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If I were to be generous the Dead Island games were a labor of love intended as a work of art but someone had switched the water colors for crayons. Were I a little less charitable it would be fair to say developers Techland sought to shock first and foremost and then worry about putting out the game.
Let's look at what's wrong with the game first. The trailers, promotion and in game content suggest a tone too harrowing to be enjoyable. The in game tone comes across as confused of what it tries to be. The characters range from tolerable to nondescript to not likeable enough. The game play is a little ropey, focus on first person melee combat with weapons that break too easily as well as samey play throughout can get tiring. And especially on PC it doesn't run as well as it should.
By rights all these problems should sink the game. But somehow despite these faults the game does work, and work fairly well. If you put aside how dark the game tries to be then it is a blast to play by dumbing down the idea to the basic elements of fighting and leveling up to make it through to the end. If you can laugh at the one liners the characters spout then they become just shallow enough to be faceless as you have fun in the game, yet deep enough if you want to get into their story. By not giving you guns against the undead they are made a much greater risk than they are in other games, and Dead Island seems to be intended for short plays rather than long sessions so the grind of completing tasks against a thousand of the undead becomes less of an issue. And even though the console versions are choppy this way you avert the issue of running it on PC.
Instead of the cliche of an American setting the game takes place on islands in the AustraliaPapua New Guinna area. This offers a change of pace in characters and location, and hints at the real kuru disease as the cause of the outbreak to add to the chills. Speaking of which the sounds of the zombies is nothing short of terrifying and add to the experience.
All in all play this for the game, not the story. Ignore the trailers, ignore the promos to get attention for the game. Despite it's faults this is worth a solid rental. It grabs you by the throat in a way that can make you feel a little uncomfortable. And it gives hope for a more polished sequel that does not rely on the trailers to sell it.
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