Dead Island plays exactly like Borderlands...that's the game. For those of you who never played Borderlands here's the rub. You select from 4 characters who each have specific abilities that separates themselves from each other to slay hoards of zombies. Hilariously, caught in a Zombie Apocalypse the 4 people who are immune to the disease also are the same 4 people perfectly equipped to handle just such an occasion. Plot devices aside, you gain experience doing missions and slaying zombies and then putting points into a skill tree further customizing your character and enhancing their zombie slaying prowess.
Also, just like Borderlands the enemies scale with you, you collect countless weapons with multicolored titles relating to their strength and rarity, and each character has a special "rage" ability which acts as a sort of limit break allowing your character to briefly be the most efficient zombie slaying bloodthirsty thing on the island. Needless to say, also just like Borderlands the entire game is based around collecting sidequests from countless NPC's. The only real difference between the two games is you mainly use fun and interesting weapons in Borderlands and in Dead Island you use...a baseball bat perpetually and thus magically on fire? So yeah that's really it, one game's combat focuses on guns the other melee weapons.
Ok, well the fetch quest mechanic isn't always bad right? Sometimes they offer interesting quests like Skyrim that has like 4 or 5 quests that make you go "oooh, I'm glad I did that instead of deliver 12 wolf shits to an old lady." But in Dead Island do we get any of those? No. And what's worse is the quests in this game are so mind blisteringly boring you start WISHING for that old lady and begging to fight zombie wolves and playing a mini game where you fish around in their zombie wolf anus to acquire shits for her.
I mean let me set it up for you...you're in a ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE right? People are aware you're in a zombie apocalypse and yet their worries that they hire you to solve are not life or death, are not do something of vague importance to survival, no, some of these people ask you to do inanely stupid things like solve my marital dispute, or slay my now zombie husband for me, or find my priceless heirloom in the midst of hoards of the undead...ARE YOU PEOPLE FUCKING NUTS?
Ok I get I've landed in the middle of Night of the Fetch Quests, so of course I should be expecting this kind of shit but I mean come on! You seriously expect me to risk my life over an ancient wind up pocket watch? In the middle of the end of all things your world will somehow be cohesive and calming if you are reunited with your grandfather's pocket watch! This is one example of why Skyrim is at least better fetch questing as I would have the option in that game to lay waste to these fucktards and feel better.
There's not much else to say about the gameplay other than the very nature of the combat system which is exactly what you'd expect it to be. First person melee combat, the most perfected and greatest form of video game combat...or...you know...not... At the very least I do admire that they focused on melee combat in a zombie game since they are on a beach resort of an island where finding munitions would indeed be a rare thing. Amazingly though this is where the developers decide to use their realism, you know not on the characters, not on the really weird enemies that don't resemble humans or the effects of the virus as explained by the scientists in the game...No they want to play the realism card on the combat system which inherently causes it to be as mundane as humanly possible. I'm sorry, but a ZOMBIE game that makes me play 30 hours before I can use a shotgun is a very poor zombie game indeed. What's worse is one of the 4 characters you choose has a specialty in guns...I didn't pick her but I can't imagine how boring the game must be if you do as you hardly find any weapons or ammo in the entire game. The only use the firearms ever have are on actual people and NOT zombies as they don't provide more ammo when you kill them unlike humans.
And the survival aspects of the game are nullified considering when you DO die you just lose money, like Borderlands, and are respawned a few feet away to try again. Admittedly, though first person melee combat is awful no matter how you do it (and yeah there's no blocking in this game either) the satisfying blows you land on zombies is fun and even addicting at times. You can break their arms, cut off limbs, smash their heads in, huck weapons at them with satisfying sounds. It's honestly the only thing that kept me playing that whole time. It goes without saying that this isn't something that would keep the average gamer involved however...just a masochistic one like myself.
As mentioned earlier there is no story, not like the trailers lead us to believe. You get drunk at a party, and then wake up to a zombie apocalypse. Now don't even get me started on the zombie apocalypse scenario since it never makes sense in the first place. I mean I can accept the reanimation of the dead and even a fast spreading virus by means of biting of others and such...what I can NEVER grasp however is the widespread nature of the "zombie" disease. The very disease requires that an already infected zombie bites or claws a human to eventually become one too. But how it gets further than a few dozen people blows my mind every time. I mean here we have infected people who's only goal is to fully consume all they come into contact with right? It's a mindless all encompassing consumption of others right? So how are MORE created? It just so happens that hundreds of thousands of people only get minor scratches and get away only to become zombies JUST for the sole purpose of having more zombies? I mean basically what we have here isn't so much a widespread disease, it is instead just a whole fuckton of people who "barely" got away thus creating the apocalypse scenario. And apparently it ALWAYS happens this way. I was honestly looking forward to seeing a zombie story take the idea of the zombie apocalypse in an intelligent way making it somewhat believable...sadly that's not the case.
And yes my rant about the logistics of a zombie apocalypse is a far more involved story than the one we were given. Yeah I already covered the story believe it or not. Oh what happens at the end you ask? You leave the island...
The graphics are half the reason I kept playing. Seeing the smushyness of the zombies was endlessly enjoyable for me. I played on the PC version so the game looked just fine, though I hear the console counterparts have some pretty terrible glitchyness about them. Still my fetch questings looked fine, great lighting effects, varying scenery, and competent character models and textures. Nothing to really complain about but also nothing much to overtly praise either.
There are some very minor pieces of music here but they serve the mood well enough. Weirdly though there are some heartfelt piano melodies strewn about in the game as if we're to give a damn about any of the characters involved in the game and their zombie plight. We don't...but the music is good either way.
Dead Island drew me in for 40 odd hours in the exact same way Borderlands did. The constant upgrading of your character, finding better loot, and being led around for hours on end by the little red map marker is really all that kept me playing both games. I can't really admit that I was having fun in either game, more like I was enamored with idea that I was progressing in it and completing things. The quick satisfaction of tallying another notch in your questlog, or getting a new weapon that did 50 more damage only to see how many less hits it took to take down a zombie are just two of many psychological tricks these types of games play on the user to goad them into playing more. It's sad that most games have now adopted this type of gameplay, hell even first person shooters like Modern Warefare are guilty of this formula.
In the end I'm really not sure exactly how, as of late, I have fallen into playing games with endless amounts of meaningless fetch quests whether it be Skyrim, Zelda Skyward Sword, Fallout New Vegas , and now this...but I am starting to believe that I have been cursed by the gaming gods over some offense I committed against them. I can't specifically identify what I have done to disgrace them so...but to hopefully alleviate this in the future I'm going to sacrifice a good game to them. Now with their grace on my side, I shall venture forth and play Rage, ID's latest shooter. A classic style shooter game in no way could possibly hinder me with more fetch quests.....
GOD DAMMIT!*"SQUISH" Haha...his head went splat....oooh look another zombie to splat....*