Think for a moment about college students partying it up during spring break at a tropical resort. If ever there were a zombie-like crowd in real life, that would probably be it—lurching toward one more boozy thrill or falling off chairs to sleep the sleep of the dead. The first-person action/adventure game Dead Island "gets" that vibe. And then it one-ups it by taking several glaze-eyed staggering steps further. Instead of drunken brain-dead co-eds, you're faced with a tropical isle full of swimsuit-clad brain-dead undead.
You play as one of four characters who have all seen their share of rough-edged action. Each possesses a skilled specialty in either bludgeons, guns, throwing knives or swords and bladed weapons. For some reason, this quartet also has a genetic resistance to being infected when gouged or nipped by the zombie masses. So when you're feeling low, all you have to do is grab a quick Red Bull or candy bar, and you're good to go again.
How did everyone start dying and rising again with a hankering for a mouthful of flesh 'n' blood down on the beachfront? Well, the game doesn't give you much to go on at first. Your character just wakes up with a hangover to find the hotel alarms blaring, and ripped-up piles of bone and gristle strewn around—ready for the tasting. After, um, skipping breakfast and finding a way out of your crippled five-star abode, you run into a small group of survivors. From there it's all about roving the expansive sandbox of an island that encompasses a sprawling beachside resort, a lush jungle, and a devastated and burning city. Your 20-plus hour quest? Looking for some way to get yourself and as many as possible of the living to safety.
You wind up doing everything from hacking your way into zombie-overrun gas stations for a little petrol and snack machine food to finding insulin for a failing diabetic to helping a nun and her inner-city survivors by braving a thug-fortified waterworks. But as honorable and heroic as all those adventures might sound, the fact is, there's nothing redeemable or even enjoyable about this game. From the moment your character wakes, you're immersed in a world of foul sights and sounds. F- and s-words and a plenitude of other profanities (including "d‑‑n," "a‑‑," "b‑‑ch" and "b‑‑tard") swirl through the dialogue and are spray-painted on the walls.
Quite simply this is a slashing, pounding, pummeling game that focuses on horrific, grisly bloodletting above all else. And even if zombie hacking holds an appeal for you, the game's mediocre mechanics are awkward and ham-handed at best. It's just a matter of arming your character with one of hundreds of different weapons—including wooden planks, baseball bats, pipes, hatchets, shotguns, grenades, Molotov cocktails and katanas—then smashing, smashing, smashing the flood of raging, roaring and gaseous horrors that walk and run in your direction.
Augment your arsenal with a handful of nails or a battery and some barbed wire, and you can deliver even more gutting and dismembering oomph. Jumping behind the wheel of a vehicle lets you splash the creatures' entrails across your hood and bumper. And if your car finally gives out or your last implement of annihilation snaps, well, just kick your foe until you get an opening to crush its skull to pulp. Of note: We see someone kneeling in a kiddie pool full of blood while lamenting the zombified family members he recently butchered.
Meanwhile, billboards and posters flash images of human women posed in what amounts to underwear. One bikini-clad female is tied to a bed for a sex film. And hundreds of the zombies were apparently infected while sunbathing, because they wear next to nothing over their now-rotting flesh.
OK. Let's quickly move back to that whole spring break vacation thing: Have you ever wished you could've had fair warning before heading out on an expensive trip that ended up turning into a disaster? Well, just consider me your friendly travel agent in the know. Dead Island's turned into a derelict dead-end. But I hear the mountains are zombie-free this time of year.