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Dead Island

“Thank God I found you, I was lost without you…”

Honest truth: Whenever I considered how to begin this blog post, that song by Mariah Carey always came to mind. Not because I think Mariah and the 98 Degrees men would do well during a zombie apocalypse, but because that’s how much I love this game. Srsly. A zombie apocalypse open world exploration action/RPG? Why hasn’t anybody thought of this before? Why haven’t I thought of this before? Genius, simply genius. Part of me is glad I waited so long to play Dead Island, because I have less time to wait for Dead Island: Riptide to be released.

There are four characters to choose from, each with their own specialty. Sam B, who is responsible for the ridiculous rap song in the intro, is a blunt weapons specialist. Purdy is a firearms specialist. Logan is a throwing redneck ninja. And Xian, who I finally decided on, is a blade specialist who happens to be Asian. And cross-eyed. I mean, glaringly cross-eyed. I don’t know how I missed it while choosing my zombie scourge, but in every cut scene during the game I noticed it. It is one of those, “I can’t look but I can’t look away” things. I think the part about her being a disappointment to her father has more to do with her physical appearance than her occupation. Oh, those strict Asian fathers…

Speaking of cultures and stereotypes, I will say this: I am easily fooled by the unauthentic accents in, say, the Assassin’s Creed series, but the conglomeration of accents in this game is laughable. There should be a mini-game where the player has to guess what country the NPC they’re talking to is supposedly from. When the “Russian” approached us with a quest, he said, “My name iz Nikolai…” and my friend and I burst into laughter. OF COURSE your name is Nikolai… Really. Are men in Russia named anything else? And the indigenous tribesman near the end who all speak perfect English? With Ope, their tribal leader, who challenges you to slay a couple dozen of his finest warriors with your modded-effing-machete while they just barrel straight towards you in perfect head-decapitating single file? Priceless. The game definitely has the survival B-movie feel to it all the way through. I couldn’t help but love it for the ridiculousness of those things… And the requests of post-apocalyptic NPCs.

I feel like I could write an entire blog post about the silly quests I was sent on. I don’t want to count how many times I was asked to go to the gas station. Ugh. But at least going for fetch-quests to get fuel makes sense. There were plenty of ‘go get me water or food or bandages or whatever’ repeatable quests, which, again, made perfect sense. And getting free money or experience for handing in crap that was clogging up my inventory was nice. But there are some characters where I could not help but wonder. There’s a man in the resort who needs help drinking himself to death. He takes lots and lots of alcohol bottles, despite the fact that there’s booze littering the bar surrounding him. And  Svetlana… Oh, Svetlana. She gives diamonds, worth $1,500, for champagne. Brand champagne. “Not that cheap shit!” She will remind you from time to time. My favorite thing she says goes something like, “I’m going to drink like it’s the fucking apocalypse!”

Like I said, priceless.

I really enjoyed playing as a blade specialist in this game for two main reasons:

1- Nothing is quite as rewarding as lopping off zombie limbs one after another. The gratuitous violence is poetry in motion. When an Infected comes barreling at you and you slice off its head in one fell swoop and the game rewards you with a slow motion view of the blood splattering everywhere, nothing else quite compares. I made the mistake of not investing any skill points in increased experience from severing limbs until the end of the game. By then, I wasn’t maxing out the potential because most enemies died in one or two hits from my souped up katana. Hopefully I can put it to use in a New Game Plus. 

2- The poison weapon modifications in this game rock. On a critical hit, it will make a zombie puke its guts out, at which point you can watch the zombie puke itself to death, hack away at it to speed up the process, or direct your attention to the rest of the zombie horde you’re most likely trying to kill. The first time I fought a Butcher zombie, I scored a critical hit and it puked its brains out. Really trivialized these encounters when I was lucky. I was also ‘lucky’ enough to get the final boss to puke itself to death. It was awesome. 

Really, if you like slaying zombies, open world/sandbox games, or action-RPGs, I can’t recommend this game enough. However, with that being said, this game does have some obvious flaws, and those are mostly glitches. I did not play this game until very recently, and even though it has already been patched, I still saw some annoying (but often hilarious) issues that I would’ve thought would be resolved by now. Nothing I encountered was as severe as, lets say, Elder Scrolls: Skyrim “The main quest is bugged and I can’t even finish the main questline!” (and yes, that did happen to me, and so far I’ve kept my word about not giving Bethesda any more of my money), or Silent Hill Downpour lagging like crazy and crashing my PS3 more than once. Again, a true story. No, these are little glitches that for the most part can be overlooked. Except if you spend a lot of time with a weapon and getting the mats to modify it, and you throw it at an enemy and it disappears. Pretty crappy deal. With that in mind, I’m not sure I’ll ever want to play as Logan. I’m too paranoid to take that risk. Zombies hit you from the other side of walls and gates, but you can hit them back. One time a silly undead somehow popped his head through prison bars, and I managed to kill him and sever his head on my side of the bars. That was charming. For me, the most annoying issue was the quest tracker wigging out. I found it a great step up from your typical quest trackers that give you an arrow, but sometimes it doesn’t account for obstacles that you need to go around. It wasn’t quite as sophisticated as the Dead Space one, but I really liked it when it worked. The problem for me was the quest tracker just disappearing. Eventually we seemed to connect it to adding a waypoint on the map. Whenever I did that, the white-dotted path I was following would disappear. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t spend more time than should be necessary toggling back and forth between my quest log and map trying to figure out which was activated and where the game wanted me to go. I also would’ve appreciated a little bit more of a tutorial regarding the map legend. Eventually I figured it out on my own, but not without some frustration at the beginning of the game. 

Which reminds me. Jumping backwards really helps to get yourself away from zombies when you aren’t playing as Sam B and aren’t pummeling them across the screen with blunt weapons. Killing Thugs was painful until that little trick was revealed to me. The game’s controls were easy enough to pick up and learn, and were mostly a lot of fun. For the first few levels, you don’t even really need a weapon. You can kick the zombies down and manually beat the snot out of them. The gratuitous headstomp I learned a little further in was the best way to save on weapon durability and satiate my murderous rampage. There are portions of the game where you are forced to fight punk-ass humans who are taking advantage of the situation. These sections are the game’s weakness. The AI isn’t sophisticated enough and the battle system isn’t really developed for this type of play style. Thankfully, the times you are forced to play like this are few and far between. But once you are done Act 1 you will always want to carry around a pistol or rifle just in case.

Once I finish the game I am working on now, I plan on going back to Dead Island. Not sure if I will mess around online, or just doing a new game plus. I have very high hopes for the sequel. If they touched up the bugs, quest tracking, and added a local co-op split screen mode, I would already nominate it for game of 2013. Elder Scrolls has already proved you can charge full price for a glitchy-ass game and still receive multiple game of the year awards, so maybe I shouldn’t get my hopes up. But that’s a topic for another blog post. 

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