Dead Island is a 2011 survival horror action role-playing video game developed by Techland and published by Deep Silver for Microsoft Windows, Linux, OS X, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. Centered on the challenge of surviving a zombie-infested open world with a major emphasis on melee, the plot focuses on four playable survivors trying to survive and escape off the fictional island of Banoi.
The game was announced at the 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo, but was delayed until 2011. The game's cinematic announcement trailer was met with controversey over its depiction of a dead child, but reception was nonetheless positive, with praise going towards the emotional impact, animation, and story, with the trailer being held as one of the best in any medium. The game was released in September 2011 for North America and Europe, with an October 2011 release in Japan. Despite the pre-release acclaim, the game received generally lukewarm reviews. While praised for its atmosphere, gameplay, and playable characters, it was also criticized for the large technical difficulties and in-game glitches, graphics, and most notably being hampered for lacking the emotional themes presented in the trailer.
A stand-alone expansion, Dead Island: Riptide, was released in 2013. A spin-off, Escape Dead Island, was released on 18 November 2014. A sequel, Dead Island 2, was set to be released in 2016, but has been delayed indefinitely. A remastered version of the game was released for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on 31 May 2016 under the title Dead Island: Definitive Collection; it bundles the game with Riptide, all DLC, and a 16-bit side-scrolling game called Dead Island: Retro Revenge.
Dead Island features an apparent open world roaming, divided by relatively large areas, and played from a first-person perspective. Most of the gameplay is built around combat (mainly melee weapons) and completing quests. Dead Island is an action role-playing game and uses experience-based gameplay. The player earns XP by completing tasks and killing enemies. Upon leveling up, the player gains health and can invest one skill point into a skill tree and level up one of their skills.
Combat is carried out through either physical attacks or through the use of melee weapons and firearms. Melee weapons are emphasised to the point that firearms are not available for the first half of the game, and consist of blunt and bladed weapons. Melee weapons can also be thrown at targets at any point in the game. Weapons are randomly generated and positioned in predetermined locations as well as found on some enemies; they have unique stats that are generally based on the player's current level. Each weapon can be upgraded three times to increase its stats, and most weapons can be "modded" – customized based on a blueprint to add special features, such as nails or electrified blades, and poison. These weapons will wear out from constant usage and require repairs and careful use, especially because once a weapon becomes damaged beyond a certain point it becomes much more expensive to repair.
There is also a stamina bar, meaning that after a set amount of physical action, such as running, jumping, or swinging a weapon, the character needs to stop to regain his or her stamina. Fighting with a high level zombie will result in the player often running out of stamina and potentially being killed. The game features "special class" zombies, which are more powerful than the standard zombie. Players need to use flashlights in dark areas and during night-time sections, adding suspense.
Zombies in the game have different abilities, such as the Walkers being Romero style zombies and the Infected being 28 Days Later style running zombies. There are also other special zombies in the style of Left 4 Dead.
Dead Island takes place in July 2006 on the fictional island of Banoi, a lush, tropical resort destination located off the east coast of Papua New Guinea, just north of Australia. In recent years Banoi was able to modernise thanks to its tourism industry, but many areas of the island are still wild, primitive and untouched by the modern world. Even though its capital Moresby was founded by Australian settlers in 1895, many of the island's interior areas deep in the jungle have still never been seen by western eyes.
Banoi is known internationally as the location of the popular Royal Palms Resort, a luxurious five-star hotel resort which often attracts high-profile celebrities and throws wild dance parties. Banoi also hosts a Maximum Security Prison off the coast on a smaller island. It was designed as a privately owned maximum security prison facility for international terrorists and criminals.
The island has a modern police force and its own military called the Banoi Island Defense Force (B.I.D.F.) in charge of defending and providing security to Banoi.
Later Dead Island games reveal that Banoi is a part of an archipelago of smaller islands, those islands consist of Palanai, Amaia and Narapela.
The night after a high-profile party, the four main characters (hereafter referred to as "the survivors"); rapper Sam B., hotel receptionist and spy for the Chinese government Xian Mei, former football-star Logan Carter, and ex-police officer Purna—are awakened by a voice over the emergency intercom system directing them to evacuate the hotel. They discover that the majority of the population have been overcome by a contagious and infectious plague, turning them into psychopathic, flesh-eating creatures. Briefly overcome by one of the infected, they are rescued by lifeguard John Sinamoi. The four survivors discover that they are apparently immune from infection, and with "The Voice" out of contact, the survivors are tasked by Sinamoi to try to find supplies and contact the outside world. As it becomes obvious that the resort lacks enough supplies to survive for long, Sinamoi instead has them travel to the city of Moresby to find help. The survivors take along Jin, the daughter of the bitten mechanic who modifies an armoured car they use to break out of the resort.
Upon arriving in Moresby, after taking down a new special infected known as the Ram, the survivors aid a holdout at a barricaded church. Directed first to the wealthier sections of town, they ultimately raid a supermarket under the control of "Raskol" gangs. Jin tries to offer supplies to another Raskol faction in the abandoned police station, who capture and rape her. The gang rescue her, but her actions angered Sam B. Upon their return to the resort, the survivors make contact with "The Voice"; he identifies himself as Colonel Ryder White, a Banoi Island Defense Force (BIDF) commander, currently trapped in a high-security prison located on a remote island, only accessible through the jungle. He states that due to the characters' immunity, he may be able to create a cure / vaccine, and in turn save his bitten wife. White directs the survivors into the jungles of Banoi having them find a smuggler named Mowen who can reach the prison.
Mowen stonewalls the survivors on the prison, but does take them to a laboratory studying the plague. The researchers there determine the zombie infection is a mutation of Kuru that originated from the indigenous population. At their behest, the survivors collect a tissue sample from a mummy to better examine the pre-mutation form of Kuru and rescue a native woman, Yerema, who was about to be sacrificed by her tribe.
Mowen finally agrees to take the survivors to the prison. After the survivors complete the preparations he and Jin request, they hurry back to the lab when The Voice reports something has gone wrong; they find the zombies the scientists were studying were accidentally released, with only Yerema still alive. Rescuing Yerema and retrieving what appears to be a prototype vaccine, the survivors proceed to the prison island.
The survivors initially help the surviving prisoners to arm themselves in exchange for reaching White, but when White finally contacts them again he urges them to abandon the prisoners and proceed to him. The prisoners' holdout eventually falls, and Mowen dies helping Jin and Yerema escape the zombies. As the survivors are about to reach White, however, they are hit with a knockout gas inside their elevator. Awoken by a technology-savvy prisoner named Kevin, they find that White has stolen the vaccine and are warned that, with it in his possession, he intends to flee with his wife and call in a nuclear strike to purge the island.
Racing to the roof helipad, the survivors find themselves held by White at gunpoint. Jin, disgusted by White's plan, releases White's now-zombified wife from her restraints, and she bites White on the wrist. White kills his zombified wife and shoots Jin dead, then injects himself with the vaccine, only for it to accelerate and amplify his own mutation. The survivors kill White, then finally escape Banoi with his helicopter as Kevin intones that things will never be the same.
- Sam B (voiced by Phil LaMarr), a one-hit wonder rap star from New Orleans. He was booked by the Royal Palms Resort to perform his well-known song "Who Do You Voodoo" at a high-profile hotel party. He gladly took the chance to play this gig. Once strong, self-confident and proud, Sam B has had a troubled past and a history of drug and alcohol abuse, and his private life became a haze of fake friends and bad advisers. He believed his gig at Banoi was his last chance to get back on top. He also has a specialty of blunt weapons which became very useful during the plague.
- Xian Mei (voiced by Kim Mai Guest), a desk clerk at the Royal Palms Resort. Born and raised by a police commander killed in the line of duty in China, she secretly works as a spy for the Ministry of State Security. To conceal her covert activities, Xian performs menial tasks for the hotel (as seen in the opening where she helps a sick guest). It is assumed that she does well at keeping her espionage a secret, as all refer to her as the desk clerk. However, during the Jin rescue scene, Purna claims that she knows Xian's true nature, and several collectibles show that employees knew she was no ordinary employee. She also has a specialty of sharp, bladed weapons which became very useful during the plague.
- Logan Carter (voiced by David Kaye), a former American football star, spoiled by life and successful in every possible way. Unfortunately, his own ego finally put an end to his bright future. Taking part in a reckless street race with tragic consequences, Logan not only killed a young woman – his unfortunate passenger – but also fractured his knee, putting an end to his sports career. His fall from stardom inevitably followed and he plunged swiftly into a life of bitterness and despair. He ended up letting a blood drive use his name, and in return received an all-expenses-paid trip to Banoi. He also has a specialty of throwable weapons (projectiles) which became very useful during the plague.
- Purna (voiced by Peta Johnson), an Australian Aboriginal former officer of the New South Wales Police Force, referred to by the game as the "Sydney Police department." After losing her career when she shot and wounded a child molester (the novelisation contradicts this by stating that she succeeded in killing him) who could not be prosecuted due to his wealth and connections, Purna then turned to working as a bodyguard for VIPs in dangerous places all over the world. She is mostly hired for her looks (not just her skills), as wealthy men do not mind showing up to parties with an attractive woman like her on their arm. Purna states she wishes to finish off the child molester after leaving Banoi. Purna's skill for the plague involves her usage of firearms.
- Ryder White (voiced by Joe Hanna), a colonel with the Australian Defense Force who communicates with the hero in Chaos Overture, providing directions for escape. Ryder has also been in contact with the survivors at the Pool House, advising they evacuate to the Lifeguard Tower. When the hero is able to communicate with Ryder once more at the hotel with Dominic, it is revealed that he is on the prison island and is dealing with his injured wife, Emily White. In the "Ryder White Campaign", it is later revealed that Ryder was not the voice from the main game, instead Charon, also known as Kevin, had been posing as him and was the true villain of the game, not Ryder.
A promotional film, created by UK animation studio Axis Productions and directed by Stuart Aitken, featuring the transformation of a young girl into a zombie, played in a nonlinear sequence, was commented upon by Ben Parfitt of MCV. Parfitt praised the trailer itself, but criticised the online reaction to it, writing "It's a video that uses an image of a dead girl and images of her dying to create an emotional bond with a product." Wired exclaimed, "It may be the best video game trailer I've ever seen; gorgeous, well-edited and emotionally engaging." However Wired urged caution, stating that Techland did not make the trailer and that "everyone is hyped up about a short film, not the game itself."
Dead Island was originally announced on 8 August 2007 and stated to be released in 2008, developed by Techland and produced by Adrian Ciszewski, but was delayed. An official teaser trailer, titled "Part 1: Tragedy Hits Paradise", was released on 17 May 2011 featuring various gameplay aspects. A follow-up trailer, titled "Part 2: Dead Island Begins", was released on 6 June 2011 along with the announcement of the game's release being set for 6 September 2011 for the US, and 9 September 2011 for the worldwide release. The game's zombies were rendered to have fully modelled layers of meat and muscle, meaning they have a multi-layered damage system with real-time injuries. On 9 August 2011, Deep Silver announced that Dead Island's development had finished and that production had begun.
In Australia, a collector's edition was available to pre-order exclusively from EB Games. The collector's edition came with a Turtle Beach X12 headset, Ripper weapon DLC and Bloodbath Arena DLC. The collector's edition in Canada has the Ripper and Bloodbath DLC. On 20 July, Dead Island became available for pre-purchase on Steam as a single copy of the game for full price, or a four pack with one copy free. Both the single copy and the four pack include the Ripper and Bloodbath DLC.
In PlayStation Home (North American version), the PlayStation 3's social gaming network, users could pre-order Dead Island from a special kiosk in the Central Plaza (Home's central meeting point redesigned for this promotion and includes a "Zombie Survival" minigame) and receive an "Exploding Zombie Outfit" (features a remote option for users to explode) for their Home avatar.
Deep Silver funded a four-part series of comedic short films written and starring hosts of Talkradar from the video game journalistic website GamesRadar, entitled Dead Island: Secret Origins. The film depicts fictionalised versions of the hosts who travel to Dead Island and become zombies out of choice. There is also a novelisation with the same name, released by Bantam Books on the same date to accompany the game. The novelisation differs slightly from the game, with more mature themes and an alternate ending that was presumably unsuitable for the game.
On 21 March 2011, gaming licenser ESRB announced that the original version of the Dead Island logo was not suitable for release in North America, and Deep Silver was told to change it. Instead of the hanging corpse in the original logo, it was changed to a zombie standing by the tree. This logo change appears on the boxart of the North American release (the logo in-game, however, remains unchanged), with the logo remaining unchanged in other territories. In Australia, the game was released a day early, instead of its intended release date, 9 September by EB Games.
Dead Island was offered for free to Xbox Live users with a Gold Membership as part of Microsoft's "Games with Gold" program. It was available to download from Xbox Live until 15 February 2014.
Dead Island received generally lukewarm reviews from critics. Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the PC version 77.80% and 80/100, indicating "generally favorable reviews". While the Xbox 360 version received a score of 72.84% and 71/100 and the PlayStation 3 version received a score of 71.78% and 71/100, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
IGN gave the game an 8.0/10, criticizing the game presentation, glitches, various bugs for the consoles, and texture loading, but praising the atmosphere and overall feel of the game and stating that the game's pro-points are significant enough to outweigh its cons. Official Xbox Magazine (UK) gave the game a score of 7.0/10, stating that while it falls short of its potential, there is more than enough to make up for the in-game issues, while the US version gave it 8.0/10.
Computer and Video Games awarded the game a more mixed score of 6.5/10, stating, "This budget zombie thriller ain't too pretty but could manage to capture a cult following." However, Edge magazine gave Dead Island a 3/10 score referencing a very large number of gameplay and technical issues.
The Microsoft Windows version of the game received many negative reviews from magazines and websites stemming from an accidental release of a development build of the game on Steam. This included features such as noclipping and the ability to toggle third-person perspective. Rock, Paper, Shotgun also noted that the code revealed references to the Xbox 360 version. Developer Techland released a first-day patch seeking to address as many as 37 issues. A patch for the console versions has been released and fixed many issues, including corrupted savegames. As of 17 August 2013, the PC version still has many user reports of gamebreaking bugs including being unable to use savegames.
The game was not released in Germany, due to the amount of violence. Dead Island was sold in some German online stores such as Amazon Germany, for a limited time. It was indexed in November 2011. but removed from the Index in January 2019 in the Definitive Edition.
"Gender Wars", an unlockable skill for the playable character Purna which increases her combat damage against male opponents, was referred to during development as "Feminist Whore". Although changed throughout the game before release, the original name could still be found in debug code on the PC version. Publisher Deep Silver described the line in question as a "private joke" made by one of the developers, and regretted its appearance in the final product.
Dead Island has sold more than five million copies.
On 3 November 2011, Techland registered the name "Dead World". When questioned about this, they denied a sequel was in production. On 5 June 2012, at E3 2012, Techland officially announced another game in the Dead Island universe, a stand-alone expansion under the title Dead Island: Riptide. The ending of Riptide also hints towards another continuation.
On 7 August 2013, Deep Silver announced a new game titled Dead Island: Epidemic. As a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) game, Epidemic had three teams of players battling one another for survival while facing the hordes of undead that inhabit the series. On 19 May 2014, Epidemic was released through Steam early access, allowing players to actively participate in the final development stage of the game, reporting bugs and issues within the game so that the release is polished. Epidemic was a free-to-play title. In 2015, the game was cancelled during the open beta phase.
On 9 June 2014, Dead Island 2 was announced during the PlayStation E3 press conference. Unlike the somber trailer, the new title's trailer is vibrant and comedic similar to the Dead Rising series. The game was in development by Yager Development, before moving to Sumo Digital. It is now being developed by Dambuster Studios.
A one issue comic book version of the series was released by Marvel Comics, and begins with Roger Howard, an investigative journalist, as he looks into the illegal exploitation of Banoi Island's resources. He appeared in the game as a voice, leaving behind tape recordings.
The story begins just as Roger Howard arrives. He explains why he is at the Royal Palms Resort, and then begins to target Kenneth Ballard the Royal Palms' manager. After gaining access to his office, Roger finds detailed files on Xian Mei, Purna, Logan Carter, and Sam B. After going through the files, Roger hears a knock on the door. Before opening it, he begins to explain that he was looking for the bathroom. Unfortunately, after opening the door, he comes face-to-face with a zombie. The story then ends, with Roger's fate unknown. In the video game, audio logs of Roger are found, with him slowly going insane from being infected, and when the survivors reach the prison, they find his last audio log, which implies a prison guard killed him once he became infected, with the log found next to (presumably) Roger's corpse.
The audio logs detail his journey, which is revealed that he and a group of survivors tried to escape into the jungle, but crashed. The driver and Roger were attacked by an infected Orangutan, with the driver dying and Roger escaping. Roger makes it to the prison, and he states he is making this log for scientists to see the full symptoms of infection, and starts hallucinating about his son.
On 27 September 2011, Lionsgate announced that they had acquired the rights to develop a film based on the game's release trailer, as its portrayal of a family desperately fighting for their lives provided artistic inspiration. On 1 August 2014, it was announced that Occupant Entertainment and Deep Silver would produce and finance the film; little is known about the film as of yet other than it was expected to be started around 2015.
Concurrent with the game's is a novelisation based on the game.
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