The Games of Christmas ’11: Day 14

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the… Oh, everyone is dead. Well, more Christmas presents for me, then! And they won’t be needing these mince pies, either, which is a bit of luck, because I am strangely hungry.

It’s Dead Island!

Jim: You know, the zombie saturation in gameworld is so high now that I almost didn’t play this. Thanks goodness my thirst for vaguely open-ended game experiences overwhelmed me, dragged me down, and made chew on the exposed innards of this excellent – if flawed – offbeat zombie adventure.

Set on a tropical island where something has made a good percentage of the holidaymakers turn into rabid zombies, Dead Island makes for an unusually warm and sunny zombie apocalypse, but the result is that it feels unlike any other zombie game out there, despite being a strange blend of many of them. It take much from the likes of Dead Rising, allowing you to collect and craft as you explore the island. The destructibility of weapons you find, such as bats and metal pipes, means that you are on a constant mission to collect resources for weapon upgrades, and creates an air of desperation as things start to run out. It’s this sort of constant crisis, combined with the freedom explore and poke about in the island resort for things you might be able to use, that make it so satisfying, to me at least. I love a game where the pace is slower, but nevertheless tense. Encounters with zombies in Dead Island generally mean close combat, and the results of that can be quite desperately grim. It’s a deeply grisly game, and one where you can get in trouble very quickly if your stamina or other resources run low.

What’s most surprising about Dead Island, though, is its multiplayer. It would have been fine just to release this as a single player game, and indeed many people will play it like that. But it also allows you to play four-player co-op. This immediately draws parallels with Left 4 Dead, but the truth is that it players entirely unlike the Valve shooter. This is a slower-paced experience, something more like Borderlands perhaps, but nevertheless very much its own game. For a title that almost put me off for sitting deep into the territory of the generic undead, Dead Island has turned out to be one of the most unusually satisfying games of the year. I suspect that it might one day be regarded as one of the lost gems of 2011.

John: Wrerggh arggh firrgh plarggh theearr garrrmmm, aarrr fiiggurrrr irrrr woulghghh beeerggh verrghhlh murccrrgghh aarr corpprrrr orrffghhh Leerrrgghh Ferrrgllh Derrrrrd. Burrgghh theeerrr moAARRRR arrrr plaughhhd thrrrr moaarrrrr arrr rearrgghhllsssd iirrrr waarrggHHHGHGH irrrr owwrrgn thirrrgggn.

Asssss Jirrrgghh sseerrrss, iirrrr AAAGGHHHH bruouraaalllgh thirrrrr, aaarrn dessspirrrr booorrrrooghhghn heavvooilgghhh froorrrrrrRRRRR Leerrrgghh Ferrrgllh Derrrrrd, Derrrrrd Riissoorrgghhhn aangghh Borrgghheerrrllaaaghghrhghhh, fighghhhhnns irrrrrr owrghhh spaaassssss. Wweerrghhhh worrrgghhhh plllaaaarrgghhhhn.

Ssssoorrgghhh huurrgnnnghghghhhrrrr, muussrrrss eaarrgghghlglgh braaiigghghhnss.


  1. Echo Black says:

    First Advent Calendar entry I disagree with. I found this game to be nearly completely terrible.

    link to

    • Dominic White says:

      Yeah. I gotta throw my lot in with Edge’s 4/10 review. The game is absolutely wretched. Slightly better than Call of Juarez: The Cartel, but only slightly.

    • qrter says:

      Have to say, I am surprised to see this game appear.

    • Maldomel says:

      I was so disapointed with Dead Island. Everybody knew it was not gonna be what that first trailer showed, but still it was really far from what I expected, with all those silly rpg elements and DYI weapons.

      I really think they should have left that kind of stuff to Dead Rising, and not try to copy too much of left4dead, to make something more interesting.

      The combat system was pretty basic too…shame.

    • glocks4interns says:

      Agreed, weak modding support really sealed the deal on this game. Otherwise I could see it having become something special.

    • TheGameSquid says:

      Yup, I’m pretty surprised too, although to be honest, it just wasn’t my type of game/genre, so I would have disliked it even if it was a truly high-quality release (which it wasn’t).

    • Morph says:

      Harsh words. It was fun enough in co-op, but then again co-op with friends generally makes things fun. It’s no Borderlands, but it’s hardly wretched.

    • Phantoon says:

      Throw me in with the lot of haters. The trailer had absolutely nothing to do with the game, and instead was almost a MMO grinding experience without any purpose. You were always WORSE off after leveling, and guns were impossible to find… until act 2, at which point there were a bajillion, everywhere, forever.

      The downtime during the beginning didn’t help, and it just dragged on and on. And why oh WHY do ALL the zombies scale up, too? We’re in 2011, we can have more than ten zombies on screen at once. It seemed the only scaling was hit points and damage, therefore making it pointless. The game wanted to be Dead Rising, but wasn’t smart enough.

      Also, gun physics for melee weapons- if I swing my bat, it should strike the first thing it would have come into contact with. I should not miss a zombie JUST BECAUSE I didn’t have the crosshairs on him. How is it I can be surrounded and if I have my crosshair under the armpit of a zombie, I miss them all?

      The setting was bad too- they didn’t know where they wanted to go with it, and if they wanted the game to be sad or funny.

      And kicks! How is it my guy can kick endlessly? You think that would take up the stamina bar too, but your boot seems to be your best weapon against most enemies as it’s faster than swinging basically anything and takes no stamina to use. I played the game as Sam B and ended up tackling everything then jumping on its head. The game threw ridiculous monsters at me and I just kicked a whole bunch until they fell down so I could jump on their heads. I played through hoping it would become good, or interesting at some point- the ending is a “n’arm” moment since it was supposed to be tragic, but I just laughed because it was SO obvious what was going to happen.

      AND THE GAME IS A CONSOLE PORT! So many obvious little places, like in some places it STILL said “X button” and the like.

      Hated the game, hated the false advertising that gave a false sense of mood AND that the game might be ‘deep’, hated that I had to sped more money on it than most games because of a tax change.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      Loved the graphics and concept, hated the actual execution. Uninstalled it after about 10 hours of play Even modded for significantly increased durability, losing all-your-cash-upgraded stuff in a matter of 20 zombies or so was ridiculous.
      Not to mention the insane endless fetch quests with NPC looping dialog that made me wish you could kill them instead of the zombies.

  2. Jams O'Donnell says:

    This is one that I’m hoping will show up cheaply in the inevitable Steam Xmas sale.

  3. Drayk says:

    Oh come on what’s number 24 ? It’s Skyrim isn’t it ?

    • Baka says:

      Minecraft for maximum Drama.

    • Premium User Badge

      Bluerps says:

      I don’t think that the order in which the games are presented is supposed to mean something. So the “best game of the year according to RPS” is not necessarily the 24th one.

    • Chris D says:


      They’re in no particular order apart from game 24, but don’t take my word for it, scroll over horace on the front page.

    • Premium User Badge

      Bluerps says:

      Aah. Didn’t see that. Now I know!

    • Chris D says:

      It’s an easy mistake to make given how “In no particular order” has been particularly heavily emphasised this year.

      On the subject of the mysterious game 24 the obvious contenders now Portal 2 is down are Deus Ex and Skyrim. Both are popular but both have issues with boss fights or interface and general bugginess. On the other hand RPS have been known to champion the underdog before now and we haven’t heard anything about Bastion yet, which did receive a lot of love from everyone. If I was a betting man that would be my pick, if only because I reckon you’d get better odds than on the other two.

    • TODD says:

      I’ll be annoyed if Bastion gets it. The game was fun enough, but I could barely get past the asinine anime character design. It was also only about eight hours of gameplay; excellent value for the money, but not game of the year.

    • Jams O'Donnell says:

      edited — let’s just pretend I didn’t say a douchey thing

    • SiHy_ says:

      RPS’s GOTY? I’m guessing To The Moon. What do I win? Cash?

    • d00d3n says:

      Skyrim is great, but it has to be Human Revolution.

    • Balm says:

      Human Revolution is great, but it has to be Bastion.

    • d00d3n says:

      Bastion is fun, but lack of originality and/or ambition makes it a bad candidate for GOTY despite its near perfect execution.

  4. SAeN says:

    Silly John, you don’t hug zombies.

  5. Matt says:

    This game is the most brutal game I have ever played, and I especially enjoyed its melee focus, despite a lot of rough edges.

  6. AmateurScience says:

    John, it’s a good thing I speak zombie. All those years spent with the Peace Corps ministering to the undead have paid off at last.

    Rough translation follows…

    “When I first played the game, I figured it would be very much a copy of Left 4 Dead. But the more I played the more I realised it was it’s own thing.

    As Jim says, [it something brutally something], and despite borrowing heavily from Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising and Borderlands, finds its own space. Well worth playing.

    Sorry hungry, must eat brains.”

    • Jams O'Donnell says:

      Well done! I’d given up on John’s bit figuring it was just a bunch of garbage.

      Like all his other writing.

    • McDan says:

      Well done indeed, and I’m still looking forward to playing this with friends next year probably.

      And Jim, you know what you have to do for John now, he can’t heal himself.

    • Kronic says:

      Wasn’t sure whether to be happy or horrified I followed the bit at the end.

    • Reynoldio says:

      As Kronic said, not sure if I should be worried that, like Amateur, I was able to decipher that!

    • Dr. Evanzan says:


      Well done on your zombese, I spent ages deciphering that and you got the bits I wasn’t sure about.

      I believe “[it something brutally something]” is “it’s a brutal thing”.
      (Although I couldn’t decipher that until I read your translation and realised the third word was ‘brutal’.)

  7. Durkan says:

    Try to play it multiplayer without singing “don’t stop me now” by Queen – I dare you.

    “Excellent – if flawed” – Sums it up entirely.

    It’s slow paced which is a refreshing change – but the guns are weak.
    It’s fun multiplayer – but the class balance is flawed.
    Weapon crafting is great – but it could go further.

    It’s a chicken and mango sandwich.

    It’s good, it’s better than you think it’s going to be, but something about it holds it back from “cheese and pickle” level greatness.

    • TheApologist says:

      All game reviews should henceforth exclusively use sandwich metaphors to make their point.

  8. dee says:

    but the truth is that it players entirely unlike the Valve shooter.


  9. Jockie says:

    Best Co-op game I played this year, those of us who played together can get into dangerous cycles of repeating the atrocious voice acting at each other ad nauseum “Oooooh, Champagne.” “Find anything?” “I need foood” “Oh thank gawd!” – I guess you had to be there though.

  10. RogB says:

    awww John reminds me of ‘Zombie dave’ from channel4s ‘Digitiser’ teletext game page, without the innuendo and obscenities.

  11. says:

    The game isn’t bad if you get it on sale. Its melee combat is the best I’ve ever seen, which makes Skyrim’s seem even worse. (gogo sneaky archer types)

  12. sneetch says:

    The melee was good, but playing it co-op with a friend of mine we took a little break to replay Borderlands with another friend and… well… we just couldn’t motivate ourselves to go back to it. Things like the shoddy fall apart weapons, the pointless drive to gather cash to repair said shoddy weapons and levelling monsters took away from it, IMO. I don’t think the levelling was required at all.

    If the melee was as good as it is and it also had “proper” L4D style zombie shooting (rather than shooting zombies being a huge waste of time) then it’d be truly excellent. I suppose there must be mods to enable all that by now but other games have taken over by now.

  13. Inph says:

    This is some of the best writing I’ve seen from John.

  14. phenom_x8 says:

    What more can I say, Mr. John summed it up all perfectly (Please never bite mrs John, okay!)

  15. bitbot says:

    Dead Island is a mediocre game, poorly made and filled with bad design. It’s still fun enough to play through, the combat and exploration keeps you going, and it’s a long game, but damn all I could think about when I finished it was how bad it was.

  16. Marcin says:

    This was my GOTY before Arkham City, Deus Ex and Skyrim came out. I actually put Deus Ex aside to finish this – such an enjoyable romp, and the best melee combat in an FPS game since … no, I don’t know. I guess just best, then.

    Really surprised at all the calls of mediocrity. My experience couldn’t have been more different.

  17. Inglourious Badger says:

    Dead Island! Really? That’s a surprise. I haven’t played it , so have no opinion, but my memory of the coverage, including RPS’ own, was far from complimentary. Do I really have to jot this down as another one to get when it’s discounted? Ok fine! [sound of scribbling]

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I came late to it and never had time to do more coverage, but it’s definitely one of this year’s best.

    • kio says:

      I respect your wrong opinion.

      Actually I’m curious, for the people who did enjoy the game, do you have OCD? Do you do activities in a game that you don’t enjoy so that you can get an achievement? Did you collect all the flags in Assassin’s Creed? I think that may be the main appeal of this game.

  18. Navagon says:

    Well said, John.

    Dead Island is a game that could have benefited from having some elements removed – and I don’t often say that. Money and levelling just seemed pointless to me. It would have been better off without them.

    Other than that and the need for a bit more polish it was one hell of a ride playing this game. The combat is undeniably brutal and decidedly more realistic than pretty much anything else out there. The enemies are pretty well designed and balanced and complement each other well in terms of abilities. Weapon upgrades are fairly well handled. But I don’t think you should need schematics for the simpler stuff like whacking nails through a bat.

    The way it plays is what matters most when it comes down to it, and that’s where this game is strongest.

  19. fdhdfhf says:

    Happy 2012 new year,Merry Christmas ,Christmas top gift
    link to

  20. Forceflow says:

    I paid full price for this, and I wasn’t dissapointed.

    Looks good, plays fine … I only had time to touch the single player, and I’ve sunk about 40 hours into that. Decent length.

  21. zoidberggg says:


  22. :ghiacciato says:

    The best thing about this article is that you can actually read the stuff John said.

    • kio says:

      It’s nice to see people write in my native language now and then.