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This week, Zero Punctuation returns to the zombie apocalypse, again, for Dead Island.

Transcript Edit

One day I'm going to make a zombie game of my very own. It will be an apocalyptic survival game in which you and a small group of desperate survivors with complementary skills must navigate a deserted city without being crushed under an avalanche of zombie games, movies, and reinterpretations of classic literature. I'll call it Enough with the Fucking Zombies Already. Honestly, at this point you people just won't be able to cope if civilization ends any other way, will you? If the fucking Daleks invade or the entire world gets covered in carnivorous jam, you'll have to make papier-mâché zombie facsimiles just to get through the day. Except let's face it, however you might imagine zombie apocalypse as giving you a new lease on life, we all know most of you would start talking suicide pacts if the Internet went down for more than a week.

Still, let's indulge some weird fantasies one more time with Dead Island. No one's done a zombie game set in a holiday resort yet, have they? Except Dead Rising 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 - oh, fuck off. You're staying at a hotel on the island resort of Banoi, which is named after the sound I make when I'm both confused and aroused at the same time. According to the intro movie, you spent an enjoyable evening getting completely dog-buggered, and you must have gotten pretty impressively drunk because you have an altercation with yourself at one point. It's complicated.

Being one of those infuriating fucks who don't get hangovers, you wake up fresh and raring to go with the hotel and resort infested with the undead. And this begins an adventure that is the unnatural spunk-baby produced by a mutual masturbation session between Borderlands and Dead Rising 2, during which lingering eye contact was made with Left 4 Dead. From Borderlands it takes the four-player co-op RPG with MMORPG-style quests and environments, and from Dead Rising 2 it takes the bright vacation setting and the ability to pound heads with two random stocking fillers tied together with string. Oh yes, and it also takes zombies, lest we forget. There's quite a few of those running around.

Dead Island is a wonderful case for why you should never watch trailers, as if we needed one. It generated positive buzz from its very well-directed first trailer, but since it was pre-rendered we should all have twigged then that it might as well have been a random episode of Danger Mouse for all it told us about the actual game. Unless it was proposing to be some kind of "throw small children out of windows in reverse slow-motion" simulator, which on reflection I would totally buy.

It foreshadows Dead Island 's inability to keep a consistent tone. On the one hand it wants to be melancholy like that trailer was, which is why there's not an ounce of levity in the dialogue and virtually every character sits around whining like their parents were just killed in an explosion at the anti-depressant factory, and every now and again someone in the background orchestra leans on the saddest piano keys they can find. But on the other hand you can put a load of bolts and nails in the end of a sledgehammer and use it to break both a zombie's arms so that they flail around like swingball sets. Don't worry, grief-stricken survivor, the troubled soul of your loved one is now at rest. I jumped on her head and I swear her lower jaw went fifty feet!

So here's a sneak peak of the soundtrack to a lot of Dead Island: "Grr! Kick! Grr! Kick! Grr! Kick! Splat!" Your Duke Nukem mighty boot attack uses no stamina, interrupts every enemy attack, can't be interrupted itself, knocks enemies down and ragdollizes them if they're trying to get up, so for large chunks of the game there really isn't much reason to use anything else. And you'll spend a lot of time standing over a pile of bodies frantically doing the can-can until they've all stopped moving. Melee weapons operate with gun physics, meaning they don't seem to connect if you're not directly targeting the enemy or if the game feels you don't appreciate it enough. And as many games have done before, we fail to realize that melee-focused first-person combat only worked in Condemned because you were usually restricted to fighting one down-on-his-luck pauper at a time, and drunkenly flailing your way out of a dogpile of screaming fast zombies gets very confusing and very frustrating when half of them seem to be attacking you from inside your own torso. "Frustrating" really is the word, especially when they wheel out the big lads who knock you on your arse if they so much as brush dandruff of your shoulder.

After suckering you in with a beautiful tropical setting, Dead Island really pulls a black bag over your head in the second act when you move to the same ruined foreign city from any randomly selected mission of any Modern Warfare game or equivalent. And just as you're really nodding off, out come the sewer levels. Going through the main story missions of act two, I was put through something like three or four sewer sections within the course of about an hour of gameplay. It was like a water treatment sightseeing showcase, which wasn't even particularly well-directed because a guide tour of some sewers would at least visit a few different ones.

Honestly, though, I was bored even before then. When you have fifteen quest givers all packed together in the same survivor shelter so the minimap has more exclamation marks than a comic book series intended to raise awareness of Tourette's syndrome, I get major sidequest exhaustion. And since the map would only let you mark one mission at a time, I just ended up speeding through the mandatory quests hoping for an ending that never seemed to bloody come.

And finally, escort quests. I don't know if Dead Island is trying to raise support for some kind of genocidal regime that will bring about the extermination of non-player characters, but you'll certainly have a powerful hate for them by the end of all this. Characters you have to escort don't follow you; they run on ahead and have a curious blind spot to vehicles. I swear, more than once I found myself driving a car very slowly alongside an escort character on foot, saying "Hey, uh, more power to you for getting your cardio, but you probably wouldn't be picking so much of yourself out of other people's teeth if you got in the fucking car. Please? You can pick the radio station?" They also vastly overestimate their chances against the zombies and will charge in swinging a bit of twig like they're fucking Zorro.

And here's the best part: if you die, you just do the standard MMO thing and come right back to life taking a hit to the money like you slipped the Grim Reaper a bunch of fives to look the other way, but if they die you have to reload a save, and if you do that you don't get your ammo or weapons back. So if they charge right into a thug zombie's fist right when you've used up all your good weapons clearing the room, you get to do it all over again with your last unbroken feather duster.

So to close my arguments, Dead Island can go spoon a fucking lathe.

AddendaEdit

Dead to the world by half eleven: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

Funny how I've ended up reviewing four games in a row starting with D, not that I'm getting fixated on this or anything

Why don't we ever see a mummy or wolfman apocalypse, hm


ScreenshotsEdit

Dead Island 1

You might imagine zombie apocalypse as giving you a new lease on life

Dead Island 2

Zombies, lest we forget. There's quite a few of those running around

Dead Island 4

It was like a water treatment sightseeing showcase

External LinksEdit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart

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