Friday, March 9, 2012

Five Reasons I Didn't Keep Dead Island

It's been too long since I've done a Friday Five, and since zombies tend to be the best topic to make a list about, I thought I'd ease back in with talking about the Dead Island video game.  Maybe use this to transition from lists about zombies to lists about other topics.

Anyways, the game is...Well, not terrible, but I actually did something I never do with games.  I traded it in.  Again, I never do this...ever.  Even if the game is just horrid I'll typically shelve it and just not play it for awhile.  And maybe I'll pick up Dead Island again in the future (once the price has dropped dramatically) and I can find some people to play with.

Because that's the thing about this game, you cannot go it alone.  Which I suppose makes sense in a zombie survival game.  But with all the good ideas the game has, for me at least, it fails in the execution...of the ideas.  The player dies constantly.  Ideas like;

(Note:  I'm doing this list in reverse order with the least annoying/aggravating aspect first and building up to the deal breakers that ruined the game for me.)

#5:  Poor Menu Interface and Inventory Management.

Let me ask you, if an item like medikits are an auto-equip that take up no inventory space, why am I not allowed to buy them from vendors if my inventory is full?  It means I have to drop an item, buy the medikits, pick up my item, and confirm my inventory is all correct and that I didn't miss anything.  That's three steps too many, it should just be 'buy medikits and leave store.

Also, why does my quest log hate me?  I have to tab to the quest log, select the quest, check the map, tab back over, check the next quest, repeat.  I'm not saying I want all quests active at once, that would just clutter the map.  The problem here is that there seems to be lag not only with opening the menu and changing tabs, but also before the controller will respond to allow me to select the next quest.

Again, none of these are deal-breakers.  I've dealt with awful menus in games before and it's completely manageable.  It's just a minor annoyance.

Sadly minor annoyances can begin to stack up, like crappy writing.

#4:  The Characters Want Nothing to do with the Player

When you start a new game in Dead Island you get to pick one of four playable characters, each with their own special attack and (supposedly) different stats.  I chose one of them and was playing through just fine until suddenly I found myself in a cut scene with all four characters present!

Who gave them all permission to be here?!  Because I certainly didn't, I chose one character to play as.  One!  If all four are here, then why can't I have the computer control them?  I would have killed to have that extra inventory space, never mind having some fucking help with the zombie hordes!

The game has online multi-player to progress through the story, but I shouldn't be forced to use that.  If I'm playing alone, I should be allowed to play alone.  And with that in mind, I shouldn't see the other characters who I chose not to use.  Basically, it means that I, as a player, have no influence or control over the story.  Which completely removes any investment I have in it.

#3:  Challenging Enemies are Good...Too a Point.

As you level up in Dead Island the various flavors of Infected and undead also level up with you.  This is a fine idea on paper.  The problem with how it plays out here is that the enemies get more health, take more of an impact from your weapons (oh by the way, your weapons degrade as you use them, fun right?)  So your strongest weapons quickly become your worst.  But I never found enough replacements that were more effective.  So I stayed with my great, then mediocre, then crappy weapons.

The bigger problem is that the higher level you get the more damage the undead do.  Sure you get more health, but the ratio to health vs damage is not balanced.  So while in the beginning it's possible to take on a small crowd of zombies, pretty soon you can barely handle one.  Especially with the way they like to blind-side you.

#2:  Please Let Me Know When I Can Use My Special Attack.

This was a pretty big issue for me as I was playing.  The special attack each character has can only be used sparingly, you have to kill zombies and take damage to recharge it.  But the issue is that the charge gauge was very unclear.  I would never know when it was ready so I almost never used it.  I also used it rarely because of the time limit on it so it wasn't usually worth using unless I had enough of a crowd.  And even then it wasn't the guaranteed kill it was supposed to be.  Using it on a crowd of zombies sometimes worked, but sometimes I'd be no better off than before I activated it.c

And the regular attacks aren't much better.  The collision detection for the melee attacks is spotty at best, and for some drunken reason the gun mechanics seem to use the same detection as the melee.  So even when I'm auto targeting a zombie's head I still miss and hit the arm or even leg?!  Forget this noise.

That's really all I have to say on that except that it does lead directly into the biggest aggravation I have with the game.

#1:  Why the FUCK are Medikits and Special Attacks Linked to the Same FUCKING Button!?!

Seriously!  Who thought this was a good idea?!  To quick-use a medikit, nay, the only way to use them, is to press a button on your controller.  Ok.  I have no problem with that.  In the middle of combat you want to be able to access them quickly.  But if you hold that button down instead of a quick press, that's how you activate the character's special attack.  Oh, and for extra fun, even if your attack is charged, it's not clear how long you have to hold it.  So if your attack isn't charged you can hold the button, realize you won't be clearing the room with your special, then let go AND WASTE A MEDIKIT!

Do you realize how many medikits I wasted doing that?  This was, in all honestly, what broke the game for me.  Well, this and point #2.  I can handle lousy menus, no problem.  I can handle poor story telling, annoying but I've seen worse.  I can handle unfair enemies, sometimes I like a challenge.  But all together, the poor controls, the bad story and the implied insistence on multiplayer...Done.  I'll handle the zombies myself when the world ends thank you very much.

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