With its emphasis on co-op and light RPG elements, Dead Island is one of the more interesting takes on the popular zombie genre we’ve seen from a big budget game in some time. I enjoyed the original quite a bit, despite its flaws. The story and characters may be alarmingly dull, but there’s nothing quite as satisfying as strapping a car battery to a machete so you can mow down a horde of zombies. I recently bought Far Cry 3 (finally), and I’ve realized that the entire time I’m playing it, all I can think about is how many things it does better than Dead Island. Comparing it to the post-apocalyptic zombie game might seem a bit odd at first, but the two games are actually very similar.
Each game violently tosses you into a hostile world where pretty much everything wants to kill you, and usually in horribly brutal ways — only yesterday I was mauled by a bear as I was stalking two pirates on a beach only to jump into the ocean and get eaten by a shark. Both games are about exploration, survival, and scavenging to survive, though Far Cry 3 puts more effort into the all of that. So while they’re different, they’re also really similar. The big difference is Far Cry 3 is far superior to Dead Island in many ways. To remedy this, I’ve chosen six things Far Cry 3 does really well, so Dead Island can take notes. Check them out after the break.
Now, because Dead Island: Riptide is already pretty deep into development at this point (it releases in April), some of these ideas might not be feasible this late into production. Riptide isn’t being described as a real “sequel,” it’s more like a Dead Island 1.5, so I’m pretty sure Deep Silver has a true sequel in the works, possibly from a different developer. If they do, I totally wouldn’t mind if they “borrow” some or all of this list to help make Dead Island 2 the best damn zombie game it can be.
Can you name any character from Dead Island that wasn’t Xian, Purna, Sam B, or Logan? Could you even name those?I couldn’t name them all (thanks, Google search!), but I can name several of the people I met during the many, many hours I spent playing Far Cry 3. Though let’s be honest here, when I say playing Far Cry 3, what I really mean is setting bears on fire and stabbing sharks in the face in Far Cry 3. More on that later.
Visually, they weren’t all that special, but the excellent voice work and mannerisms made them seem like real people. They look and act like real people, while in Dead Island it was often difficult to tell the living from the dead. Unfortunately, Dead Island Riptide isn’t starting fresh, as you can import your character(s) from the first game into the pseudo-sequel, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get the voices and animation right this time around.
Dead Island was in no way a stealth game, though it should’ve been. Look, if you’re going to make the guns as useless as they were in the original game, forcing you to get up close and personal, then why not give me the chance to sneak up on a zombie for an execution? Sure, you could do that in Dead Island, but it was difficult, and more often than not it ended with you desperately trying to hack (or bludgeon) your way out of a crowd of newly pissed of zombies.
There’s more to this idea, too. I want a bow, and I want to be able to sneak up on the undead for silent kills, but I also want to be able to distract them. Far Cry 3 has a nifty, and beautifully simple, feature that lets you press right on the D-pad to throw a rock. This will create a noise that temporarily distracts enemies in the area, great for clearing out a heavily guarded area or for getting an enemy to turn around so you can sneak up behind them and stab them in the face.
I just noticed how much time I spent face-stabbing in Far Cry 3… kind of scary, actually.
Yes, Dead Island already lets you create and customize the weapons in your zombie-slaying arsenal, but I’d like to see this taken one step further. I want to be able to use the items I scavenge from the environment (more on that later, too) to make the game more enjoyable. I want to feel stronger, and I don’t only want that sense of progression to come from my current level. I want to be able to craft bigger pouches, pockets, backpacks, etc. so I can hold more items, ammunition, and other precious resources (such as the incredibly stupid energy drink and granola bar health items). Please?
I Am Jason Brody
There are first person games, and there are first person games. Dead Island falls firmly into the first group, while Far Cry 3 is definitely a card carrying member of the second. While I play Far Cry 3, I feel like I’m in the world. Jason Brody may be a too entitled and moderately unlikable guy, but I felt like I was him. When I fell and hit the ground too hard, I felt it. When I got too close to fire and had to pat out the flames, I felt it. When I was shot and I had to dig the bullet out of my arm, I felt it. When I swam across a shallow river only to get attacked by an alligator, I felt it — and my roommates heard my screams. I case areas before I go in, observing them from afar, assessing the risks, and deciding on which approach I should take to complete my objective. I feel like I’m in the game.
In Dead Island, I haul ass from point A to point B, hoping I don’t run out of stamina (something they should remove from Riptide) before I reach my destination. If something tries to stop me I spam the right trigger until the bad thing falls down.
See the difference?
Scavenge To Survive
Scavenging is something that’s admittedly a little difficult to make interesting. I mean, you’re really just looking through bags, boxes, corpses, and various other containers in search of items your character needs to survive. It’s the adventure game equivalent to grinding — though there’s totally that too in Dead Island — but that doesn’t mean it can’t be satisfying. Sifting through the contents of countless briefcases isn’t fun, nor is it particularly satisfying. However, swimming through shark infested waters to that broken down ship that you just know has treasure in it, exploring ancient temples, or climbing a mountain so you can check that shack near its peak is all exponentially more satisfying.
In Far Cry 3, scavenging is moderately enjoyable. You’re still looking through containers, but the game made getting to many of those containers fun. I’d like to see more of that in the next Dead Island.
A Sense of Exploration
Now, Far Cry 3 doesn’t have the most memorable of game worlds. It’s a big, gorgeous island with few recognizable landmarks. Essentially, it looks like real life. Dead Island suffers from the same issue, in that its world isn’t all that interesting. It’s beautiful, and the contrast between a zombie apocalypse and a tropical island resort was fun to look at, but exploring it wasn’t very enjoyable. For an open world game to succeed, its world has to be interesting and unique and fun to explore. Far Cry 3 did this by making its world unpredictable. Bandit hide-outs, temple ruins, sharks, bears, tigers, big fucking birds that you really should not underestimate, you never know what’s going to happen, so you always have to be prepared. Dead Island is trying to remedy this by adding a dynamic weather system into the mix (I totally requested this last summer) that can cause flash floods. I love this idea and I can’t wait to see it in action.
Far Cry 3 also made getting around its world easy. If you’re lazy (like me, sometimes) you can fast travel, or you can drive one of the many vehicles you find scattered about the world, or you can go by foot and hope one of the aforementioned monsters doesn’t eat you along the way, or you can grab a boat or jetski and jump waterfalls, or you can paraglide above it all in relative safety, I only hope you’re good at landing (I always messed that part up). The point is, you have options, and each is fun in a different way. Riptide has added a boat, though I guess we’ll have to wait and see how that turns out.
While we’re taking pages out of other game’s books, let’s look at The Walking Dead. In Telltale’s episodic series, which I’ve recently discovered actually causes me physical pain if I go a day without talking about it, I cared about the people I interacted with, I cared about the person I controlled, and I cared about the story. I can’t say the same for Dead Island, and I wish the game had made me feel even a fraction of the emotions I felt while watching its incredible trailer.