So I just escaped the island in Techlands first person, zombie survival, horror rpg of sorts. Firstly I wanted to play this sooner but the developer forced motion blur and bloom always on and that made it like stabbing my eyes with forks so I gave up playing it at release.

Now though, PC community to the rescue, there is a community made tool that you can download from the steam forums which allows you to do wonderful things like remove bloom, motion blur, change the aspect ratio, fix broken key binds among other video options. I think it’s unforgivable that the developer Techland didn’t fix its own problems but since those problems are fixed, I gave the game a thorough playing and here is what I thought.

The four playable characters are quite a stretch, a chinese secret agent, an aboriginal cop, a forgotten rap star and an ex jock. For whatever reasons they are all immune to the zombie virus and short of paying attention to the character select background story, you can pretty much forget the excuse for why they are and just get on enjoying what they are.

I chose the blade mistress, Xian Mei desperate to lop some zombie limbs off. I went down the blade skill tree and a fair way down the survival tree too. I didn’t put any points in the “rage mode” tree because I reasoned it was better to have skills permanently available than have to charge them up. No idea if that was a sound decision but it didn’t seem to hinder me.

There are some odd game tropes within dead island gameplay, for example money seems plentiful and that’s a good thing because modifying my weapons costs me money…I dunno what I was doing with it exactly, maybe it’s “special” money that sharpens my blades or something. I also found it a little annoying how quickly enemies and loot containers re-spawned. In some cases within 30 seconds if I run away and come back stuff just re-spawned. I’m cool with them wanting to keep the “world” full of stuff to loot and fight but I think perhaps it would have been ok to allow me to clear an area and keep it clear for a bit longer.

The variety of enemies and weapons is pretty nice, the zombies come in a good set of flavors and there are also looters, guards and bandits you get to have a gun fight with now and again. The melee combat system is sometimes awkward and often you must have eyes in the back of your head because them zombies re-spawn and move fast but quietly! However this problem is forgivable for the fact that it adds to the tension and fear of every noise you do hear over your shoulder as you glance around nervously waiting for the next zombie mob to come rushing at you.

I heard there were quite a few bugs at launch, some game breaking but with the community helper tool I really only encountered one major issue and that was the hand brake on vehicles never seemed to work. I did have a single crash but I didn’t lose any progress so it was a minor inconvenience just to relaunch the game and continue on. I’m not a fan of waypoint saving but it works relatively well so I’ll roll with it.

The island visuals and layout are pretty interesting and there are four major environments with a few mini areas thrown in for good measure. It’s a reasonable storyline too, how the zombie outbreak occurred and the different pockets of resistance you encounter, which serve as quest hubs or one-off quest stops that are entertaining and varied enough to keep you engaged. Some of the weapon modifications seem a bit fantastical but then it’s a game set on a zombie infested island were I chose a secret agent that’s an expert with a blade so I won’t hold the logic card too high for that. Just smile and nod as you fire your electrified bullets and swing that fiery sword

Being able to team up online with other players as you explore the island and do quests is a great coop opportunity, it’s a shame they didn’t make looting enemies and chests a bit more cooperative too though. You’re boned if you kill a bad guy and your team-mate picks up that purple weapon before you do. There is nothing quite as fun as traveling in an armoured car together before disembarking and smashing some skulls for a common cause.

Overall I enjoyed dead island more than I expected and while it wasn’t quite as good on pulling the heart-strings as that initial cgi trailer with the zombie girl a couple of years ago, it was probably the best zombie survival game I have played to date. I’m still unhappy Techland hasn’t put in an option to disable bloom or fix their key bind issues though, by now they have well had their money for sales and it shouldn’t be up to the players to fix their shit for them.

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