Dead Island has been the biggest coin flip of a game I've played in a long time. At it's best, it's a challenging slice and dice (Or bludgeon, or shoot) in a gorgeous open world. At it's worst, it's an unimaginative, poorly designed, glitched mess.
Combat: Dead Island is centric around melee based combat, which seems realistic enough. The digital controls work the best, and the analog controls are strange and ineffective.Zombies are pretty varied- you have your normal Walker, then your hyper speed Infected, the hard hitting Thug, the blind charging Ram, the puke spewing Floater, and finally, the ninja-like Butcher.
Throughout the game, special zombies are bitches to kill and you'll need to find their weak points and remember their attack patterns to kill them. Rams, Thugs, and Butchers can kick your ass in seconds. The Walkers are mindless, and take no skill to beat. This adds some degree of challenge to the game, but this is lost at points.
Suiciders are extremely overpowered, and why they are so prevalent in the tightly enclosed sewers is baffling. The only effect way to kill them is to run close enough to them so that they begin to detonate, then sprint away and hope you make it out in time.
Infected become a nuisance later in the game as well, since they'll run in packs of about five, and their sprinting charge-punch can take a fourth of your health instantly. Then, you'll end up backed into a corner trying to beat them back and exhausting stamina doing so.
Weapons: The biggest nuisance in the game are the weapons, or more specifically, the weakness of them. Weapons degrade quickly while they are being used- which sucks. Once a weapon is completely degraded, it does less damage than a punch and can only be repaired by dropping major cash on it- and you'll lose 5-10% of your cash with each death.
With this system, it's quite possible to end up with no weapons and no money. And then you're fucked. You can upgrade weapons to improve their effectiveness and durability, but that's even more expensive. Though, modifying a weapon can have some serious benefits, because waving an electric katana is pretty empowering.
Guns are introduced about 5 hours into the game- and their worthless. They can only really damage the human enemies, and do virtually no damage to zombies, not even if you get a headshot. Guns don't degrade, thankfully, but can still be upgraded and modified.
Physics: This is the low light of my experience with Dead Island- the physics suck. Vehicles get stuck in places where they appear to have wide clearance, rendering them completely immobile. This is catastrophic to questing. Sometimes the items stowed in the vehicle gets stuck, which mean the player will have to go back to the quest location, get another of the items, and carry it by hand to the destination, battling the undead all the way.
Platforming was, for some dumbass reason, included in the game. Players are occasionally tasked with climbing buildings and doing things on top of them. Jumping is practically broken, and a spill from one of these roofs is almost an instant kill. If you survive the fall, you'll have to deal with the zombies that will have surrounded you.
Thugs and other zombies can knock you down, and even off buildings as well. Once, I climbed a ladder to escape the horde, and readied a molotov to finish them. Before I could move, I was magically teleported to the bottom of the ladder and killed.
Story: The main characters are pretty varied, and each have a good backstory. The game revolves around the far off objective of escaping the island and helping a mysterious Colonel, but I quickly ignored these to get caught in the quests for the survivors. It seems like the quests are more about helping the stranded than actually escaping, but this isn't bad.
No matter the size of your party, you are referred to as a group and all the characters appear in the cut scenes.This is a sorry excuse for team building. Some cut scenes place the characters in situations that they weren't put in by the player, which is just plain annoying.
There is a little mystery shrouding the game's end, but not enough for me to be excited for a sequel.
Online: The online is a saving grace for Dead Island. Though you can only play with other at or below your progress in the story, it's fun to blaze through the undead with a party, and it vastly decreases the difficulty of the game. With that said, it's better to play with a continuous party, though that's pretty difficult.
Verdict: Dead Island was a good concept that couldn't deliver on it's promises- marred by bad mechanics and story.