You Need To Play Dead Island Again

You Need To Play Dead Island Again
Images via Deep Silver

Written by 

Kiera Mills


13th Dec 2022 10:47

With the development hell Dead Island 2 has been privy to, and the long wait fans have had to endure for a sequel, it's easy to become disillusioned with the franchise as a whole and forget why we loved Dead Island in the first place.

I'm here to show you why Dead Island has always been a great game and why it's worth replaying before Dead Island 2 comes out in April 2023 – hopefully.

Awash In The Sea Of Zombie Games

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare and Dead Space 2
Click to enlarge

While Dead Island will not be remembered for breaking any new ground in the zombie genre because it was a genre well-saturated by then, that's not to say it wasn't an objectively good game, regardless. When it was first released in 2011, the world was still coming to grips with the hype train of zombie culture.

The Walking Dead was quickly accumulating a cult fandom with the release of season one in 2010 and the preparation of season two. That same year Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare was released, and the following year, Dead Space 2 dropped on the market and received critical acclaim.

It is easy to forget that during this time, Dead Island catered to an audience that was receptive to a new zombie game. Now, most gamers are fatigued by the genre. How many people The Walking Dead right up until the end?

Only games like The Last Of Us have kept a loyal momentum going. This is mostly because zombies happen to be in the world of The Last of Us but aren't the sole focus, the narrative of the characters is. Plus, they are a visually interesting species of zombie, one that we had not previously seen before.

Beyond the fungus-spawned Cordyceps infection, other zombie games offer additional genre-blending aspects such as survival horror, or crafting/base-building co-op play.

For its time, although Dead Island wasn’t revolutionary, it did introduce some interesting ideas that most people overlook now. Like The Last of Us, Dead Island introduced several new zombie types and different ways to deal with them.

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Dead Island: Suicider Zombie
Click to enlarge

The zombies introduced in Dead Island were done so in the classic cheesy way that Dead Island delighted in, with over-the-top cutscenes. The Ram, Floater, Butcher and Suicider zombies challenged players to adapt to their surroundings and take down the enemy before them in a different way than the usual hack-and-slash tactics.

These zombies were visually interesting and provided new insight into how zombies evolved from their environments. For example, the Suicider zombie self-destructed after taking a certain amount of damage. Combined with the fact they usually inhabited smaller areas such as the sewers, this made combat more challenging and forced players to think outside of the box.

Whilst a suicider zombie is nothing new by today's standards, some level of credence must be given to the time it was made. As such, these ideas resonated with players a lot more than they do now before we became desensitised to zombie violence.

The Dead Island Charm

Dead Island: Katana
Click to enlarge

Although many games can offer you a solid zombie experience, Dead Island has a charm that captivates most people that play it. With the promise of a sequel being pushed back time and time again, most have forgotten what they liked about the game in the first place.

Choice of character was always an important step, depending on who you played would determine which weapons you specialised in. Despite this, you could use any weapon you liked if you later changed your mind. Playing with katanas was my favourite option, the hack-and-slash lent itself well to Dead Island's fast-paced combat.

Along with the finishing moves were corny one-liners which felt very self-aware. The game's main purpose was to facilitate fun and give you a chance to kill a bunch of zombies whilst following a simple yet solid storyline. Escape the island. In this regard, the game always had a kind of earnest appeal to it.

Dead Island didn't try to pigeonhole deep soul-searching storylines like The Last of Us, it simply gave you the tools to make your own fun in a zombie apocalypse. Solidifying this further was that you could do it with friends while using the online co-op features.

Dead Island was the type of game you could pick up on a lazy Sunday afternoon. A game that didn't require you to think too much but just allowed you to melt into the zombie-killing zone and waste a few hours relaxing.

Why Dead Island?

Dead Island: Resort View
Click to enlarge

Looking back, there isn't any one reason Dead Island was special, it had no right to do as well as it did, really. People enjoyed the setting, the island resort looked like a paradise – especially with the upgraded game of the year edition. The crafting mechanic was simple enough to use and the game changed its setting regularly to keep players interested.

The quest design was simplistic, and side-quests usually amounted to travelling to a location, picking something up and dropping it off. For the sequel, we would like to see more refined side-quests to combat that less exciting gameplay loop. We would also like to see the franchise retain its self-aware, cheesy humour and over-the-top gore.

Do yourself a favour and give Dead Island another shot, perhaps in time for the sequel to finally come out – if it indeed does.

Kiera is a Guide Writer for GGRecon, with a BA (Hons) in Journalism. When she’s not busy covering either the spookiest or cosiest of games, she can be found toiling hours away into her favourite RPGs like Mass Effect, The Witcher and Baldur’s Gate 3. If DnD is your jam, she also moonlights as a Wildfire Druid.

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