Dead Island Mac Review
Developed by Deep Silver and released for consoles and Windows PC in September 2011, the game took its time to come to MacOS. Virtual Programming took care of the Mac port but unfortunately, just like Metro: Last Light and Max Payne 3 last year, it got a very unceremonious release: no marketing, no hype and like Max Payne 3 (or Max "Pain" 3, depending on your own experience), lots of bugs!
Bugs and bad marketing aside, how does Dead Island for Mac stack up? Is it something you want to experience? Read on to find out.
Enter Dead Island
The first thing to point out is Dead Island's most unique feature: The setting. The game takes place on a paradise-island gone mad. Tourists from all over the world were visiting Banoi Isle, a vacation resort off the coast of Papua, New Guinea until the Kuru disease broke out and infected everyone. Not the vacations anyone would sign up for!
Clearly, Dead Island's atmosphere is filled with irony and despair. The feeling that everything went completely crazy is palpable everywhere. It’s difficult to describe the feeling I get when roaming the resort. Some areas can actually feel peaceful after killing all the surrounding zombies. There are times you could almost forget the whole thing is filled with zombies when looking at the sunset across a beautiful beach. Luckily, your bloodstained weapon, corpses and blood everywhere continually remind you the reality of the island.
Playing Dead Island reminds me of one of my favorite macOS games, Borderlands 2. Both try to implement an RPG system (giving you points and skills to spend) and gives you lots of loot and weapons to keep you busy. Mechanics can be similar but let's get something out of the way: Borderland 2's gameplay is superior. But that's not to say Dead Island doesn't have something to offer.
First of all, Dead Island is completely focused on melee combat. So much, it's hard to call is a First-Person Shooter. At least the game feels different from the shooters we're so used to.
Speaking of weapons, you will never run out of weapons in Dead Island but finding good ones and keeping them from breaking (the durability system is very demanding) is a whole different thing. As mentioned before, you’ll find blunt and bladed weapons easily but firearms are much rarer but this is fine since it's usually easier (and more fun) to cut off a zombie’s head in half than making a headshot.
As you can expect from zombie horror survival game, there’s a lot of blood and gore here.
The zombies are creepy and abrupt. Some may be really slow while others will run at you. Others just lie there and jump at you when you least expect it. It’s better to attack every corpse you passed by whether you think it’s dead or alive because they can make for some pretty good jump scares if you’re not careful.
While the game gets the atmosphere and setting right, it does have some flaws. The biggest ones are the non-infected NPCs. For the most part, they're just generic quest-givers with no personality and recycled appearances. I didn’t feel they were worth protecting and most of their quests were just ridiculous considering the situation.
Also, the gameplay is not the smoothest neither. The melee combat can feel repetitive after a while and overall, the combat doesn't feel as solid as BioShock Infinite's or Borderlands 2's.
I found that playing Dead Island with others was the best way to go. Deep Silver clearly made a game that was meant to be played with a friend. The game is Steam-Play enabled so you can play it cross-platform with other Mac or Windows players. The game lobby is pretty well done too, allowing you to easily join another random player or a friend.
Lots of games should take a page from Dead Island’s book. Cooperative multiplayer makes the game so much more fun. I can even imagine people buying an extra copy to give to a friend.
Overall, Dead Island looks great. If the game's atmosphere and setting are so good, it's because the island is full of details, going from the blood and bodies to the way the trees move with the wind. Every square foot of the island has something to remind you there was life before the outbreak (such as drinks next to the long chairs around the pool). When you combine that with the blood and bodies, you get that palpable atmosphere of paradise gone wrong.
Dead Island is much more colorful than other post-apocalyptic games, though it’s clear that this game has its dark side. You spend most of your time under the sun on the beachside or around pool houses and hotels. Despite how bright it usually is outside, at times you’ll have to turn on your flashlight and roam through rooms in complete darkness.
Dead Island Performance
I'm lucky to run one of the higher-end iMacs with a 2GB Nvidia graphics card but I still needed to bring the graphics down a little to increase performance. This was strange since I’ve played newer (and better looking) games on the highest settings before without much stuttering. Regardless of what machine you’re running, I advise you to select ‘Highest Performance’ over ‘Best Appearance’ to get the most out of the experience.
From time to time I did encounter random bugs like zombies that could hit me through a door or that would get stuck behind an invisible wall. But in my experience, they were so rare they never took me away from my overall enjoyment of Dead Island.
That said, other gamers continue to report more critical issues. YouTuber Al Valentyn actually had the game suddenly freeze on shut down while recording his gameplay video.
This isn't the only complaint I've seen on the internet so it's safe to say that Dead Island isn't one of the best ports we've ever seen. But this should be taken with a grain a salt because I actually played this game with someone using the Windows version and they experienced the same bugs...
My 27-inch iMac specs:
- OS: OS X 10.9.2 Mavericks
- Processor: Intel i5 3.4 GHz
- Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForceGTX 775m 2GB
- RAM: 8 GB
Minimum System Requirements:
- OS: OS X 10.8 or newer
- Processor: Intel i5 2.7 GHz
- Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce GT 640 512MB
- RAM: 8 GB
- Great Cooperative Gameplay
- Rewarding weapon crafting system
- Gorgeous Island resort
- All NPCs feel generic and lifeless
- Zombies are glitchy at times
- Some weapons break too easily
- Perhaps too much gore for some
Despite the game being a little choppy on higher settings, Dead Island was very impressive graphically, even by today’s standard. The weapon crafting kept me opening every door and exploring every part of this vacation resort. I really enjoyed this game and hope to see its sequel, Dead Island: Riptide make it to the Mac as well. Only this time, I hope we won’t have to wait another three years.