As holidays from hell go, having your sun and Sambuca time at a tropical beach resort interrupted by zombies would rank high on the list. Not that the holidaymakers in Dead Island have time to worry about it, what with all those undead marauding around in their bikinis and beach shorts.
The goal (as ever) is survival and since your character is immune to the zombie infection, you have to save the survivors. That means transporting them to safety, locating supplies, finding ways to escape and killing lots of zombies. And there’s no shortage of ways to kill them: you can bash them with pipes, mow them down with trucks, roast them with Molotov cocktails or construct homebrew weapons out of things that you find. Like a psychotic Womble.
The range of killing methods typifies Dead Island’s open-ended take on horror gaming. There’s a large island to explore, a vast choice of side quests to supplement the main missions, the ability to develop your character’s skills over time and the chance to take on the challenge with up to four friends. With its size and potential for getting sidetracked, Dead Island is more Fallout 3 than Resident Evil.
It’s also flawed. At times it seems at risk of falling apart like a ropey B-movie set with zombies that glide rather than stagger or action that momentarily judders to a halt as if the game engine has conked out. Missions are poorly explained, save games forget where your vehicle is and there are dumb design decisions such as slapping a huge pipeline in front of a vital ladder.
And yet Dead Island sucks us in. It’s scrappy and reeks of wasted potential, but its cheesy grindhouse fun packs in so much it’s hard to resist going back to see what lies around the next corner.