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Dead Island Review (OnLive)

Dead Island!

Review by: Ady Carter

I’m not a big fan of Holidays, perhaps I’m just incapable of relaxing or perhaps it’s because I always worry that something terrible is likely to happen when I’m miles away from home in a strange location. As if to prove my fears Dead Island presents the scenario of a bunch of people enjoying a holiday on the fictional island of Banoi only to wake up after a “few” drinks and discover themselves in the middle of a Zombie filled nightmare. Perhaps best described as a melee-heavy first person survival horror game, Dead Island is a distant cousin of Resident Evil and really not as similar to Left 4 Dead as people seem to assume. To my mind Dead Island draws very heavily from Borderlands; the inventory, quest and to a large degree the wider gameplay systems remind me very much so of my time spent on Pandora. This really is no bad thing.

I don’t really want to delve too deeply into the plotline of the game, mainly as I really enjoyed it and the chances of me spoiling it inadvertently are probably quite high. Let me just tell you it’s fun, amusing and surprisingly grounded in real life in places (especially if you’re familiar with diseases related to cannibalism!)  The basic premise as mentioned earlier involves waking up a little hung over and having to deal with zombies while helping out other survivors; you have a choice of player characters from a pool of four pretty stereotypical characters each with their own specific areas of expertise ranging from firearms through to being really good at swinging baseball bats.  The characters all have different talent trees enabling you to further customise them to your liking.

Stick some points in "not dieing"

The basic gameplay itself is pretty much as you’d expect. You hack, slash and generally dodge you way through hordes of undead and various other unfriendly mutations in order to survive and assist the people you run into in their quests for survival (or their desire to get a lost Teddy Bear returned!)  The game is broken into four distinct acts, each consisting of one main new area while still needing you to backtrack around places you’ve already visited. I spent the majority of my time in the game playing it cooperatively with other people. Dead Island features what to me is a really cool way of handling the co-op; the game constantly checks for other players near where you are and you can, with the press of a single button, instantly join each other and continue together in your fight for survival. I found this really handy as 90% of the time chances were if someone was in the same place as me then we were doing the same quests and two (or four!) players are certainly better than one.  Having someone to watch your back on the crowded streets of Act II is a very, very wise plan! It’s worth noting that your character can hop in and out of as many games as you want or simply continue along solo, your character progression comes with you, and the game offers the option to scale enemies depending on your level in multiplayer games so you can play with differently-levelled friends and all still have a challenging time.

Shotgun Wedding?

The combat system has two settings, “Digital” and “Analogue.” The former sees you flailing your weapons around as you’d expect, while the latter (if you can get the hang of it) enables a much greater degree of  control with weapons. This is especially useful if you favour sharp weapons, enabling you to attempt to decapitate zombies all the time rather than randomly slashing at their limbs. My only real gripe with the game at all is the stamina system.  Frequently you may find yourself unable to do the simplest of attacks, resulting in you getting thrown to the ground by the ravenous undead, purely because you’re out of stamina as a result of swinging your weapon or running. While it’s a totally realistic system, it proved to be incredibly frustrating for me, even when I’d assigned multiple talent points to improve it. Meatbomb!

I feel special mention should be given to the frankly fantastic weapon and crafting system within Dead Island.  Aside from your standard selection of guns (which are never in great supply, be warned!) pretty much anything you can get hold of can be used as a melee weapon, from smacking zombies in the face with canoe paddles to beating them off with brooms. The fun doesn’t stop there though – Dead Island features a weapon modding system enabling you to stick various objects together to find new and exciting ways to take the ‘un’ out of ‘undead,’ from your simple changes such as adding barbed wire or broken glass to a baseball bat right through to the more elaborate ideas such as wiring a katana up to a car battery in order to fry zombies or sticking a bunch of deodorant cans and lighter together to make some spectacular home-made grenades. Pretty Zombies!

Visually the game really is pretty stunning. I know there are some people out there who insist that everything running on OnLive looks terrible but I really don’t see it, especially in the case of Dead Island which really does look amazing. Doubly amazing is the fact I played most of this game via my Android tablet and the Universal Wireless OnLive Controller – who needs Angry Birds when you can use your tablet to slaughter zombies! Rather than just take my word for how good it looks though there is a big button loitering down at the bottom of the screen, click it and you’ll be able to check out a free demo of Dead Island and see for yourself! I really enjoyed Dead Island. As you can see from the first screenshot in this review I’ve spent about 25 hours playing it, and in that time I’ve reached playthrough 2 on one character and I’ve briefly played around with the remaining 3 characters. For me that’s pretty good value for money – I’ll easily be able to get 100 hours out of the game and still have plenty left to do. There are currently also 2 pieces of additional content available for Dead Island on OnLive; Bloodbath Arena and Ryder White. If I had to give the OnLive version some kind of arbitrary score I’d give it 8 Electrified Katanas out of 10.


Learn More About this Game


51 responses

  1. lazarhead

    Great review! This and Borderlands are one of the only games worth playing OnLive.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:17 pm

  2. Well organized thoughts on DI you’ve got there. Thanks for the shot at winning a copy as well.

    April 27, 2012 at 4:41 pm

  3. Cazaz911

    If you haven’t played dead island, you need to!! At least try the free trial on Onlive it’s worth your time!

    April 27, 2012 at 4:46 pm

  4. I would love dead island I have 2 or 3 friends that would probably buy it if I got it

    April 27, 2012 at 5:04 pm

  5. MacTwig

    Good review 🙂 Love Onlive

    April 28, 2012 at 6:24 am

  6. JD Jackson

    Great review, makes me very excited for Dead Island. I give myself a budget of $5 per week for games (because otherwise I’ll spend all my money and all my life on games :D) which I usually spend on indie games or DLC, but I find it hard to pass up a zombie game, and this one looks awesome so I’m thinking about spending a couple month’s budget on it soon.

    April 28, 2012 at 7:51 am

  7. Gmo

    Dead island looks neat!

    April 28, 2012 at 7:55 am

  8. I love Dead Island, played it on Xbox but had to get rid of it… anyways hope i win ^-^

    April 28, 2012 at 8:02 am

  9. Whoa, I didn’t know you could play this game over a tablet. Goes to show how technology has improved over the years. Great review MrAdyCarter!

    April 28, 2012 at 8:42 am

  10. ADY very good review im sure the game is the best on OnLive! would really like to win

    April 28, 2012 at 8:42 am

  11. Hey great review Ady. I love Onlive as you well know and Dead Island is one of the best games to come out on it, based on the demo anyway.

    April 28, 2012 at 9:12 am

  12. Nick SoD

    Never would have considered getting the game before demoing it on OnLive. Good review and good game!

    April 28, 2012 at 9:19 am

  13. Awesome service. Awesome game. Awesome review. Thanks Ady.

    April 28, 2012 at 9:30 am

  14. Nice job Ady. You actually make me eat to give this game a try!

    April 28, 2012 at 9:36 am

  15. tribes

    What? You can play this on a tablet? With touch controllers?

    April 28, 2012 at 10:11 am

    • adycarter

      Hey Tribes, OnLive have added touch controls to a bunch of games:

      Dead Island isn’t one of them however so I played through it using their Universal Controller which works with tablets:

      April 28, 2012 at 10:15 am

  16. EasyTarget

    Nice review I’ll have to five the game a try if it has a demo I can’t remember if it does.

    April 28, 2012 at 10:39 am

  17. Great review, it makes me want to play the game! Thanks for writing this.

    April 28, 2012 at 10:52 am

  18. Zach

    Great review, I can’t wait to play this game.

    April 28, 2012 at 11:27 am

  19. Revenant

    Great review, sounds awesome.

    April 28, 2012 at 12:24 pm

  20. JFlamme

    Nicely done. I have yet to trial the game but it’s good to know it is similar to Borderlands considering how I greatly enjoyed that game even though I don’t care much for FPS games.

    April 28, 2012 at 12:38 pm

  21. Mr.Carter write reviews…who would’ve known that. Have you tried the add-ons for the game as well Mr. Carter?

    April 28, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    • adycarter

      I haven’t yet sir, they’re on my list of things to buy when I am slightly more flush. I’m probably going to go for the Ryder White as it sounds quite interesting seeing the game from a different perspective.

      April 28, 2012 at 12:49 pm

      • That’s a good storyline as well. *I hate to say this* but the only thing about the add-on is that you can’t co-op it. But the good news is you do find out more about Ryder White, Kevin, and Yerema…..(trying hard not to give away anything 🙂 )

        April 29, 2012 at 1:18 pm

  22. cloud1425

    Aha~ Nice reviews as always Carter

    April 28, 2012 at 12:51 pm

  23. A well written review, I agree with it completely. I too had issues adjusting to the stamina system until I stopped going gung ho and slowed myself down to draw an enemy or two away from larger packs. Jumping kicks also do wonders to slow the action down to a manageable pace if you do get swarmed as it will always result in a walker or infected going to the ground, as opposed to a stumble that usually results from a single normal kick.

    April 28, 2012 at 1:10 pm

  24. PublicEnemyN7

    Seems like a fine game:)

    April 28, 2012 at 1:28 pm

  25. ariskany_evan

    Played the trial on OnLive, but it’s nice to have a well-thought-out opinion on the game on the service! Thanks!

    April 28, 2012 at 1:30 pm

  26. jDevCo

    Great review! Been really pondering getting this game for a while and I love how OnLive has it. The specificity of this review to OnLive’s service is definitely much better for my purposes than just simply reading a review on other platforms.

    April 28, 2012 at 1:52 pm

  27. guuthulhu

    The game looks gorgeous and I’m glad to hear about the weapon modding and replay value, as well as your progress going with you between multiplayer session. That’s really cool. A zombie survival action rpg does sound pretty awesome. Thanks. What of missions/quests? What are they like? What do you do besides killing zombies?

    April 28, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    • adycarter

      This missions and side quests tend to involve going and finding an object, moving an object somewhere else, rescuing someone, escorting someone or killing all the zombies/bandits in a specific area. They aren’t really anything out of the norm or paticuarly different to most other games, then again they couldn’t deviate too much from reality I guess.

      As mentioned earlier though the central plotline itself is pretty impressive, it and the side-quests are all sensible and grounded in the kind of things that would occur in a zombie survival scenario.

      There are a bunch of “hidden” things to track down in the game though most of which are just for fun but there are some audio diaries and special “developer” weapon mods to be found.

      April 28, 2012 at 2:13 pm

      • guuthulhu

        Nice! I’d hope they relate to the surviving theme and not have too many arbitrary fluffy ones.

        Oooh. Secrets. That should make the scavenging all the more fun.

        Thanks for answering.

        April 30, 2012 at 2:45 am

  28. Trinexx

    Excellent review, Ady.

    April 28, 2012 at 2:38 pm

  29. Great review for a great game.

    April 28, 2012 at 3:38 pm

  30. bowl:30

    i totally agree with the borderlands comparison, that was the first thing i thought of while trying the demo,def a good review ady!

    April 28, 2012 at 3:45 pm

  31. Nice review Ady,

    I’m a big fan of zombie games and I like the Borderland style of looting this adds to the zombie genre. Agree that the graphics are impressive on the Onlive service !

    April 28, 2012 at 4:49 pm

  32. Anonymous

    Awesome review! This game looks and sounds completely awesome. Plus nothing relieves a stressful day like lopping off a zombie’s head with a rusty diver’s knife.

    April 28, 2012 at 5:09 pm

  33. Donnie Turner

    Good review! Don’t own the game yet but will eventually!

    April 28, 2012 at 5:12 pm

  34. Eric

    To echo the others, good review Ady. I have been thinking about trying this game, knowing it’ll take me many, many hours to complete is a plus.

    April 28, 2012 at 5:23 pm

  35. Next time I go on vacation, I want to see Zombies like in this game! Banoi sounds like an awesome vacation destination.

    April 28, 2012 at 6:14 pm

  36. duke05

    Very happy to see this on OnLive and great review.

    April 28, 2012 at 7:52 pm


    Great review Mr. Carter, I’ve played the demo and plan on purchasing Dead Island on OnLive asap..

    April 28, 2012 at 10:15 pm

  38. Good review. I would definitely like to play more than just the demo of this game.

    April 29, 2012 at 1:43 am

  39. Excellent review. Dead Island is one huge zombie-lovers paradise. Pure zombie awesomeness.

    April 29, 2012 at 3:17 am

  40. William Dean III

    Awesome review! I love Zombies

    April 29, 2012 at 10:06 am

  41. robert henning

    it’s good to see someone reviewing games playing on onlive. The game play great!

    April 29, 2012 at 10:46 am

  42. Great review, great game. Also Onlive did the best job here, wasn’t expecting this game on this platform, yet it’s here. I hope to see more of such games from Techplanet – it’s good to see that there are developers that can make something new from a topic that seemed to be used up (I mean zombies 🙂

    April 29, 2012 at 4:30 pm

  43. eugaet

    I like the sound of the drop-in co-op w/ whoever happens to be nearby. I’ve been ignoring this game since none of my friends have it, but if I’m able to play w/ random randoms, I may give this title a go.

    April 30, 2012 at 11:00 am

  44. Alex

    Great review, the multiplayer looks good fun 🙂

    April 30, 2012 at 11:58 am

  45. Anonymous

    Yeah I’ve seen my brother play it many times when is it my turn to beat someone up?

    May 1, 2012 at 3:24 am

  46. Fantastic review. I have been holding out on purchasing this game for a while; partly because I have been busy, partly because so many other games to finish, but mostly because I am so burned out by zombies. You get so many pro reviews, and most of them seem to be out of touch with gamers. But actually having a real gamer give a great write up on Dead Island, has certainly gotten my attention, and has put the game back on my radar. I think I need to make some room in my schedule to check it out soon . . . and if I turn out to be one of the lucky people to win a copy of this from OnLive, I most certainly will set aside some time for it.

    May 3, 2012 at 5:42 pm

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