My review in short is that Dead Island is essentially a melee-focused Borderlands with a touch of Condemned: Criminal Origins. The quests, the big open areas, the variety in weapons, and the skill trees are all there for anyone already familiar with the four heroes of Pandora. While this game lacks the tongue-in-cheek element (which is honestly a bit disappointing), the gameplay is solid. Splatting a zombie's head is oh-so-satisfying (particularly the screaming infected), and jump-kicking a zombie never gets old. Much like condemned, the melee combat has a very visceral feel to it; when you hit a zombie with a sledgehammer or a boat paddle, it has a lot of impact. You can also slice of parts with sharper weapons, or throw whatever you're holding with ease. You can upgrade weapons with various bits and bobs you'll find around the island. Saints Row taught us that a baseball bat = fun, but a baseball bat with nails or bolts or fire is even more so. Since you can repair most weapons (anything beyond basic paddles and pipes), Dead Island allows you to tailor your arsenal to your own preferences. There is a fair bit of repetition (much as in Borderlands), and only a handful of enemy types. There is also a lengthy sewer section that is ... well, what most gamers would expect from a sewer level. Still, I found myself enthralled with the vibrant colors of the resort, a fair relief from the deluge of brown and grey that seems to infect most FPS games in this day and age. It's not all swinging in the sun, however. The story is the usual b-movie tripe; the four heroes aren't very compelling, and certianly aren't relatable, and the attempts at Drama are laughable at best. Dead Island also has some of the worst accents I've seen in modern games ... but anyone familiar with zombie games (and survival horror as a whole) is probably used to a fair amount of cheese, and won't be bothered by it. The enemies increase in level as you do, which I must admit I didn't care for, but did always keep even the lowliest walker a threat. In addition, the gunplay is a bit lacking; you can't hold many bullets, making the decision to carry a gun a tactical one. On the other hand, bullets are considerably more effective against human enemies, who usually carry plenty of extra ammo to replenish your stores. (I should note that I've yet to find a shotgun). Still, I find myself selling off handguns in favor of better melee weapons. All in all, Dead Island is a good game. Not great, not bad, but good. Shooter fanatics will feel it wanting, but a balanced gamer will enjoy this, particularly with friends ... again, much like Borderlands. If you're looking for a game that lets you bust some zombie heads, Dead Island will give you your fix. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go sharpen my machete.
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