreaker for all of this hassle and expense.

Bbbring bbbring! 1997 called. They said they wanted their shitty boss fights back.

Okay, boss fight time. Twelve feet tall. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. I’ve got fifteen bullets that have been burning a hole in my pocket. Let’s ruin somebody’s day.

(Ten seconds later.)

WHAT.

THE.

HELL.

I shoot this guy in the FACE and it does exactly one point of damage. For contrast, at level 1, your starting melee weapon does about 25-30 points of damage. I’m now level 15, and my weapons are in the 200 damage range. I’m using the firearm specialist character class. I’ve spent skill points, reserved inventory slots, hoarded bullets… for THIS?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The boss lets out a conspicuous roar, charges you, you leap out of the way, and he slams face-first into the wall. Then you walk up behind him and hit him a few times before he turns around. Repeat until dead.

So I guess this entire character class is useless and stupid? Or maybe that’s just the game. It’s really hard to tell right now.

Do these streets always look like this, or are zombies incorrigible litterbugs?

Gah. I’m dying a lot. My boot isn’t the problem-solver it once was. I’m fighting larger groups of foes now. It used to be I was fighting between 1 and 3 foes, but now most fights are between 2 and 6. Dying subtracts about a fifth of your cash, which is a serious setback. (You need money for repairs. I’m not sure why. You do the repairs yourself at a workbench. I guess you’re repairing the weapons with money?)

Whatever. The point is, I’ve got a lot of modified weapons and they take a huge pile of cash to maintain. I need a way to play around with group combat without losing all of my hard-won cash. The best plan is probably to just go back to the beach and practice on some low-level mooks.

Except…

Now that I’ve returned to the previous area, I see the level 1 zombies I fought in the tutorial are gone, and replaced by zombies of my level. I’ve noticed I never run into lower-level foes before, but I thought it was because I was sticking to the story missions. I didn’t realize this was part of the design. Every single foe in the game levels with you, always, everywhere. Note that the only reason I need to keep upgrading and replacing my weapons is to keep up with the higher-level infected. I’ve actually been screwing myself by doing all of the sidequests, by forcing myself to turn over my weapon collection more frequently.

So I guess this entire leveling system is useless and stupid? Or maybe that’s just the game.

Look, I understand you can’t make the world infinite in size.  I totally understand the need for walls around the game world. But if you don’t want me bumping into those walls, then stop placing items and waypoints to draw me towards them!
Look, I understand you can’t make the world infinite in size. I totally understand the need for walls around the game world. But if you don’t want me bumping into those walls, then stop placing items and waypoints to draw me towards them!

I hike all the way into the city to get some insulin for a woman in the church. I visit several pharmacies, get the drugs, and put down a lot of infected. Takes about forty-five minutes. I get back, and get my reward. Then I try to use the fast-travel map. The map blinks on for a second, then vanishes. The map is no longer interactive. I can’t go anywhere. Well, I just hit a couple of checkpoints on my way in, and after I completed the quest, so I should be good. I dump out to the main menu and restart the game.

When I return, I find the insulin quest hasn’t been done. The last forty-five minutes of fighting, shopping, upgrading, exploring, leveling, and questing. Gone.

You know what? Screw this game. I was getting a really low return on investment already, and this setback just pushed me far into the negatives.

So that’s Dead island. Wonderful atmosphere and scenery, and a fresh setting for a zombie apocalypse – all of which is undercut or ruined by bone-headed gameplay decisions and bugs.

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A Hundred!A Hundred!11211 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

From the Archives:

  1. X2-Eliah says:

    Hm. Did you play the very first steam release, or the patched version?

    Also.. heck, even Bethesda isn’t going to do full-faced level scaling like this for their next game.. Have the Dead Island devs not heard of Oblivion?

    • Shamus says:

      Both. The game was really wonky at launch, so I backed off and waited a few days. I came back later and the really crazy stuff was fixed. (To my knowledge, none of the stuff from the botched release was in this review. As far as I can tell, all of this should apply to the current public version that everyone is playing.)

    • Ringwraith says:

      It’s even worse than Oblivion, as their levels are printed right there above their heads, making it all the more obvious.
      At least with Oblivion you had to be paying slightly more attention, or observe humanoid enemies’ armour.

      • acronix says:

        I recall there being some map sections that have slightly overleveled zombies. Curiously, you will only run into them if you go do th sidequests.
        Yes, that`s right: the sidequests send you to slightly over-your-level places.

        • adam says:

          I don’t understand level scaling at all. Not in open world games and certainly not in linear games.

          Oblivion was the worst recent culprit and it still makes absolutely no sense. I can’t fathom what rationale leads to such an awful design decision. Do they really think players enjoy having zero sense of accomplishment and growth relative to the world they’re in? Do they really think players like being pulled out of any sense of immersion you may have created by being punched in the face with the fact that they’re in a game? Have none of these people ever seen The Truman Show? Guy was perfectly happy to live his life until he realized it wasn’t real–that it was all for him.

          Yeah, guys. Don’t do that.

  2. Some Jackass says:

    Really does say a lot for a game when its absolute high point was the teaser trailer…

    • Zeta Kai says:

      Yeah, that teaser was just beautiful. Haunting & emotionally moving.

      The later full trailer was… okay. Standard zompocalypse stuff, nothing special. A bit of a letdown, as I (& I expect many others) were hoping that the teaser was somehow representative of the game as a whole.

      The actual game, as least as far as I can tell, is even worse. Buggy, ugly, full of mood whiplashes, & even more full of bad mechanics. This is just crap. The thing about a game is its supposed to be fun, & its supposed to be fair*. This game sounds like it was made by people who don’t understand anything about game balance, & didn’t particularly care. The whole gun thing is a tremendous blunder, & I’m glad that I haven’t wasted my time & money on such a sad disappointment. Life is too short to play bad games, & the market is too full of better alternatives to be fooled by a great teaser.

      * Okay, a game can be unfair, as long as it warns you ahead of time that it’s not gonna be fair.

      • Loonyyy says:

        It just goes to show: Never trust cinematic trailers: They show nothing related to the game. I wish they had the confidence to make their trailers entirely ingame.

  3. WWWebb says:

    This makes me miss Shamus Plays.

  4. Destrustor says:

    You’ve just listed a bunch of very valid reasons for why nobody should want to play this game. I am just baffled that this kind of crap can be sold as a “game” these days. I hope you didn’t pay for that waste of programming.

  5. silentStatic says:

    Shamus, while I am sure the guns are buged, could you please describe your motivation for choosing the class that was good at shooting in a zombie game?

    Meelee weapons (plentifull, does not use bullets) are always the way to go when dealing with zombies [1] even if the weapons degrade.

    [1]: I don’t know how Zombies work in Dead Island, but usually zombies don’t have the same need for working internal organs as normal people do.

    • X2-Eliah says:

      Melee gets you in range of them, and you can contract their disease easily (blood splatter, one gets too close, etc.). And of ranged weapons, grenades & explosives are probably even more rare than guns. Once the zombie apocalypse hits, getting near a zombie is the last thing you want to do, if we’re talking on those terms ;)

    • Shamus says:

      Guns are the way to go in Left 4 Dead, Resident Evil, and Half-Life 2. It all depends on the game. When I see a character class based around guns, I sort of assume guns will be a meaningful part of the experience. Even if guns WERE powerful, fifteen bullets in 15 levels isn’t exactly a good use of character abilities. Even if I never missed and every bullet resulted in a free kill, it would STILL make more sense to go for a melee build.

      But you can’t know that until you play the game.

      • silentStatic says:

        Guns are the way to go in Left 4 Dead, Resident Evil, and Half-Life 2.

        Fair enough, I guess my exposure to “World War Z” and “Dead Rising” (and never having gotten into “Left 4 Dead”) have left me favoring meelee weapons.

        • Tizzy says:

          The Zombie survival guide gives a very good, reasoned account of what weapons to chose, melee is important, although not just any melee weapon! But video games don’t go for “realism”, they’re supposed to go for fun; and if melee is really the way to go, don’t offer a gun build at all! Obviously, the guys who designed this game think that balancing is what tightrope walkers do.

          • Keeshhound says:

            I wouldn’t call the ZSG a “reasoned” account for why melee is better. It makes some good points, but if you know what modern ballistics do to living flesh, then it becomes very difficult to accept ZSG’s central conceit that unaugmented (biological, not magical) zombies would just shrug off that kind of damage.

            • General Ghoul says:

              ZSG says the best weapons vs a zombie are a 22 rifle (small caliber means the bullet enters the skull, but doesn’t have enough power to exits and bounces around destroying the center motivating feature of a zombie), a shotgun with slugs (full brain splattering power), or a katana for decapitations. Although they always advise against melee combat for fear of infection, even those in full body armor can get infected matter splashed on themselves from a kill shot.

              All bludgeoning weapons are to be avoided because it would take several blows to damage the brain, and zombies feel no pain and don’t stop coming for yours.

              • WJS says:

                Which is why you know that the author doesn’t know shit. The “best weapon” is either one of the weakest bullets you can buy, or the most fragile swords ever devised? High-powered rifle rounds are bad, but slugs from a smoothbore weapon are good? Bludgeoning weapons all require “several blows” to destroy the skull? Like there’s no difference between a 2×4 and a hammer?

        • Khizan says:

          L4D2 would still leave you favoriing melee weapons.

        • rofltehcat says:

          Oh yeah, World War Z.
          Battle Rifles and Bolt Action Rifles: Yes, with trigger discipline.
          Anything designed to maim humans like explosives, rapid fire weapons, even nukes… bad ideas, you just got a bunch of zombie heads in that knee-deep grass that didn’t get cut for a few years.

        • Inyssius says:

          Ah, yes, World War Z, where the war was won by… people with long-range weapons, because charging zombies to go hand-to-hand with them if you’re not secretly Zatoichi is an incredibly efficient way to get hurt, killed, infected, or all of the above?

          • ps238principal says:

            True enough, but weren’t they using phosphorous bullets that basically fried the brains of any heads they penetrated? I was so looking forward to seeing that effect (glowing eye sockets and all) in the eventual movie.

            And the movie adaptation is looking like it’s going to suck, big time. It should have been a kind of ‘Ken Burns with Zombies’ war film, or at least a sequential telling of the stories from the book. Instead, we get a guy from the UN trying to get world governments to help stop the infection. Ugh…

      • acronix says:

        They become more meaningfull when you get the good stuff: shotguns, rifles, submachine guns. But yeah, at the beggining they suck at killing zombies. In the city you can get a steady supply of pistol ammo by killing punks (human enemies, for those that don`t know the weird categorization of this game), who die with a single shot to the head. Too bad you can have a dozen pipes on your inventory but only 40-60 rounds, depending on weapon type.

        • Tizzy says:

          This reminds me of vtm: bloodlines where the least dangerous weapon in the game was the .38 special. I mean, least dangerous to you, I get it, you’re a vampire, no vital organs, yadda yadda… But least dangerous even to humans? Really!?

          • Keeshhound says:

            Well, compared to everything else, it’s still the “least” dangerous.
            I’d rather take a .38 to the chest than buckshot, even though they’re both likely to end me.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Half life 2?Bah,guns are only good against the fast zombies.The rest you can crowbar/gravity gun with ease.

        But I agree,guns vs zombies seems like the obvious choice because you should be able to headshot them with a single bullet before they approach you.

      • Blanko2 says:

        later in the game you get baddass guns and the character you picked can craft ammo as a perk. i think that sort of mitigates the hard start to the game. revolvers are hard hitters

        • WJS says:

          The question then is whether it’s good game design to have characters that are noticeably stronger in different phases of the game. Obviously the game didn’t effectively communicate to Shamus that he was choosing a character whose perks only come into their own later in the game, but even if it had is including a character who sucks for the first half of the game a good idea?

    • WickedArtist says:

      I’m not sure if you are being facetious or not, but I’ll work under the assumption that you are not.

      How is any of this a good excuse for a game to create a class which appears to be completely broken? Is the game trolling players for not applying enough real-world logic into a zombie apocalypse game? They may as well create a new Magician class and make it so that whenever you try to cast a spell nothing will happen because magic doesn’t exist.

      I have no experience with the game, but Shamus’ telling of the experience sounds horrendous and inexcusable.

      • Deadpool says:

        Actually, she’s a support class. Her best skill is an aura that boosts the effects of all attack related skills for all players within the aura (including herself).

      • silentStatic says:

        How is any of this a good excuse for a game to create a class which appears to be completely broken?

        It isn’t. I am not defending this game at all, I have never played it, and I never had any intention of doing so, even before reading this article.

        I was however curios why Shamus had chosen the gun class. When Shamus listed his class choices choices his writeup initially made me think he picked the blunt weapon class (no sarcasm or italics), since meelee weapons have become wedged in my mind as the weapon of choice against zombies in modern survival horror games.

        But yes, of course the game should have made the gun class playable, no ifs, no buts.

      • Joshua says:

        Interestingly, I’d say that many, many games suffer something similar to this with regards to magic. They put in a potent, nigh game-breaking spell system, and then realize that would make the game too easy so they simply make most of the enemies immune to the effects, even though the trade-off to the more potent attack system(magic, guns, whatever) was the fact that you could use it a lot less. Essentially, you’re forced into having to slowly whittle the enemy’s health down in a dramatic fashion, because the game designers think that any other way is cheating. Why they have the whole Useless Useful Spell in TvTropes. *Sorry, don’t know how to link with keywords*

      • I played the game says:

        Actually, she comes with a built-in gun ability that she can use to shoot stuff from level 2 onward, if you just spend one point in the skill. And it easily still kills stuff at level 20, at the rate of 5-8 zombies per skill use. She can only use it every third encounter or so, that much is true.

    • SlowShootinPete says:

      “(plentifull, does not use bullets)”

      Puts you in the zombies’ reach, risks infection from contact with blood spray, tires you out.

    • Zukhramm says:

      Actually, considering they move about and actively try to eat people it seems pretty odd to me that they would not still need their internal organs.

    • guy says:

      The underlying reason is that, if you use melee weapons, you must get into melee range. Zombies rarely have ranged attacks, so deliberately engaging them in melee always seems like an act of desperation to me even when melee attacks are really effective. Most zombies go down to a single bullet right between the eyes and there’s no real risk of getting torn to bits by all their zombie friends while attempting to put them down like there is with a sword.

    • ClearWater says:

      I thought brooms were the way to go when it came to zombies.

  6. MichaelG says:

    So these are the game companies that spend millions on development? And they somehow don’t play test the things and find these obvious problems?

  7. Rayen says:

    wait this game has questing and leveling? I’m sorry but when it comes to a zombie game that sounds like a really bad idea. especially if certain weapons and items are going to be withheld until arbitrary levels and especially especailly if your going to have weapons deredation. i figured this game was goinbg to be left 4 dead or dead rising on a island resort. this makes it seem like a MMORPG where all the enemies autoloevel with you and and all of the eneimes are one enemy; zombies. BORING. Oh and it forgets the first “M” in that acronym.

    I had high hopes for this game, i like zombie games, but this… this just sounds terrible.

    • I love the Zombie genre, but I’ve personally found most zombie games lacking what I look for
      I also thought this was going to be a L4D clone, and the trailers showed mostly just running and shooting…which is pretty much L4D
      Leveled mobs and level restrictive items defeat the purpose of what should be obviously survival horror
      “Sorry James, you can’t use this pipe against those freaky nurses…you need to be lvl 8 to know how to swing a pipe”
      I’ve recently gotten into a game called Project Zomboid
      http://projectzomboid.com/blog/
      It’s a pixel, sprite based zombie survival game, it’s currently in Pre-Alpha
      Has a lot of the things I like
      Need for food
      Need for sleep
      Crafting
      Cooking
      Foraging
      Home defense
      Stealth (sound travels)
      Medical treatments
      Fatigue (both body and mind)
      Illness
      and Perks/Traits
      The game is lacking a lot of polish (being pre-alpha) but the foundation is there and things should only get better (right now weapons degrade with no way of repairing them, which I hope should be addressed in future releases)
      That’s what this game should have had
      A good foundation

      • Tizzy says:

        I love this idea. My guess as to why few devs try this: not so much it’s too complicated for players (after all, people play Starcraft and the likes), but rather: it’s a nightmare to balance right. My best wishes to the project, and I don’t want to sound too discouraging, but I can imagine how one might easily spend many man-hours building something that can *never* be properly balanced.

      • GiantRaven says:

        That was pretty good until I had to start again because I didn’t turn off the oven. I’ll be damned if I’m bothering to do all that again after something so needlessly pointless.

        That’s some pretty epic zombie survival horror going on there.
        [/sarcasm]

        • Yeah, I missed the oven on my first play through, after the fire started I just started laughing
          The whole idea felt like a prank from the devs
          There is no oven fire in sandbox mode, though you can overcook your food (it fills you even less then raw)
          The game doesn’t have any save function yet, so the whole goal for me is to see how long I can live in one sitting

          See if you can find a use for the pillow *wink wink* >_0

          As far as balance, your right
          If you’ve heard of a game called Terraia (http://www.terraria.org/), it’s an example of a game that will be constantly updated and balance (much like a MMO, but single player)
          Project Zomboid has plans to function that way
          If they added Co-Op, I’d rate this game amongst my favorites
          But there’s still time

          • GiantRaven says:

            A prank you say? Nice of the developer to treat their players like a complete joke.

            Oh, who am I kidding? The game looks pretty impressive. I’ll probably give it another shot in a day or two.

          • Aldowyn says:

            You haven’t happened to have heard of Paul Soares Jr., have you? He’s one of the few Youtubers that I’ve seen do Project Zomboid, and his Terraria is probably the second most common thing on his channel (after Minecraft, obviously. He has like 3 or 4 Minecraft series)

  8. ccesarano says:

    I was very impressed with the trailer for this game, but it was the same deal as the past few Halo games and Gears of War games. The trailers portray all these emotions of melancholy, bittersweet, sacrifice and loss. Then the game comes out and, oh, it’s just another game where you kill stuff.

    So when I started seeing actual gameplay, I wasn’t surprised. Still disappointed, just not surprised. I figured I’d wait until the game hit a price reduction before giving it a whirl.

    From the sounds of it, people like it in the same way they like Left 4 Dead. In which case, I already have Left 4 Dead.

    • Wolverine says:

      Seems like they spent all the development money on the trailer.

    • burningdragoon says:

      You mean the original teaser trailer? I felt the same way. When my friend showed it to me the first time I was like “Yeah that’s cool, but it’s just a bunch of pre-rendered nonsense”

      Then a couple days later, before even any gameplay trailers, I heard that the game was going to be nothing like the teaser teased. It’s a shame.

      Interesting. Comment is awaiting moderation?

      • ccesarano says:

        Re: Comment is awaiting moderation:

        That seems to be a result of posting in a different location than usual/before? That, or it happened to me before after I posted that one colorful post that seemed to spark some…passionate response. So who knows?

        But Ben Kuchera on Ars Technica noticed this trend as well, and I’m glad I’m not the only one sick of it. I mean, ultimately, the commercial for ODST has a more meaningful story than the game itself. It also proves that there’s a lot of good story-telling available in the Halo universe if you know what you’re doing. Unfortunately, well, I dunno. They write a story that would “make a good game”, which is terrible.

        Reach had the sort of sad ending I’d love, only, well, everyone saw it coming, and the story up to that point didn’t allow you to really care.

        • Aldowyn says:

          I liked Reach’s story. Am I the only one that actually felt a little sad when people starting dying? And I liked how your squad was slowly getting whittled down… and then the end (I failed epically at the last stand at the end. I think I might have killed more people in the cutscene than in the actual gameplay).

          It just seemed pretty sweet to me, and I loved the set-up for Halo 1.

          • ccesarano says:

            The problem is already knowing what’s going to happen. That’s a tough sort of situation to handle, and there are few that can make a moment you already know is coming and make it suspenseful. See the HBO TV show Rome and the assassination of Julius Caesar (God damn what a fantastic moment).

            Halo: Reach needed to first make me interested in the characters in order to care when they died. If this failed, then everything else would fail. And it failed. You had generic leader, generic old-nice-guy, generic independent-woman-who-you-can-tell-is-independent-because-she-is-an-ice-cold-bitch, and Call-of-Duty-fucktard-with-skulls-on-his-helmet. I’m pretty sure that’s it, at least. If there were more, then they were just that forgettable (wait…Oh yeah! That Sniper guy! Yeah he sucked at his job and aside from his accent was not at all interesting).

            There were ways they COULD have developed the characters, but it didn’t work. The Big Nice Guy will occasionally shout during combat “Get off my planet!”, and that’s the moment you remember he’s actually from Reach as opposed to the other characters being dragged there from other planets. There’s something you could build there! But instead they decided to perform their own little retelling of the end of Armageddon, where he played Bruce Willis and you were stuck as Ben Affleck flying through space.

            I did like the last stand at the end, but it still felt like too much of a “mission successful”. Which I know is weird, but because I know that my actions would lead to the success of the rest of the game, I couldn’t feel that sense of loss.

            The gameplay was fun, though. Still, the Halo series just hasn’t done its story or writing properly since the first two games, which is a damn shame because now they’re bothering with a fourth. Why? What’s left to do?

            Oh, wait, money and gullibility. That’s right.

  9. Mephane says:

    What the… I was already skeptical when you mentioned item degradation, because I’ve yet to find any game where that is not just an utter nuisance at best and a huge money and time sink at worst. But reading the entire post… man I wouldn’t play this game if it were free.

    Bay the way, you should try out the W40K Space Marine Demo. The game is a blast. Though single player is 100% linear, the campaign is absolutely fun, and multiplayer is great too. Only real issue the forced-upon-everyone voice chat in multiplayer so far, but they already said they’re gonna fix that.

  10. Grampy_Bone says:

    There are basically two character choices in the game. If you want the game to be (relatively) easy choose Sam B, if you want it to be frustrating and unfair choose anyone else.

    Guns become more common and ammo plentiful once you reach act 2, but that doesn’t make Purna any better. Guns are only useful against other gun-wielding and non-undead enemies, where the melee combat inexplicably breaks down.

    The combat system favors reach and knockdowns/stuns over power, thus the clear advantage of Sam B and his blunt weapons. Zombies will pummel the crap out of you like world class boxers when standing, but slowly lumber to their feet when they fall, giving you ample chance to finish them off. If an enemy gets inside your reach you’re screwed, and if your attacks don’t have enough force to stun or trip your opponent you will be stunlocked before you can keep swinging.

    Overall I think the game wouldn’t be so bad if the zombies didn’t deal such obscene levels of damage. Most of the time you go from full health to dead before you even have a chance to heal.

    • acronix says:

      I guess the damage thing is because this game is “Realistic! ™”. As realistic as iron objects being unusable after bashing just a dozen heads. *sigh*

      • ps238principal says:

        Perhaps the weapons aren’t so much degraded as they are undesirable. These characters could all be like comic book collectors, tossing away perfectly good items when they’re no longer in “very fine” or “near mint” condition. They’ll tolerate a little blood and brains on items, because that’s kind of authentic, but eventually they’ll decide that they really can’t be seen by their friends without a pristine iron pipe or something.

  11. Volatar says:

    Welp. Glad I didn’t buy that game.

    I have enough zombie games as it is anyways, and they are all actually good games.

  12. Jethro says:

    Wow. Sounds like this one’s not even worth pirating. Sigh.

  13. Peter H. Coffin says:

    Any place other than this blog, this would immediately have triggered sixteen comments along the lines of “I didn’t have this problem. You must have been doing it wrong.” Except with random spelling errors and severe questioning of virility and orientation.

    Sadly, even serious simulator and wargames get this.

  14. Ryan says:

    You know what’s odd? I’ve been playing this game since release on Steam in Australia for the last couple of days, both solo and coop with friends and I’ve experienced or can see all of the issues you mention with the game, but, and here’s the kicker, I’ve loved playing it anyway!

    I was up till 4am playing with 3 other mates the other night and we couldn’t stop playing. 2 of them even put in a solid 8 hours yesterday, most of it just tooling around the island exploring and killing the walking dead. I had a BBQ at my place today and we spent about 2 hours chatting about nothing but the game.

    It’s not that we haven’t experienced the glitches and poor design choices, but more of a case of finding it fun anyway. Mind you I think we’re playing a bit differently as after 10+ hours for all of us (both solo and coop) none of us has yet gone further than 10th level. So what does that mean? Not sure, maybe we all are explorer type gameplayers and so are maybe looking for something different when we play. I don’t know. I guess I just wanted to say – I’m a voracious game player. I own most games, PC, all consoles… you name it. Most games I barely get past an hour or 2 of play before getting bored and moving on. I read most of your reviews and nod along agreeing with every criticism. Even now I agree with everything you’ve said… but I’m still having fun. I just wanted to say to others, who may be similar to myself, don’t dismiss the game straight away you may get more from it than you think. If only there was a demo (is there a demo?).

    • Aldowyn says:

      You’re playing with friends. Almost ANYTHING is fun with friends.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        This.

        I was just about to ask if anyone here can compare with the multiplayer experience. I actually heard some good opinions but they typically started with “me and some buddies…” I’m pretty sure I’m going to skip this title, seeing as I’m pretty much a single player person, but I suspect at least the parts relating to balancing may be working better with 4 people. Not an excuse for other abysmal qualities of course.

      • Jjkaybomb says:

        Not necessarily…. just personal experience, but playing with friends hasnt really led me to like a game more. Maybe I play them more frequently, because hey, its what everyone else is doing. But there will always be certain game styles that bore the hell out of me. No friends are going to change that.

        Dont just shrug off his opinion like that… the format of the game isnt getting in the way of his enjoyment, thats all.

      • Raygereio says:

        Mario Party is proof that your statement is false.

      • Ryan says:

        Totally agree – everything is more fun with friends… at least PC/console/board/rpg game-wise (there still some things I’d rather do without them). But I also had a blast playing this one solo, I’ve put in about 8 hours now solo and still enjoying it – playing Xian and she’s up to level 12 ATM.

        I’ve seen a few other posts from people who’re enjoying it as well and I’m happy to add my voice to that small minority. I think there’s some people who’ll love it for the very very flawed gem that it is.

        I completely agree with Shamus and his assessment, and I’m glad he calls the devs out on a lot of their stupid choices and poor quality control – hopefully their next game will be the better for this kind of detailed and well though out critique. For me the game is just fun in spite of all that.

  15. Dork Angel says:

    But I liked it…

    Maybe the PS3 version is better?

    • acronix says:

      I have the PC version, and I haven`t suffered as many setbacks as Shamus has, using the same character as a main one. However, I aproached the game with full knowledge that melee weapons were more common and mandatory for the game. I`ve run into a couple of annoying bugs, but nothing gamebreaking (like Nikolai dissapearing: Shamus missed an entire quest line).
      Noting the ammount of people that are complaining, I`d say this game is one of those “if you get lucky you get to play” games. Which speaks badly about the developer and their testing.

      About the character: Purna`s special “fury” skill is her infinite-ammo revolver that lasts 5 seconds and auto-aims. So yes, you might have 0 ammo, but somehow she pulls ammo out of thin air.

      What really bothers we is the weapon-play design. Pistols at least do not deal more damage (unless you are aiming at the head of an alive human) than a similar level cleaver. Shotguns are better, though!
      But what really, REALLY is off with the weapon-play is that you are not allowed to have a lot of ammo with you (though Purna can get more ammo space with a skill). It`s roughly 50 rounds per weapon type. However, you are somehow allowed to have eight or so weapons (melee or otherwise) equipped, plus another eight or so on your inventory. Why can`t I sacrifice that heavy pipe for a couple more magazines, game?
      And then there`s the durability thing. I think firearms don`t suffer it (as they have bullets instead), but unless you fully upgrade a cleaver, you`ll have to ditch lots of money on repairing or time on scavenging.

      And yes, the save system sucks way too much. I still have to lose any kind of progress, though, but not being able to leave in middle of a game session is horribly stupid. I hope whomever decided this was fine for the PC version is thrown to the street and executed by hitting him with a copy of the game. And a brick.

      Oh, yeah, and the ram`s (that`s the big hulking bull zombie) bald head doesn`t suggest “Immunity to damage”. They should have put a big helmet on them, then it would make more sense.

      • Milos says:

        PC here too and I like playing it so far. In fact that’s the only game I’ve been playing for the last few days. I feel I need to point out it’s a huge fucking game. When I started out and looked at the map I thought that was it: hotel and the surrounding. Disappointing but not surprising in this day and age I thought. But that is just one of the maps and even though there is a LOT to explore I think the environments are beautiful and very detailed. In open world games you’re used to finding areas that are just tacked on to pad out the game world but are disappointingly bland but I didn’t get that impression here.

        There are a lot of illogical things in the game but I can easily looked pass them since the game isn’t aiming at hyper-realism. A lot of people might come in expecting something developers never claimed from Dead Island and get disappointed, but I don’t count that as the game’s shortcoming. That trailed, which was made out of house iirc, might have done more harm than good to DI’s reputation.

        Anyway, two things about it I actually loathe are:
        1. Movement: when you are moving forward if you so much as press A or D all of a sudden it’s as if you are moving though waist-deep mud, which is maddening for me since I like to watch left and right when I move through the surroundings, and
        2. Looting mechanic: every time you open a container on the ground your character makes a little curtsy, just a second long mind you, and then you have to press use again to get the contents. This might not sound like much but in a game where you’ll be opening thousands of containers and especially in rooms where you find dozens next to each other it’s just a real slog. It adds nothing to the realism or immersion but adds to irritation.

        If these two things were changed in a patch I would enjoy it all the more so. There are a bunch of other issues but nothing really dampens all the fun I’m having playing the game.

      • Sumanai says:

        I don’t think the save system is acceptable in a console game either. I mean, why not just have the checkpoint saves work as permanent save files?

        • acronix says:

          I think it`s a tradition thing. Consoles don`t used to have much hard drive space, so you couldn`t let the player save at will or he would fill it with silly saves!

          However, I`m sure they thought that saving at will is a form of cheating, and we are in the Age of No-Cheating-Your-Way-To-Fun.

  16. Mogatrat says:

    I refused to even consider buying this game due to lack of demo, and this review only confirms my refusal’s validity. Thanks, Shamus!

    (Seriously people this is unacceptable in this day and age RELEASE A DEMO)

    • Ben says:

      Demos are dying because a lot of market research says demos in general do more harm then good to a games sales.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        Because hey, heaven forbid we get to know how the gameplay actually feels. We should buy based on trailers, sponsored reviews and blurbs spawned by marketing… Strange, I feel old and bitter all of a sudden…

      • psivamp says:

        Which tells me that our press needs to copy the movie press and completely unfairly pan everything that doesn’t have a demo so that game publishers fear not releasing one.

        But it won’t happen. Demos let you make a better informed game decision and when your business model is to move as many units of your game before word gets out about how you didn’t balance or play-test anything, then you don’t really want your customers to make an informed decision, do you?

        • Mogatrat says:

          “Which tells me that our press needs to copy the movie press and completely unfairly pan everything that doesn’t have a demo so that game publishers fear not releasing one.”

          THIS. THIS. We constantly hype up games instead of building up a healthy cynicism and it leads to complete shit being successful instead of dying out like it should. Bugs the hell outta me to see all these raving previews.

          • Sumanai says:

            Yeah, those are really annoying. One of the reasons why I stopped following gaming news was because previews were almost always positive to a ridiculous degree.

            Other one was a strange habit of gaming sites praising a game in their review and not pointing out any meaningful flaws but a few months afterwards there suddenly were notable problems and were joking about them in news posts. I’m thinking Eurogamer mainly, because that’s the site I followed. But Bethesda, for an example, seems to have that effect everywhere.

      • SKD says:

        That is probably because people have a chance to realize a game is crap before they shell out $60~ for it.

  17. DosFreak says:

    One woman will pay me for water. She’s five steps from the bathroom where presumably the water is still on, but she complains of severe dehydration no matter how much I bring her. Nobody else ever complains about being thirsty, not even her bungalow-mates.

    According to the intro your character had been drinking the night before so likely had not use the local water supply. It’s possible that is how the contagion had spread even if it wasn’t I doubt right after a zombie outbreak you’d risk drinking the local water anyway…..

    I agree with pretty much everything else except….I’m still playing and I almost never like “grindy” gameplay games…it’s just so satisfying killing zombies.

    • acronix says:

      I haven`t checked, but I`m quite sure most bathrooms on the island scetion do not have usable faucets. The first ones I noticed to be usable were the ones in Act 2, when the main quest sends you to fix the pump station.

      There`s also something Sinamoi (or whathever he`s called) on the Lifeguard Tower says something along the lines of “We need water and food, or we won`t last long”. And they have two bathrooms to use. This probably means the water supply was cut off.
      Or it`s just a cheap drama technique. Hard to say.

  18. Zukhramm says:

    Zombies. I just don’t get what the appeal is. Can we get a new standard horror game enemy soon? Please?

  19. Phoenix says:

    Sounds terrible.

  20. JPH says:

    I played it at a friend’s house. It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one who ended up spamming the hell out of the kick button.

    Incidentally, I don’t know about Purna, but the other chick wears heels. Come on. That can’t be comfortable to run long distances and kick with.

  21. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Awwww,you didnt mention the intro song.Seriously,thats probably the only fun part of the game.And I dont even like rap music.

  22. rrgg says:

    I always find it odd that people in zombie scenarios never seem to worry about armor. Sure you don’t need to go full medieval, but tooth and nail are pretty terrible weapons* and you plenty of options, a goretex coat, leather jacket, multiple layers of clothing, work gloves, etc.

    *I suppose that’s the key here. You get to kill zombies in any way you want to fantasize about, even if it would be useless against real people. But if that’s true then any zombie game that doesn’t give you plenty of freedom when it comes to weapons has utterly failed.

  23. Meredith says:

    The first half of your review had me seriously considering looking into this game. Quests and leveling up? I’m so in. I had no idea this was that sort of game. But then you got into all the problems and it sounds pretty frustrating. The save system has to be bugged. You can’t manually save to end your game session for the day? That’s ridiculous. I think I’ll definitely pass, or at least wait a while for possible patches.

  24. ima420r says:

    I bought it on Xbox and I have had few to no problems with the game. I think it’s a lot of fun! And the option of having people join your game while playing works very well imo.

    I didnt get a gun until level 10 and that had 1 bullet! I’m level 23 now and have killed enough people to have a nice pistol and even an automatic rifle. No shotgun yet. Anyway, not sure why there is a gun girl when guns are downplayed so much. This really is a melee game, and knowing that going in I picked the blunt guy for my initial play through.

    I hope the PC version gets another update. I hear the xbox version has a few bugs too but the only thing I found was when I dropped too many items at once the game froze.

    They gotta fix the out of area thing. I’m half way across town and my map tells me to jump over a wall. I do, and it says I am out of the play area and starts me back on the other side of town! Game, don’t tell me to go places I am not supposed to go!

    • psivamp says:

      The hot-join thing sounds pretty terrible. Co-op with strangers has never worked for me. On the one hand, it’s either no co-ordination and just rushing the objective or, worse, deliberate griefing.

      If there’s friendly fire in this game, then you couldn’t PAY me to let people join my game. The last zombie shooter I played with strangers saw my team all get dropped by one griefer, who then stranded the AI that took his place 100 yards out in zombies just to end our game.

  25. MechaCrash says:

    This game reminds me, in many ways, of Hellgate: London. There’s a good game in there, and I want to like it, but they worked so hard to screw everything up that I just can’t do it.

  26. Dork Angel says:

    I like this game because I like Zombies and free-roaming games. Dead Space had great atmosphere but I came to it from playing Oblivion and it was so linear I just gave up on it. I think the game looks great, has an interesting premise and very few loading screens. I went with the Martial Arts build sword-girl. Sure she can’t use much more than a pointy stick at level 1 (which I agree is silly) but she levels up quick enough. As for Gun Girl, I figured you’re on Tropical Island holiday resort. How many guns will it have kicking around and ammo is always going to be a problem, which is pretty realistic if you think about it.

    Some of the side quests are silly (teddy bear, necklace, water and alcohol – so far..), but these people are in shock and trying to deal with almost unimaginable horror. Some of them are going to suffer breakdowns and you can always say no. The main quests seem sensible enough. Other side quests are more realistic and I was impressed by the portrayal of the tragedies some of the characters you meet have suffered.

    I will add however that I’ve only played the game last night for about 6 hours and when I when to save it noticed the lack of save option but some reference to starting at the last checkpoint. Hmmm, I think I only remember the word checkpoint appearing once, so there may be an angry rant on here later when I turn it back on…

    • WJS says:

      The problem isn’t that ammo for guns is rare per se, but that and guns do crap for damage. If ammo was rare but guns were deadly, that would be fine. Great, even! Having to shoot a guy a dozen times to kill him is one of my pet peeves about guns in games. Fixing this means that for any kind of challenge either enemies have to kill you quickly too, or ammo has to be rare enough to prevent the gun being your primary weapon – balance it so it fills the “do tons of damage rarely” niche like grenades do in many games.

  27. empty_other says:

    I love co-operative games! And even more when its co-operative campaign game. And this game was that.
    Dead Island felt like Borderlands, except more entertaining and more to explore. And defeating special zombies was more than just damaging them.. Use exploding barrels, or disarm the zombie to avoid getting pummeled by them.
    Guns are nearly useless in this game so far (i’ve just been trough the sewers in the city).

    And this game is definetly made for co-operative gaming. Its boring to play this one alone. And Act 1 is too easy, mostly because you barely fight more than one zombie at a time.

  28. Rosseloh says:

    I hear your points. I even agree with a ton of them.

    So what I can’t understand is why I have so much damn fun with this game.

    Maybe it’s because I’m playing co-op with some good friends and I’m the blade specialist? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is all the fun I’ve had in the last few days has made up for any downsides I’ve come across so far. (Although I was a bit miffed about the buggy release, and ended up waiting 2 days just to get coop working).

    Sure, I could make a long list of nitpicks, but I guess I’m the sort of person who doesn’t let nitpicks get in the way of enjoying a good bit of visceral zombie mayhem (not saying you are that sort of person).

  29. JackV says:

    :) I am always amused by your ad hoc rants about games.

    (And I was moved by your personal history last week too.)

    • Ander the Halfling Rogue says:

      You succeeded in getting the mood you were trying to hit. I didn’t like that we didn’t get to where everything turned up (which it did, I’m assuming). Particularly, I was disappointed you didn’t get to when you met your wife. I’m a sucker for that kind of thing.

  30. guy says:

    So… does this mean we’re not going to hear your epic, pages long full review of Deus Ex: Human Revolutions anytime soon?

  31. Kdansky says:

    I really cannot understand how anyone believed that adding level requirements to guns and fed-ex quest mechanics would improve a Zombie shooter. I do have to make an effort to suspend my disbelief when orcs cannot wear a shiny new axe due to level requirements (instead of what Diablo 1 did: stat requirements. If the thing is too heavy, it’s kinda hard to weild, that makes sense), but for real world things? I have never shot a gun in my life, but I am pretty certain I could figure out how to do it without killing three hundred zombies with a broken pipe first, just to gain six levels. Sure, it’s a common trope, but’s it’s still very stupid.

    Levels are a very abstract mechanic, and should never collide with your sense of immersion. Games after WoW seem to forget those basics from time to time. The same goes for quests, by the way. WoW had Quests and put them into a readable log, compared to EQ or DAoC. Now, all games try to write their plot as fetch-quest-galores. It’s not interesting! Stop it!

    • 10Kan says:

      In fact, if there’s any game with stats that has a good excuse to avoid the whole idea of levels, it’s a zombie game.

      In the zombie movies, the characters aren’t identified as “this guy is a seasoned super-powerhouse” and “this newbie needs to add more notches to his cricket bat”, they’re always identified by their mindsets and areas of expertise. “This guy is bloodthirsty”, “that one’s good with tools”, “this one will fight to the end while that one cracks”, etc. It’s all about what they bring from their un-zombie-infested lives into the crisis.

    • Reminds me of Freelancer where Microsoft added levels to a space sim …

      Though I did enjoy Plants v. Zombies.

  32. SKD says:

    I have to agree with you Shame, this game is shoddy.

    The overactive degradation, overpowered enemies, and for #$%^s sake I designated a single player game which obviously means I want to join random joe shmoe’s game at the first opportunity. I was really looking forward to this game when I preordered it. Had I waited until it was out I would have avoided it after reading reviews like yours.

    I haven’t progressed as far as you but the bugs can be annoying. My first attempt I got stuck in a loop after going out the door of the hut to help the lifeguard. He would die the second I managed to get back to my feet resulting in a instant game over and a return to exiting the hut.

  33. NihilCredo says:

    So… I guess we’re not getting the continuation of your Deus Ex: Human Revolution review? That one I was REALLY looking forward to. It’s a game that has a lot of good as well as a lot of bad to talk about – and I’m not referring just to the boss fights.

    (If you still need some good mindless action in the meanwhile, as a palate-cleanser after Dead Island, I support the guy above who brought up WH40K: Space Marine. It’s really fun havoc.)

  34. thebigJ_A says:

    Can’t wait to play this. I’ve heard good things, aside from here. Yeah, there’s issues, but it looks like a really good time. Just don’t pick the gun character in a melee game. (Yes, it’s stupid they put that character in at all, but apparently the guns get better later)I mean, just watch the quicklook on Giantbomb and tell me it doesn’t look fun.

    From what I hear, the best way to play is using the ‘analogue’ fighting, which requires a gamepad (or playing on a console, like me).

  35. Willomo says:

    I’m in Australia, and chances are that anyone who says that they’re a “Damn good cop” is just a wanker.

  36. Zaxares says:

    Welp… Good thing I didn’t waste my money getting this game then. Auto-leveling enemies are an instant deal-breaker for me as far as games are concerned. It becomes pointless to ever gain levels because your enemies are always just as strong as you are.

    I’m also surprised you didn’t mention the Purna “Feminist Whore” controversy, Shamus, although maybe you haven’t heard about it. Link below for the people who haven’t:

    http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/ArinnDembo/20110908/8395/Gamazon_quotFeminist_Whorequot_Powers_Activate.php

    • X2-Eliah says:

      I wonder how does that affect a hands-on playthrough, though. I mean, yeah, sure, it’s bad etc. etc. blah blah, but for someone playing the game, it’s not really anything that crashes a save or magics all the bullets away.

    • Sumanai says:

      “because your enemies are always just as strong as you are.”

      If your lucky and they don’t get more powerful than you as you level.

  37. Simon_on_Sax says:

    I really have not run into any of the glitches that have been described.

    That being said, I have no idea why they included a class specializing in firearms, when the devs themselves came out and said that the main focus of this game would be Melee, with guns being an afterthought and scarcely available.

    Pretty much the only reason I didn’t choose that bloke was because I remembered a preview for the game where the guy who was playing pretty much said guns were a very small part of the game.

    I have only spent 3-4 hours playing it so far, I have a feeling that the novelty of chopping up zombies is going to wear off pretty soon.

    But yeah, I agree with everything else Shamus wrote. Though I don’t mind the way they do the breaking down of doors.

  38. Simplex says:

    I agree this game is really buggy and reeks of lack of polish (incidentally it was made by a Polish developer Techland ;) ).
    They did in fact raise the bar too high with the trailer.
    And I can imagine this game may quickly become tedious and repetitive in single player.

    But..

    It is really fun in coop (I know, I know, most things are). Bashing zombie skulls with a friend, comparing weapons, exhanging stuff, etc. is really fun. I am playing with a friend and despite the bugs we are enojying it. Of course, if we ever lost an hour of gameplay due to a borked save system, we would rage.

    Lack of polish can be pictured by this: When we were roaming the island, we saw on a minimap that there is a workbenh and fast travel point. When we got to the location, there was a bunker with locked door that could not even be interacted with.
    Then we got a quest to see if anyone survived a helicopter crash – traveling to the crash site we passed the unacessible bunker with workbench and fast travel icons. At the crash site there was one Russian guy who asked us to escort him to the nearby bunker, which should be a good safehouse. Lo and Behold, when we got to the bunker, the door were miraculously ajar!
    This russian dude gave us a quest to get his satellite phone from his buddies in Cafe Kiev in the city. It was high xp quest (3000 as opposed to standard 1500xp for sidequests). So we got to the cafe kiev, fighting zombies along the route and there we found one guy who told us that he is the only one left and thats it – the quest status changed completed, we did not get XP, nor any continuation of the quest.

    Also another thing that infuriates me is when NPC voices get cut off. When for example I completed part of a quest, I see for a split second subtitles at the bottom of the screen which immediately disappear and this means that the npc was supposed to say something like “good job hacking these zombies, now I need you to hack those zombies over there”, but I do not hear it – this happens often and irritates me as I am a completionist.

    Some quests are silly (teddy bear, champagne), some are better (guy wants me to kill his zombiefied wife and daughter, another guys wants me to put posters all over town to let his (hopefully) surviving family members that he is safe holed in a church.

    Overall buggy game, so one can either be ruthless and bash this game without mercy, like a zombie head, or one could take into account that this is a new IP (a miracle by itself, these days) from a relatively inexperienced developer. Hopefully the sequel (if there ever will be one) will be better.

  39. Hal says:

    Hm, haven’t read every comment here. But based on the post, I’m guessing that the difficulty is based on an assumption that you’re playing with others; that is, all of the prompts to join your friends as you play, and the difficulty, assumes that you’re dealing with those near-impossible situations alone. Single-player? Well, sure, but that’s just until you can find your friends, eh?

  40. Methermeneus says:

    The more I hear about Dead Island (and everyone seems to be talking about it right now), the more I wonder why they even offered a single player mode. No one seems to have any fun in SP, but once they go online it seems to be a blast (albeit just as buggy), even if they wound up with the gun-toting character. (Incidentally, although I haven’t played it myself, I get the idea that you don’t need to actually have an equippable gun to use the rage power that involves you head-shotting every zombie within draw distance. So… guns seems slightly less broken if you build up your rage tree.)

    An amusing side note: the first two game-footage videos I saw were of 1) Simon and Lewis of the Yogscast and 2) Guru Larry and his friend Ian (all four of them Brits), and both games were like Sean of the Dead II: Pacific Boogaloo.

  41. Kresh says:

    I’ve pretty much given up on getting a good zombie game that’s not a generic-super-powered-37-varieties-of-zombie shooter or super-scarcity starvation simulator.

    Nothing actually seems to think about the basic impossibility of the shambling hordes of undead. There’s no no reasonable rational for the “99% of the population has been ZOMBIFIED” aspect of these games, especially as most of them all have the same “people get eaten” aspect. As zombie hordes get to a certain size, whoever they catch would get eaten, and they wouldn’t come back as a zombie. Zombie population levels would reach a balance point and they wouldn’t get any bigger. Zombies would be killed, people would be caught and eaten, and a sort of status quo would emerge. Small to medium-sized groups of people would survive and some of them would even be able to live a decent (if dangerous) life. The deserted cities and “sole survivor” scenarios that are the norm are nothing more than a cheap gimmick (learned from the movies, horay) to add drama and a supposed motivation for the player. I want more.

    I want to play a game that simulates the day-to-day survival where the zombies aren’t really more than an environmental hazard. A large, shambling, extremely hungry environmental hazard, but a known hazard anyways. A game where I can fortify a building to my tastes, not to where a designer thinks I should stop in order to “make the game more challenging or fun.” A game where I can clear out an area, grow crops, heck, make moonshine if I want. A game where I have neighbors, even if only AI neighbors, that I can trade with, partner up with, or even go kill them and take their stuff if I decide they’re bad neighbors (or I want to be the bad neighbor).

    I want a sandbox game, which I thought Dead Island might be. Thanks for the heads up Shamus. I’ll be avoiding this one like the, er, plague. At least until there’s some mods out for it, or if the game can be modded with decent ease, or if there’s enough of a community that likes the game enough to start modding it. I’m not holding my breath.

    • Bret says:

      It’s worse than that.

      Only zombie movie that gets things close to right is Shaun of the Dead.

      Slow, shambling, corpses with no ranged capability? One rooftop sniper team and you’re done.

      Sure, assuming a Romero scale initial outbreak, all dead reanimating, then it’s going to be a persistent fact of life and we’ll all be watching Fundead on Friday nights when there’s nothing else on.

      Standard plague, though? CDC shuts them down right fast, and in a couple months people start cracking jokes about zombie flu alongside bird and swine.

      Even ignoring that, they’d break like lepers in weeks. Only problem would be wearing combat boots in tall grass so the corpses can’t infect you when downed.

      • Simplex says:

        You post reminded me to finally read World War Z :)

      • Kresh says:

        Actually, in terms of feel, Zombieland actually came closer to what I’m referring to. The cities, while deserted, were not packed street corner to street corner with the shambling dead (er, infected). The zombies were there, but there weren’t stupid amounts of them wandering aimlessly around the streets, and it took a major change in their environment to draw their attraction.

        Shaun of the Dead was quite fun and the excellent humor allowed me to not actually need a crane to suspend my sense of disbelief. It’s one of the best zombie movies out there and only has Zombieland (in my personal opinion) as a contender for “best.”

        As for your CDC scenario, it all depends on the transmission ability of the virus. The CDC “shutting things down” might not be plausible or even a possibility depending on how the virus works. Still, it’s all make-believe anyways so your mileage may vary.

    • Simplex says:

      You might want to look into Project Zomboid.

      • Kresh says:

        As much as Project Zombiod looks interesting, it falls (as of the latest incarnation) firmly into the super-scarcity starvation-simulator category. Also, there’s no taking into account that your player might actually have some iron in their spine and not be a mild-mannered neurotic that needs drugs to sleep.

        Again, games rarely meet in a sensible middle ground, they’re always over-the top heroic shooters or “Let’s see how fast we can kill the player by saddling them with multiple unrealistic handicaps” games like Project Zombiod. It interested me at first, but after seeing it in action, it just made me sigh. It’s not my thing. I hope you like it though!

        • Simplex says:

          Supposedly project Zomboid is supposed to have a customizable character generation, so perhaps you will be able to create a “brave” person at the cost of some other traits. It is still in early alpha, so its hard to say.

          • Kresh says:

            That would make the game quite more to my tastes. If they do follow through with that aspect, I would be very interested in playing the game.

            Thanks for the heads up!

  42. AlternatePFG says:

    I wonder how moddable this game is. Cause, a lot of these problems sound like they could fixed with mods, and if that’s the case, then I might end up getting this game.

    But one would have to wait first to see if a decent modding community springs up.

    • RedClyde says:

      Dead Island is pretty easily moddable for a game with no official mod tools. All the game data is contained in .pak files, which you can extract using 7zip (maybe WinRAR, too? I’m not sure). After that, it’s just a matter of editing the file (all text) that has what you want changed, putting it into the Dead Island folder in My Documents and the game uses that file instead of the original. This apparently even works in multiplayer, and both Valve and Techland have said it’s not VAC-bannable.

      There’s already a bustling modding thread over in the Steam forums, with several simple (but useful) mods already up:

      http://forums.steampowered.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2106453

  43. Ace Calhoon says:

    It’s kind of interesting the different assumptions people enter the game with. I actually passed over the gun-wielder specifically because I figured guns would be tough to find in a mostly civilian environment (still… 12 bullets in 12 levels is rough).

    I went with the knife wielder, thinking blades would be fairly easy to pick up, and based on the “zombies are hurt by slashing and resistant to bashing” mentality from D&D.

    Had I been thinking, though, I would have chosen the blunt weapons guy. EVERYTHING is a blunt weapon if you try hard enough.

    The game itself is… Interesting. It’s built as a cooperative campaign, which tend to be in fairly short supply. So I’m enjoying playing that with some friends.

    On the other hand, the game is very glitchy (not just the PC port… We’re running on Xbox and have had our fair share of bugs), and balance issues abound (one friend only uses his weapon against one type of enemy, and even then only because it gives him a higher knockback chance. The rest of the time he just kicks/stomps). The sprawling, sidequesty nature of it that helps stretch co-op play out probably makes for a somewhat unfocused single-player experience.

  44. Peter says:

    Really love this type of article. You should definetly do this again with other RPGs.

  45. RedClyde says:

    This is… a bit misleading. 15 bullets in the first 12 levels? Seems about right. But you do know that Purna can activate an auto-aiming infinite ammo gun once every couple of encounters with a skill she can take at level 2, right? And that her early combat skills favor sharp weapons, for when you still don’t have easy access to guns? There’s no reason to feel gimped with her. She’s just as powerful as any other character early on, and possibly more so later in the game when guns are everywhere.

    The problem with the Ram (the ‘boss’) might have been a hit detection issue. It takes 1 damage if you hit it anywhere but the head. I imagine the hit detection with melee weapons is more forgiving.

    The save system never lost items or xp with me, just progress since the last checkpoint and I’ve had the exact same map bug happen (plus other, weirder bugs). I concede that this might have been luck on my part, though.

    I agree that the kick should use stamina. And that the nearby messages are annoying. I disagree (with apparently everyone) that single-player shouldn’t exist. Played the whole thing through by myself first, and loved the survival aspect and the ambiance of it.

    My comment is probably the opposite of preaching to the choir (preaching to the angry mob?) because it seems the general consensus here is that the game sucks and everyone should steer clear of it. But I just wanted to offer a differing viewpoint. It’s got a LOT of rough edges, but I’ve found it to be an amazing experience and I haven’t even gotten into multiplayer yet.

    Remember when you thought L4D1 was a weak game before setting up the Steam d20 group and playing with some of us?

  46. Alex says:

    What Rhodes Scholar thought it would be a good idea to combine the stupidity of Resident Evil, with the glitchy frustration of Left 4 Dead?

    All I wanted was one open-world survival horror game. Just one. Maybe with rpg elements and a diverse cast of characters. A legitimate zombie-apocalypse simulator. Was that really too much to ask?

    Screw video games, I’m making My Little Pony fan-art my new hobby.

  47. psivamp says:

    My first impressions were basically the following:
    I can’t run this at 800×600?
    Dear God, why is the frame rate so low even with the settings through the floor? Oh, continuous motion blur, that I can’t turn off. Well, I’ll just assume that my character is completely hammered constantly and motion blur is no longer a — hurgh — problem.
    Where are the zombies? Oh, there’s one! And, now, four. I’m dead now. Really? I’m not even allowed to fight the first zombie? Lame.

    Did I give this game a fair shot? No. I’ll admit that. Does it look worth giving another shot? Not really.

  48. JoshP says:

    On the subject of firearms, and the Ram miniboss, they are basically designed to be firearm foils. You chose the worst possible infected to fight with a firearm. They are covered in what looks like a kevlar straight-jacket (which makes me question, who the hell put that on them in the first place)

    As has probably been stated already, firearms can be used on a ram, but are not as effective as a good backstab with your melee weapon. Or a molotov for that matter.

    On thugs, drowned dead, suiciders, and beserkers firearms are fantastic and very efficient for damage/risk. They are also handy for popping explosive canisters.

    I will agree with you that the ubiquitous “Leaving Game Area” messages are obnoxious and immersion shattering its not a bad game. Sadly none of my friends will pick it up because of your review.

  49. Disc says:

    Having played the game only around late 2012 the first time, they definitely fixed the worst issues. Did a full co-op run last year and it worked fine too. Basic gameplay is still mostly the same though, guns only become relevant only after a good while etc, but they did make kicking drain stamina, for whatever its worth. Animations are pretty much the same. The plot is serviceable, aside from a few stupid contrivances.

    It’s a really shame the game had such shitty beginnings, since once you get comfortable with the melee system, it’s actually a pretty fun zombiebashing game as far as the combat mechanics go. Guns have their uses, but they’re nowhere near as satisfying and limited ammo is almost always an issue, except for maybe a high level Purna with the perks to create ammo and increase max ammo count. I didn’t find the money loss that big of a deal, it only really hurt if I’d saved a lot and then died. Could be they changed how they scale it, but I never really had the issue of running out. Though I still would have rather had some more sensible mechanic than using money for everything. Who knew you could keep a knife sharp just by rubbing a couple thousand dollars against it every now and then?

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