Back in the day, Dead Island's reveal trailer caused quite a stir, but you can forget about judging this game by that trailer. You will never see the depicted events in-game. Neither will you experience any of the emotional angst the trailer engenders. In fact, it caused some controversy at the time for first showing a dead child, which is apparently a no-no, and secondly for bearing little relationship to the game itself. However, on to what you actually will see.
The game location is a Banoi Island resort and once the intro is over, you can choose between four playable characters that have various base abilities. The story then begins with you waking up at the resort hotel to find it overrun by zombies. The first quest is to escape the hotel and join up with other uninfected survivors. From there, your main goal is to find a way to escape the island but later evolves into also finding the cause of the infection. Although the story had potential to be more, in the end, it's not particularly deep or emotional. While playing single-player, the cut scenes assume you have the other three playable characters with you, although you play as if alone. The game is obviously geared to multiplayer (co-op), although this does not detract from the single-player experience.
The rest of the game is comprised of many side quests and tons of looting – all hampered by hordes of zombies. As you progress, new areas and maps will open up and you will be able to fast travel between these points. Each safe house will have several additional quests and some continuous quests, which earn experience points, money, and weapons for completing them. They also have a crafting bench for updating or creating weapons and usually a merchant, but if not, there are some located throughout the maps.
I chose Logan as my character, who's expertise is throwing weapons. You can gear your skill tree to your character's strengths. However, I questioned whether I should have chosen Xien Mei as I ended up using blades more frequently in fear of losing my upgraded or created weapons that can be thrown. (although Logan is the more well-rounded character) There is a boomerang skill that ups the percentage of retaining the weapon, but at its peak, it is still only 50%. Upgrading is very expensive, although this becomes fairly irrelevant much later in the game. So my advice is to not become too attached to any weapon. There are plenty lying around, although you have to spend to upgrade them again. I tended not to spend too much on knives and cleavers.
The inventory system is basically horrible. Although there is no cap on carrying craftable items, extra weapon slots are an upgrade to a maximum of 18. Weapons have stats, one of which is rate of degrading and they degrade fairly rapidly so you need to have backups on hand. There are work benches scattered throughout where you can repair them for a price. The better the weapon, the more costly it is to maintain. Either some benches are borked, or some weapons, as it is not uncommon to craft something and lose it in the process. Also, picking up certain items will often replace equipped weapons in a slot. For instance, alcohol, med kits and other weapons. This got me killed a number of times when I ended up with a med kit in my hand instead of a weapon. The only relatively safe way to do it is to equip fists first before picking things up. This is irritating and does not work well if you are not in a safe place. When you die, you lose a percentage of your money, so the more you have, the more you will lose.
At a certain point in the game, you add a character to the group named Jin who also acts as a storage locker, but she is not always accessible during missions. However, she's good for keeping extra weapons and specials you may want to use later. Weapons are color coded, indicating specialties and effectiveness. You can add weapon mods and developer mods at the crafting bench and make explosives, grenades and molotovs as well.
The game is fairly long and the graphics and visuals are good with maps that are quite large. The enemy consists of zombies, zombies and more zombies. There are a variety of types with unique traits including walkers, infected, thugs, floaters, suiciders, rams, and butchers. In addition to your weapons, there is also a kick and stomp mechanic for finishing them off.
Extras include collectibles, id cards, tapes, achievements, challenges and a special set of individual skulls that once found need to be placed on their assigned altars. These will unlock the ability to create special developer's crafts, but also require money and diamonds as well.
I sat on the fence for a long time before buying this game. User reviews were split and because I have a backlog of games, I could afford to wait till the price was right before committing. Once I did, I wondered if I was going to end up regretting it as I too got the infamous blue screen crashes. In fact, on reading the forums, for many people this game gets various rainbow colored crashes. You can see below how I eventually fixed my problem, but it was truly a pain as no one had one particular fix and I spent way too much time just trying to determine the best course of action. However, once up and running, I did enjoy it and it has lots of replay value. However, I can't say the same for the DLC Ryder campaign, which is single-player only. It has no leveling and continuous spawning of swarms of zombies front and back that allows no time to investigate and pick things up. This causes weapons to degrade at a phenomenal rate. There are also few repair benches and no merchants. It's best suited for a fast blade or guns.
UPDATE May 31 2016: Deep Silver has released a definitive collection that includes Dead Island, Dead Island Riptide, and Dead Island Retro Revenge. The definitive editions are also available individually and are said to bring the original games to an upgraded version of the engine with new texture and lighting effects. As a Steam owner, you can receive up to 85% off in a loyalty discount as a limited time offer, the end of which will be announced at a later date.
Original versions are delisted, but can still be played if you already own them. The information on this page is mostly based on the Dead Island Goty edition.