Escape Dead Island Review (PS3)

     When I began Escape Dead Island, I didn't want lean on the rumors about it.  The fact so many were talking about how terrible the game was doesn't always translate to I won't like it.  That is now a debatable subject now.  Heck, I actually enjoyed The Bureau.  I wanted to give this game the benefit of the doubt.  I really did.


     Now I find myself in an awkward place in thinking of a way to describe what this game really is.  It is not the first-person survival game that Dead Island and Riptide were.  Escape feels like a cheap cash-grab to piggy-back off of Borderlands' popularity.  I don't say that lightly.  Right away the cel-shading and the introduction screens are ripped straight from the slow motion intros from our Pandora dwellers.
     That alone isn't bad.  Had Escape been decent to play it could've been a great thing.  I didn't mind the cartoony style and the bright colors of a tropical paradise being infested with zombies.  I also rather enjoyed the switch to 3rd person.  These things, however, do not help in the larger picture.

     What might be the problem is the lack of focus.  The game is, story wise at least, about Cliff Calo attempting to prove to his absurdly wealthy and influential father his value.  In doing so he and his friends head to a suspicious island looking for a story to break in the media.  Calo immediately sets himself in the role of huge douschebag, but over the course of the game shifts from purely one-liner spouting party-guy to somewhat commendable hero.  All this is happening right before the first game.

     In the efforts to find Dead Island's Banoi and the zombie rumors, Calo and his two friends shipwreck on a nearby island in the same archipelago, Narapela.  Along the way he finds his mental status slowly degrading making the best segments of the game- the hallucinations- become interesting.  It's not enough though.  Some of them don't make sense, and a few lead me to believe Cliff has an irrational fear of large metal shipping containers and trains, because they are in most of the situations.

The Bad

     The biggest issue the game suffers is actually in the gameplay.  Cliff isn't tough enough to hack his way through the game, implying the necessity of being stealthy.  BUT.  This cannot be considered in any way a stealth game.  Even crouched and sneaking, Cliff can be seen seemingly at random, as I was spotted many times through walls and behind cover.  Then when you sneak into proximity to stealth kill a zombie they have a circle of preternatural ability and sense you anyways.  On top of this, there are segments that FORCE you into open combat with small hordes of zombies, which is very confusing when you spend a majority of the game sneaking around.  It isn't a combat game, and it isn't a stealth game.  So, what the hell is it?

     This becomes outrageously noticeable in the final level with loads of impossibly accurate acid-spitting zombies and a series of the extremely difficult to kill butchers.  The last level almost took as long as the whole first half of the game because I died at least 20 times.  Sometimes in less than two minutes due to being caught on invisible walls which were prevalent enough in the game I had to quit and restart because progress was impeded by an impassable barrier.  Luckily enough for me I noticed what might be a glitch- while running to attempt some health regen, I noticed the butchers leaping off the ledge to their death (you cannot hit, kick, or knock them off in any other way) to solve the problem.  So I just ran in circles until the immortal squad jumped themselves to death, and went to the last segment of the 90%-too-damn-long end level.  (Another thing to note is I found that running away and up a ladder or high spot (any level above the one zombies are on, even if it's inches higher) and they just stand and stare at you unless they are the spitters.  So you can run up and simply headshot them all.)

     The enemies, there are only a handful of total enemy types and a singular boss.  Of the enemies, even the most menial low-grade zombie can kill you with a few hits and are substantially faster than you are.  Which makes fighting a Butcher later super infuriating.  They block everything, deal massive damage, and regenerate health.  Think of fighting a bunch of Wolverines from X-Men.  The only good way to kill them is to stealth kill them.  Even if it means waiting 10 minutes for them to look away.  It's well worth the reduced frustration of nearly instant death.

     Which leads me to level design.  On it's own, the island of Narapela isn't bad.  The fact you have to backtrack through the entire island 30 times is horrendous.  Whoever made the decision to extend the game's play time by making at least a quarter of it consist solely of backtracking through every previous part of the game needs to be fired.  This fact is exacerbated by the numerous geometry issues of getting players getting caught and stopped by invisible walls.  Simply adding a fast travel would've alleviated the extra hour(s) of having to hike to somewhere you were just at because the cut-scene returned you to the other end of Narapela.  Very irritating.  Exploring this paradise is a huge pain and gain no real incentives to search for hidden goodies.  The payoff isn't worth the effort to go even a little out of your way.

     With the back and forth and all the aggravating enemies, I found fairly early on it was much easier to just run through, skirting the edges of an area and ignore all the enemies.  At some point they give up and made the trek slightly less of a hassle.  Unless you attracted a butcher- they would more than likely leap attack and then kill you.

The Good

     There isn't much in this section.  The island's design and general story are decent.  The vivid island is neat.  The game's best features are the warping of Cliff's mind and the visual changes that occur from it through the course of the story.  Honestly, this game could have been a psychological horror game and it would've been 100 times better.
     Then after beating the game, playing off Cliff's fraying sanity and possible survival for a time after the main story is in the Ouroborus loop ending right into playthrough 2.  It adds nice dialogue alterations, hinting (blatantly stating) at the deja vu of this being done before with small changes like Cliff is already in his final battered state sailing towards Banoi.  This curious shift isn't nearly great enough for me to suffer through a second playthrough.  I applaud the subtle changes, but they came far too late to make a difference.

Final Thoughts

     Had they focused on making this an action game it could've been redeemable.  Given Cliff actual health and combat ability.  If they made the focus more on his dwindling sanity and the slowly degrading psyche it could've been amazing.  Hell- I had a glitch that had me sneaking through a room on the ceiling with all the controls backwards.  That was a coincidental enhancement that changed my perspective.  I only realized it was a glitch because I died and had to replay it and the next time was normal.  The juxtaposition of a tropical island being the site of a psychological horror game is a good one, as evidenced by the previous two games, and could be enhanced with the cartoon cel-shaded look would just add to it.
     Another 6 months could've made this game much, much more palatable, and another full year may have made it playable.  As it is, Escape Dead Island wound up giant mess, and the last level alone made me hate it.  This island feels as equally devoid of fun as it was of life.
     I've wasted enough time writing up this half-assed review, and I'm not even going to edit it.  I'll put it out as lazy and incomplete as I felt the game itself was.


  1. This game is also rubbish because of its slow and terrible attacking ability of Cliff's both through guns and melee weapons.I have played both dead island and dead island riptide and I liked it very much. But this game feels me sad as I have thought it to be amazing. Infact I liked the stealth attacking.

  2. You are absolutely correct- had they made his attack speed a little faster it would've remedied a fair amount of gameplay. It like Deep Silver had all the right elements starting then just quit halfway through developement. Maybe they lost funding or something, I don't really know- but Escape has a lot of good in it- but sadly the terrible aspects are so great it overshadows the good.
    If they somehow get funding for a sequel, and they listen to players to remedy the awful aspects of the game- it could be amazing game.