Review: Escape Dead Island
Billed as a survival mystery, Escape Dead Island follows the story of Cliff Calo who has set off to document unexplained events on Banoi. He doesn’t actually go to the island visited in previous games but arrives on Narapela, part of the Banoi archipelago. Trying to impress his high powered father in the media industry, Cliff digs around to get a big scoop which aims to get to the bottom of the origins of the zombie outbreak however thanks to a terrible script, annoying characters plus the intrusions of very odd dream sequences it doesn’t work. Apart from the mention of Banoi you’d be hardpressed to tell the main series and this spin off is actually connected. But it’s the gameplay that matters, right? Well…
If if you have read my preview from a recent expo you will see that I enjoyed my time with the game. I still stand by those comments as they were based on my 15 minutes with the title. However after spending time playing the whole game it’s clear that it’s no where near as enjoyable as I hoped it to be.
The first thing you’ll notice is that this spin-off shifts away from first person perspective and moves to a third person perspective. There’s nothing wrong with that at all but the mechanics don’t hold up to scrutiny. Stealth, shooting and melee mechanics are no where near the standard I would expect them to be, especially as it’s been a whole console generation that has pretty much perfected all of those.
Once you get into the swing of things you’ll notice that you can sneak up on enemies and execute them from behind rather than splatter their brains out in the same way you did in the main series. However a combination of poor AI, naff animation and pretty much everything that makes a good stealth game doesn’t exist here so it’s very basic and fulfilling. Annoyingly it’s the main way you have to play as extremely poor difficulty balancing and fine tuning makes taking on just a few basic enemies a frustrating experience if you take them head on. You’re always on edge due to the fear of dying, and not in a good Alien Isolation way. You only really die in this game due to poor game design, rather than through any actual challenge.
As a back up you do have guns but shooting has taken a back seat too with just a pistol and a shotgun available. The crazy thing is the developers know the difficulty is borked as after your second death in a second you’re handed ammo for your weapons as a little boost. As flawed as the previous titles were they still offered up lots of zombie killing antics with a large variety of weapons littering the world, plus the opportunity to customise them too. That’s all gone which is a great shame. Other areas of the game have been hacked away at to the detriment of the title. No longer are there any RPG elements of the main series, stripping the title of one of the few area that made the game a little unique compared to other games available. Even titles like Wolfenstein: The New Order are implementing fun and effective skill trees these days so for me this is a great disappointment.
To top it off there’s very basic level design that doesn’t excite and includes a load of mindless back tracking in horribly generic corridors and rock crevices. You’ve got some collectables you can hunt down but with the core mechanics being poor I doubt many people will bother. It’s hardly running round Los Santos on GTA V.
None but be thankful because if resources went to this mode the single player experience would be even worse!
Another thing that I mentioned in my preview was that I liked the art style and that’s still technically true however spending more time it’s clear that it’s not very good quality. Very poor textures, lots of clipping, loading and framerate issues plus ghastly jagged shadows infect the game at every level, even the loading screen judders! It’s just not a very polished game at any level. Voice acting is also poor and in conjunction with a naff script (and plot) the characters start to grate on you after a short while. I did however like the stylised nature of the game with words pop up like Thwack and Splat as you kill zombies and perform actions, much like ’60s Batman TV show. However that’s such a small plus in a big sea of negatives that it in no way claws back any redemption.
To sum up
Poor in every aspect of game design, I’ve Escape-d Dead Island so you don’t have to.
Version review: Xbox 360
Escape Dead Island is out now on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.