There’s no denying it, Xbox Game Pass and Xcloud have changed the way I enjoy mobile gaming and there are a ton of games that I can’t wait to play and write about. There are new games being added every day and from across all generations of Xbox so I was spoilt for choice, to say the least.
But, with all the new games coming in, some games have to retire from the Game Pass Library as well and there was one game I’d had my eye on for a long time about to make its way back to the Microsoft Store. That game was Dead Island and, being an action-horror fanatic that I am, I thought there was no better place to start.
Although I’d spent an hour or 2 playings it in the past, this was going to be my first complete playthrough all the way to those sweet sweet end credits and I was excited, to say the least. I remember the spooky atmosphere of Banoi so well and I wanted to see if that fear-inducing gameplay was still as fun today as it was back then.
With so many games populating the zombie genre these days, it’s hard to create something that truly stands out from the crowd. So, without hesitation, I packed my bags and booked the first ticket I could to that tropical gorefest to satisfy my need to start slicing up some zombies and see if Dead Island: Definitive Edition is still good in 2020.
So, What’s It All About?
Dead Island takes place on the fictional island of Banoi situated off the east coast of Papa New Guniea. A lush tropical island mostly untouched by civilization but thriving due to the bustling tourist industry and you play as one of the unlucky tourists/employees left stranded on the island when the zombie infection breaks out.
We get to choose from 4 playable characters in the game.
- Logan Carter: A former American football pro down on his luck after indulging in a life of access and suffering a catastrophic injury. His throwing arm comes in handy as he specializes in throwable weapons.
- Sam B: An American rapper from New Orleans that managed to get one hit before fading out of the spotlight, here in Banoi for one more shot at fame. His rough and tough background makes him an expert with blunt force weaponry.
- Purna: A native Australian and former police officer for the Sydney police department turned high-profile bodyguard for the elite. Her police training makes her an expert with a firearm.
- Xian Mei: A Chinese spy working as a desk clerk at the hotel while engaging in espionage activities. Her military training makes her an expert with sharp weaponry.
Each of the four main characters comes with their own “Rage” ability and a unique skill tree that will see you upgrading their various skills as you kill a few zombies and complete a few missions, earn some Experience Points (XP), and level up your character throughout the game.
Once you choose your character, you wake up in your hotel room, disorientated from the wild party that took place the night before. Guided by a voice on the intercom, you wake your way out of the hotel where you discover that all hell has broken loose and a zombie infection has taken over.
The main campaign of the game sees you performing different tasks to help the other survivors and escape the island while fighting off hordes of the undead. Weapons can be picked up off the ground, found on dead enemies, or crafted from the workbench and need to be carefully managed so they don’t deteriorate and break.
— Stevius Maximus (@SteviusM) December 1, 2020
So, What’s GOOD About It?
It may just be me that thinks so but this has got to be the most satisfying zombie-slaying experience I’ve had in a long time. There are countless games that let you shoot zombies until your trigger-finger breaks but this game puts the emphasis on melee combat and it shines through with almost every zombie you takedown.
I’ll never forget the crunch as I swung my modified baseball bat into the nearest zombie’s head. It just made me want to do it over and over again, and this game definitely gave me the chance to do so. Watching a zombie’s head fly off as you carefully aim your slice will never get old to me.
At first, I thought that the majority o the game would take place around the island resort, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there were more maps to travel to as the game progressed and each map is absolutely gorgeous and distinct. From the city to the jungle and even down in the sewers, it all felt so alive and so…dead at the same time.
I felt like a proper tourist taking screenshot after screenshot of these environments. There are some areas, like hallways that lead to nowhere and doors that hide nothing more than an empty room but it all makes these areas feel organic like these are real places on a map and not just levels in a video game.
Progression through the game felt like it provided a decent challenge that was rewarding enough for me to play this game right through to the very end without feeling like I was dragging my feet through an unwanted experience. That motivation was and just as I started to feel like it was going on a bit long, the game came to a satisfying conclusion.
— Stevius Maximus (@SteviusM) December 3, 2020
So, What’s BAD About It?
When it comes to single-player campaigns, there’s nothing I look forward to more than a good story. The overall plot of a game can make or break the experience for me sometimes and Dead Island is so close to ruining it all with one of the most mediocre stories I’ve seen in a long time.
There’s no character development between any of our four main protagonists that are portrayed as these bada$ zombie killing machines that can take on armies of the undead while every other NPC on the island is just a weak nobody that simply can’t defend themselves.
I get that the four main characters are supposed to be magically immune to the zombie disease but does that mean they don’t need to go through any kind of character growth. Even the character I played as, Logan, came to the island as a washed-up, alcoholic footballer but he gets no redemption arc throughout the entire plot.
Even when one of the important characters dies, our heroes show almost no emotion. I mean, this girl went through so much and when she dies moments before the final escape, they just brush over it like it didn’t even matter when she was the only character that showed any depth and actually felt like a real character.
Despite the story being weak and uninteresting, the overall gameplay of Dead Island is great. I’ll admit that I started to feel a bit fatigued as I got closer to the end but, when I finally got to the end credits, I felt like all the time I spent playing this game was well used and I’m glad I decided to play it again.
The only downside is the fact that the developers clearly meant for you to play this game with 3 other friends or random people on the internet. The cut scenes feature all four of the main characters all the time, even if you’re playing the game solo, but the player population is way too low for matchmaking to be effective.
I left my lobby open the entire time I played and did get a companion in my game once or twice but I felt like the single-player experience was way more intense and gave me more of a fulfilling challenge. Having an over-powered teammate took all of the fear out of the equation and that’s not what you want in an action-horror game.
Overall, I highly recommend this game to any zombie fans looking to hack and slash their way through some zombie hordes in a more grounded and realistic setting. Like seriously, I used a battery-powered machete at one point and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone made that in real life.