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.
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