There are many that say that first impressions are the most important, and they’re totally correct in thinking that. No one, for example, that is hoping to get hired for just about any job shows up ten minutes late reeking of whiskey wearing tattered jeans and flip flops along with the lipstick-stained collared shirt they wore to the bar the night before.
However, there are the rare occasions that we should perhaps offer the interviewee some mouthwash, send them to the bathroom for a few minutes to clean off that lipstick and refrain from tossing their resume in the trash before giving it a look. This is the essence of Try-It-Again-Tuesdays, giving so-so to terrible games a second chance at being something great.
Originally announced at E3 2006 before receiving a tidal wave of attention after its reemergence early last year, Dead Island had (has?) a lot going for it. Zombies have been a hot item in the games industry for quite a few years now and DI had plenty. Then there was the large, open tropical resort for players to romp around in and hack, shoot and blow up innumerable hoards of the undead. Completing a gaming trifecta of sorts, the game incorporated RPG elements that included questing, leveling up skill trees, looting and weapon crafting. This was the zombie game that people had been waiting for. When it launched, however, the wide eyed excitement of gamers eager to slaughter the walking dead in a sandbox game was quickly hampered.
At launch, the game played host to a litany of bugs. Game saves were disappearing, thrown weapons were sinking into the ground, quests couldn’t be completed…it was a mess. Then there was the horrible voice acting that only made the hammy script worse. The visuals were inconsistent: ranging from marginally attractive, to mediocre, to ugly. The checkpoint system (there was no save anywhere option) was not dependable. Talk about stumbling out of the gate.
There have been patches made since launch, but there is no doubt in my mind that Dead Island’s messy launch had a negative impact on many consumers’ decisions to buy the game (i.e. they didn’t buy it). Also, Techland’s promised day one patch never came, alienating further their potential clientele.
There were also some clunky design choices at work here. The inventory interface was a nightmare to navigate, requiring players to wade through generic lists. This also made bartering a pain (hell, why are people trying to survive a zombie apocalypse making people pay for resources required for survival anyhow?). Also, ignoring the fact that the checkpoint system couldn’t be trusted, why did this massive open world game have no save anywhere option ala Oblivion (Skyrim was still a few months from release)? It made quitting in the middle of a quest risky, as you might have to trek back across the island when you started the game back up…or not, it depended on the mood the game was in that day.
I could go on and on about bugs, but I will let you fill in the blanks. Despite all of these problems, though, there was a ton of fun to be had for those capable of looking past the bugs and poor design choices.
There were four distinct characters to choose from, each with their own specialization, allowing players to play how they wanted. Each of these characters also had a relatively extensive and unique skill tree to navigate as players leveled up, making it even more enticing to check out each character at least a little bit.
The combat system, a first person melee/shooting system, was also unique. A stamina meter made it so that you couldn’t just swing away at foes endlessly, you had to assess situations before you went in and decide how you would attack enemies because once you ran out of stamina, you couldn’t attack and you were more susceptible to being knocked down, a horrifying predicament for any zombie hunter to be in.
Tension was also present in just about every part of the game. My nerves were always on end when slowly moving through dense foliage, knowing an undead denizen might be lurking behind any one of the bushes. In the nighttime city segments, claustrophobia set in when I was creeping through back alleys, fearing for my life as the cries of the undead echoed down empty streets and into homes once occupied by families. The game was definitely on the verge on being outright terrifying, but the aforementioned hammy script made me not give a damn about the characters and the occasionally poor visuals interrupted the immersion.
For people too scared to go it alone, there was a co-op mode, another highlight. Being able to play through just about any game with friends is great, especially when you can have four of them. It gave the game a (considerably) less polished and open Left 4 Dead feel and was a blast to play. Sadly, there was no option to play this mode offline.
Dead Island has all the makings of a great game. Open worlds are all the rage now, as are persistent characters with skill trees that players can navigate and mine experience for. Zombies are another show in for “popular game feature” as well and when all of these factors are coupled with a co-op mode, you have a potential winner. However, to get here, Techland has a lot of work to do. They will probably have to apologize for the first game, for starters. Then, next time around, they will have to call in the Orkin man to spray out all the bugs crawling around in the code and clean up the user interface. Provided that they can do these things, however, Dead Island 2 could be something special.
Do you think this game or game series deserves another shot? Tell us what you think in the comments section below! Even better, if you have a game that isn’t quite up to par but you think deserves a sequel, let us know that too!