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41 Reviews

Dead Island

Trouble in paradise

That famous Dead Island teaser trailer feels like a decade old dream.

Its melancholy piano backdrop and its sophisticated cinematic trickery that teased the tear-ducts (we'll admit it) are just distant memories. And they're destined to stay locked away in the brain cells, it seems, as Dead Island itself is far from the daring, emotional zombie thriller its initial reveal suggested.

But you've known that for some time. As soon as the trailer campaign took a turn for the hack 'n' slash - with its tattooed rappers and electric machetes - you knew this was more popcorn fodder than French art film.

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You can add 'low-budget' to that description now as well. It's overtly cheap.

Despite the golden sands and gentle surf of Dead Island's paradise island setting, it's not all that nice to look at. Textures seem to cause the engine to churn a little faster than it would like, there are rough edges aplenty and clipping is present with bells on in certain sections.

While an enemy getting stuck in a nearby wall might give you a tactical advantage, it doesn't make for the heroic zombie hunting battle you might have imagined.

The mission structure is similarly stripped back with the Variety Department apparently having to tighten its purse strings the most. Missions generally consist of bludgeoning your way from A to B; sometimes you'll have to retrieve an item, sometimes you'll have to flick a switch. Take away the specifics though and it boils down to walking across an island of hungry corpses and back again nine times out of ten.

But zombie bashing is what you came here to do, right? You might have felt a bit cheated by the 'Daddy's forced to kill his little girl' ruse that was Dead Island's introduction but, if you've stuck with it long enough to be reading this, you've known Techland's blood-filled intentions for a while.

FUN IN THE SUN

And there is fun to be had with the relentless horde. Hacking away at the undead with boat oars, knives, baseball bats and whatever else is lying around, can be satisfying as you tear limbs off your advancing target. You can take your time with this in a one-on-one battle as well. With most of the brain-munchers being classically sluggish, you can toy with them by hacking off their arms leaving them to lunge ineffectively with their face as you do the Ali-shuffle.

When you're fighting a whole gaggle of zombies, though, you'll find it tough to taunt your foes with a similar amount of calm. Fury moves offer an equaliser in times of desperation, triggering particularly rage-filled attacks once you've dished out enough damage (we should emphasise that the Ali-shuffle isn't actually one of them)

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Modifying your base weapons provides another avenue of attack. We suggest sticking an explosive on a pointy object before lobbing it at an enemy. Hey presto! Explosive darts. It's good for crowds.

The odd opportunity to pick up a gun and go FPS provides a bit more bite as well and mixes things up. Gunplay itself is fine but basic and, ultimately, nothing to send a postcard home about.

XP and levelling up gives some sense of progress, informing your weapon choices to an extent. Blades, throwing and shooting can be specialised in but the effect in-game isn't a big one. While you'll become more powerful over the duration, repeated hacking for as long as your stamina bar allows will remain the order of the day.

There' a fair bit to go at when it comes to combat, then, with Mr. Fun managing to stick his head above the water despite the fact that no one element is particularly spectacular. Low-budget tech rears its head on occasion here as well though, with the physics system being a bit dodgy and collision detection failing here and there.

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