Dead Inside

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Dead Inside

Look deep within Dead Island and you'll find there's more to than just fun ways to kill zombies.

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I am left with the feeling that you give the game too much credit. Way too much.

It's like I listened to someone sing Old McDonald had a farm, then read an essay about Animal Farm.

I earnestly wish Dead Island had the sophistication of the latter rather than the former, but I'm not seeing it. At all.

I applaud you for finding fun things to do in Dead Island.

However, I cannot.

Dead island does not interest me.

This article, however, did a lot to interest me. While I kind of side with the notion you're reading too much into it, I applaud you for finding any narrative that made me reconsider my stance on a first person shooter.

Remember those many scenes where Sam B would dance around like a maniac while talking, and his voice sounded like he was just reading the text for the first time without knowing a thing about his role?
Man, those just turned me off so much I stopped playing for a while.

Zhukov:
I am left with the feeling that you give the game too much credit. Way too much.

I earnestly wish it was that sophisticated.

Glad to see it's not just me reading that and thinking "Did ... Did you play a different Dead Island than I did? Because the one being written about sounds waaaaay better"

Zhukov:
I am left with the feeling that you give the game too much credit. Way too much.

I earnestly wish it was that sophisticated.

My thoughts exactly, it was a terrible game

What struck me as odd in Jin's storyline, is that she has obviously been physically (likely sexually) abused before she was rescued and even though the two female protagonists caught up on it, they didn't offer her any comfort whatsoever. (Btw, the two male protagonists were so unperceptive and lacking in empathy that said fact flew right over their heads. Typical false representation of males.)

I'm sorry, but what the hell? Dead Island might have some sort of narrative objective, much in the same way Left 4 Dead manages to build a coherent universe with set pieces and graffiti, but it clearly isn't as easily perceptible as you'd think. The class distinction Russ spoke of is something that was barely glanced over. Fighting through crummy neighborhoods away from downtown Banoi doesn't quite suffice in making me feel the place is real. It's just a copy-paste of what you'll find if you book a flight for the Riviera Maya and take a cab away from the resort for just forty minutes. Or what you'll find in Cuba. Banoi is just as poorly realized as Pandak Panay's Micronesian island in Just Cause 2.

The idea that you can just ignore the characters' respective natures and play them as "The knife lady" or the "Blunt Weapons Guy" really shouldn't have been sold as a positive. Gordon Freeman is a properly crafted blank slate. Dead Island's characters offer no opportunity for you to project your own feelings and impressions onto them. They exist in a weird limbo where they do have personality, but what comes through is so stilted it feels even worse than if they'd been left blank.

It even failed to deliver on basic Survival Horror mainstays. I never felt a sense of weakness or danger, not when the All-Powerful Boot to the Torso or Head could solve anything and everything. Why bother swinging weapons when you can curb-stomp zombies ad infinitum?

Did you really find a gratifying narrative experience in Dead Island? I loved the game but for its gameplay and because it's the only game doing what it is doing. I am really surprised that you found so much depth in it. I can not see it at all. Is this a case of critic/non critic divergence again, I wonder.

It felt more like the writers did not know how to tell a story amidst all the madness going on gameplay wise. You can always try your best to tell an emotional story, if gamers want to get to the cutting zombies part, they'll ignore it no matter how good it is, but you think they tried to be subtle? I feel like you are giving them way too much credit.

The game is still amazingly fun and I'll still go back and play it, but I really do not see where you are coming from on this one. Opinions I guess!

I think you have gone insane. You are reading far far to much into dead island, probably farther into it then even the developers. Ya it was a good game and all but you need to lay off alittle.

This is either

1. An optimistically positive view of the intentions and settings of the game.
or
2. An epic back-handed troll by the former EIC.

Either way, I want to finish this game now.

It seems strange how you say survival is the ultimate goal and then go on about how much fun it is to viscerally kill zombies with creative weapons.

Also, you know what I want to see? A zombie game where you ARENT fucking immune and you can actually change just by getting bitten, that would make you think twice before running into a horde and swinging a mallet.

Windu23:
...
or
2. An epic back-handed troll by the former EIC.

This did not occur to me.

Mr Pitts, if this true, then well played. Very well played indeed.

Well. That was unexpected.

I've always found it ridiculous how people grope for reasons when they like a game, or when they're trying to justify games as *twitch* "art".

You don't owe us an explanation as to why you like the game. If you like it, you like it. End of matter.

I have some counterpoints to some of the Authors opinion. Namely:

"They are real, fleshed-out people with all the layers of emotion and hidden motivations of any normal human being. Instead of super-human space marines, they are (in no particular order) a rap singer, an office worker, a security consultant and a former athlete. Each has a detailed and informative personal story, but none are in any way remarkable as characters in the way of traditional videogame clichés. Rather they are more like the tragic heroes of literature, each having wrestled with personal (if mundane) demons before finding themselves thrust into the role of savior and protector"

That could´ve been the intention of the developers but the thing that carries through into the product is a textbook example of cliché game characters. I agree with the Author that the basics idea- have a protagonist that isnt a space marine, a real person with a backstory and personal demons. But thanks to poor execution that does not come across in the game. That is my subjective opinion.

Also the "rescue the girl NPC" thing, that the Author judged to be a conscius design choise is more a mark of the games chore questing formula. Good have been done good but I don´t think they pulled it off.

Though there is fun to be had in the game, and it had the "stuff" to be a good horror game. Imagine the indoor areas where you explore, the atmoshere as you walked in the abandoned corridors in the 1-person perspective. Those moments had alot of potential.

What a strange, strange article.

I guess beauty lies, after all, in the eyes of the beholder. The only engrossing thing Dead Island has provided me was its trailer.

To each his own, I guess.

Hilarious. I was just about to write a review on Dead Island explaining why it was sub-par, and delete the game permanently from my system this very morning :D

Grabbin Keelz:
It seems strange how you say survival is the ultimate goal and then go on about how much fun it is to viscerally kill zombies with creative weapons.

Also, you know what I want to see? A zombie game where you ARENT fucking immune and you can actually change just by getting bitten, that would make you think twice before running into a horde and swinging a mallet.

There was a multiplayer Half-Life mod that did this; I can't find it though.

Does it really make it more artful that a production of any media should be a voice of the authors own personal values and try to influence the way we think, however forced or subtle?  

This would be particularly problematic of videogames, where the game designers create the entire videogame universe, all the contents of it, so there would be little opportunity to challenge the authors assertions or find a balanced viewpoint. A stawman reality could easily be created, to be understood that it applies to the actual world, when it doesn't. 

One can say there isn't much problem with the moderate left subtly infusing a game with a certain point of view, but just as easily it could be the far religious right being not-so-subtle. In either case, I don't support that in games. 

"but rather by turning the traditional model of zombie story-telling upside down and using the infection apocalypse as an opportunity to take a videogame experience deeper into the larger questions of human nature and society itself than almost any game ever made."

Not to be picky, but this could do with being broken up a bit.

OT: Interesting piece, I study English Lit and so spend forever thinking about how much thought writers, designers and filmmakers (and poets, the miserable, boring bastards) put into this sort of thing, and how much of it is essentially an accident.

As for Dead Island, the Steam Holiday Sale needs to hurry up so that I can get on and play it.

I find this article very enlightening. I don't know if that was what the crafters of the experience were going for, but even if it's not, there is some clear view of what you are saying. Just because something isn't intentional, doesn't mean it isn't there. I was a fine arts major in college, this is a very basic concept. I don't really understand all the malice on this thread about the game. People are confused about what was originally offered and what the final product was, so I guess they feel burned. The sad part is that the game was actually pretty good and fun. The locations were vastly different from each other. And I feel the beautiful island setting is over done at this point. Also, I felt the different characters were extraneous, if for no other reason than nothing changed except offered perks of the character. They could have easily just had one character and offered 6 different trees to work off of (everyone's perks were essentially the same in respect to health and rage meter... or whatever it was called, and the different ones were the weapons perks). But, the game did offer a lot of what you were talking about.

Dead Island is an absolutely amazing game.
This article is an amazing read.

However the two are not linked at all. The story in dead island is terrible, i have no idea how somebody could even come close to seeing it like this article did.

For me dead island thrived on:
Large, varied maps - being vastly different keeping things interesting.
Great combat - I know others may... WILL disagree but i just loved it, its nice to see a zombie game focus on melee.
Weapon/Weapon mods - For when all else fails kill fucking zombies!!! Insane amount of varied weapons and mods and not by "cheating" like borderlands did.
Perks - While not being the best thought out, it all add to experience.

But story.. Haha no.

Dead Island is far too tonally incongruous to intentionally posses the qualities which you described. A game about survival and global socioeconomics would not revolve around joyfully dismembering zombies with flaming, razor-bladed, baseball bats.

The Void does not have a dance party. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream does not have a scene where the main character fights off baboons with a giant dildo. Cargo! The Quest for Gravity does not have a graphic rape scene. Dead Island, however, mixes pathos with camp brutality. It's like mixing Evil Dead 2 with Se7en.

Additionally, how in the fuck can Dead Island be about survival when getting killed just respawns you a few meters away MMORPG-style. If you want to make a game about survival then the worst thing you can possibly do is make the protagonist immortal, don't be an idiot, Russ.

If Dead Island is a condemnation of western decadence and capitalistic exploitation then Techland are the biggest hypocrites in the world for making a multi-million dollar AAA extravagance that sells for $60 and can only be played with $300-$500 luxury items. That's like a hardcore Marxist working on Wall Street or a guy who uses Microsoft Word to write an e-book on the evils of technology.

Seriously, Russ, are you trolling the last Editor-in-Chief or are you just being trying to justify your admiration of Dead Islandby deluding yourself into thinking it's some grand work of art? It's okay to just want to hit zombies with sticks, Russ, but it's not okay to lie about why you like it. No one who plays football claim that they enjoy it for its intellectual merits.

Meh, the game was fun in the start but after some hours it got kinda boring. Pretty much only having a normal Melee hit just wasn't fun.

Think like Devil May Cry without all of it's extra skills. That's Dead Island. I know it actually tries to be real but it still fails.
The guns wasn't that fun either. Shotgun got completely random at some points. By either instant kill my enemies or doing no damage at all. I can carry a tons of mauls but extra ammo? No way man, that's too much for me.

Things breaking to the left and right after some hits also doesn't add to the fun. Oh my blunt IRON PIPE got broken. Yea right, that iron pipe would be able to kill to every zombie on the island without breaking to being bent too much.

You're looking way too far into the game. The developers cared way less about it than that.

A* on your creative writing homework, master Pitts.

Give Russ a break, they guy has had some free-time in that he was able to find a deeper meaning, we don't see it because we aren't superheroes like Russ is...that's right, call back to Susan's recent article...Russ is a super hero.

That was a fascinating read, and it may well be true for all i know. I have yet to actually make it more than halfway through the game, as i can't get through more than 20-30 minutes of game time in before i turn it off out of shear boredom. The game is 100% combat, theres literally nothing else to do. Run here fight zombies pick up item fight more zombies rinse repeat for hours and hours. Which, wouldn't necessarily be a gamebreaking issue if it weren't for the fact that 80-90% of the combat is spent spamming the kick button. The story could be the greatest epic ever put to page and it wouldn't matter if the gameplay sucked. Its an interactive medium.

Also I'm curious as to why this articles been held for so long? The game came out more than a month ago. Is it like a Halloween thing?

Alright, Mr. Pitts. You get my undying respect for quoting Henry Rollins. I haven't even finished reading the article, but any mention of Henry Rollins deserves "mad props, yo".

I hate to disagree with such a well-written article, but I just fundamentally didn't think as highly of Dead Island as you do. I found the characterisation pretty forced and unengaging, with everyone playing some sort of established stereotype (tough female cop with gun, big strong black guy, alcoholic misogynist prick, overly-kindly lady, "go-on-without-me" father figure, etc).

The story that was actually there and in your face was somewhat bland, and more often than not I just felt like it was trying to make up excuses for me to go out and do missions while it was secretly because none of the NPCs could be bothered doing it. Go and clear out zombies so the survivors have somewhere more permanent to stay? Yeah, that seems worthwhile. Go down a deserted street to gather car parts, mere feet outside the safe zone and very far away from any zombies whatsoever? I guess that's the sort of thing I should be doing... Find a necklace? Bring champagne an already drunnk woman? Open a door? Hmm, these quests are starting to get ridiculous. Travel through the jungle to kill a tribe of rifle-toting criminals for no reason other than that their rival tribe of rifle-toting criminals asked me to? No, you lost me there, Dead Island. I wasn't thinking about any greater social or geo-political issue here; I was just wondering why everyone on the island - regardless of wealth, gender,etc - was a lazy, manipulative dick who refused to do even the simplest task for themselves, even for a quest-driven RPG world.

Don't get me wrong, the audio logs are pretty interesting, but that raises another question for me: every audio log you pick up details the interesting story of a person struggling in the face of a zombie onslaught, at the exact moment when human society gets overtaken by shambling undeath. I found all of these stories to be gripping, albeit only a tiny window into each instance. Contrast this with the main characters' stories: they literally just went to bed one night, and woke up the next morning to find everyone is a zombie; the little nuggets of background story are much more intriguing than the main story the whole experience is being built upon, and it leaves everything else just feeling a little stale - incidentally, the exact same problem I had with Brink. The "facts" you can unlock verge from banal to mildly interesting, but the unfriendly font and the identical, text-obscuring "splattered blood" decal on each and every sheet of paper turned me off them considerably.

Tl;dr: Not to diminish your efforts, but I think I had more fun reading your article than I did the last time I fired up Dead Island.

I'm sorry, I won't go so far as to say that article was well-written like some other people: I found it incredibly pretentious and constantly promising more than it actually delivered. I think it was epitomised by your referencing Dostoyevsky without explaining how it was relevant. Oh, so you go to a prison. Big deal. I must have played at least two dozen games in which you go to prisons. What you have failed to elucidate is how the prison section acts as the kind of microcosm of society you're implying it is, turning that quote into nothing more than an exercise in name-dropping.

I disagree almost entirely with those few assertions which were backed up by examples from the game. The scene with Jinn was awfully melodramatic, as was every single cutscene in the game. Even if it were an incredibly subtle blend of restraint and pathos, it would still be completely incongruous with the tone of the main game. As soon as you can jury rig a buzz saw onto the end of a baseball bat with little more than some duct tape and a battery, then use it to sever the heads of zombies who are, in at least one instance, in the process of shooting a home porn flick; any gravitas the game might try to assume is going to seem utterly out of place.

This whole thing strikes me as trying to justify the game through a 'have your cake and eat it too' explanation for everything from the characters to the setting. On the one hand, it claims that the game purposefully crafts enough of itself as a blank slate to let people have their mindless shooty fun, but at the same time it suggests, with minimal evidence, that despite this you can find a really deep portrait of society at hand. In the lack of any convincing arguments, I'd invoke Occam's Razor: it's just a crappy, poorly developed storyline in your average zombie game, and anything philosophical you can find you would probably also find in a copy of Playboy if you looked hard enough.

I normally wouldn't weigh in on something like this, but the know-it-all attitude of some of the comments here are a little irritating. I worked on Dead Island with Techland and everything that Russ mentioned in his article was absolutely intentional. Banoi is based on Papua New Guinea; one of the most dangerous and beautiful places on Earth. (It's no coincidence that we set our zombie apocalypse in a place famous for cannibalism.) Since its game with four player co-op, we knew that many of the players would spend more time laughing and decapitating zombies with their friends than paying close attention to an overarching story. We did however want to create a world. For us it was about dropping the player in the middle of a zombie apocalypse with all the fear and tragedy and black comedy you would find in such a scenario. The tone was intentionally grindhouse, but we also intentionally added all the social, economic, and political tensions that exist in third world countries like Papua New Guinea. It was always meant to be more about the breakdown of society and what people do in those circumstances. Most of the narrative is communicated by the art and atmosphere, the NPC's, collectible recordings, and editions of the Banoi Herald you find as you fight your way through the game. We wanted the player to have the feeling of being caught in a chaotic situation and struggling to make sense of what was happening. Not everyone would want to delve that deeply and that's fine. Obviously, the narrative that was there worked better for some people than others, but none of it was an accident. Every bit of it was intentional.

"Who do you voodoo, bitch?"

That is my response to this article.

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