Escape Dead Island review: in shambles

Game Info
Box Art N/A
Platform 360, PS3, Win
Publisher Deep Silver
Developer Fatshark
Release Date Nov 18, 2014

Escape Dead Island is a difficult game to explain. It's part of the same universe as zombie-infested open-world adventures Dead Island, expansion Riptide and the forthcoming Dead Island 2, but it's presented with a different perspective (third-person, not first) and with few of its predecessors' trademark facets, like loads of loot, handmade weapons and constant stat improvements.

Escape Dead Island is also difficult to explain in that I'm not certain the written word has the capability of communicating what a ghoulish, infuriating, dull, taxing, miserable amount of excrement Deep Silver has managed to squeeze onto a single unsuspecting disc.

This is, and I'm fairly certain I'm not exaggerating, the worst game I've ever finished.

So if Escape Dead Island isn't a Dead Island game in the sense that we have come to think of that franchise, then what IS it?

Well, superficially, it's the story of Cliff Calo, a guy born of privilege determined to sort out rumors of a zombie-infested island and also prove something to his media mogul father. If Cliff's quest to grow up and shake his dad's influence didn't collapse into a jumbled mess under the weight of some flashy but meaningless hallucinations and non sequiturs, it might have been Escape Dead Island's single redeeming feature. Alas, this is not the case.

escape dead island

It's usually impossible to see which way a zombie is looking until you're too close to do anything about it

That's what Escape Dead Island is about, but this oddball offshoot can best be defined by what it is not.

Escape Dead Island Isn't A Stealth Game: Cliff is very vulnerable, but his "stealth" options boil down to sneaking up behind zombies and stabbing them in the head with a screwdriver (with the same animation every time, thankyouverymuch) or avoiding them. As it's usually impossible to see which way a zombie is looking until you're too close to do anything about it, the "stealth" boils down to whether a zombie is looking at you or not. Sometimes you can methodically go from zombie to zombie stabbing heads; sometimes that approach is suicide. It's a shot in the dark.

escape dead island

You're also forced into a lot of situations where you have to kill everything in sight, clumsily communicated by, I kid you not, mysterious pillars that emerge from the ground to block the exit.

On a couple of occasions, I stealthed my way into a corner there was no way out of other than fighting an overwhelming horde. Once, I found myself in this position right after a checkpoint, so I couldn't take a different approach to the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ending I had painted myself into.

My solution? Glad you asked! I attempted the scenario two dozen times until the most dangerous enemy got stuck in an animation glitch.

There's also an unconscionable amount of backtracking that's not only Dullsville, USA, but also makes the establishing of any sort of stealthy tension impossible. I snuck through the massive airfield the first time; by my fourth journey, I'd resigned myself to just sprinting and hoping for the best.

Escape Dead Island Isn't A Survival Horror Game: "So, you're running away a lot, maybe it's survival horror?" Well, that's very optimistic of you, but no, it's not really that either. There are frequent checkpoints and Cliff's health refills automatically, so there's no resource management, no sense of desperation or urgency.

There are, it's worth noting, medkits to collect, but these simply add a point to your "Max Health," a stat that's difficult to get excited about or even keep track of seeing as the game never relays it to you.

Escape Dead Island also provides you with two fairly ineffective guns you can collect in the game, a pistol and shotgun, but ammo isn't exactly scarce. In fact, if you die more than once at a checkpoint, an unseen force will just leave a few rounds on the ground when you spawn. It's as though the game is saying, "Yeah, sorry, this part isn't balanced at all. Would these bullets help? I have no idea, I've never played this far."

Also not particularly scary: Zombies will neither crawl after you nor follow you down even the smallest of ledges. "Nope, sorry boys, he's gone down a ladder," one zombie shambling a few feet above my head seems to say to his similarly shambling buddy. "We'll never catch him now."

Escape Dead Island is such an atrocious game that its zombies can't even gravity

escape dead island

The game provides you with a "shove" move, so I experimented on an elevated helipad with pushing the zombies off a ledge, as I knew the undead to be particularly fearful of them. No dice — the zombies did their "I got shoved" animation, but would not be moved off the cliff. Yes, that's right, Escape Dead Island is such an atrocious game that its zombies can't even gravity. Fighting zombies is never ever fun

It Isn't An Action Game: With those two options removed, you may assume Escape Dead Island to be an action game, but that's not quite right either. Fighting zombies is never ever fun.


Combat animation is sluggish, the camera is unhelpful and even the weakest zombies can kill you with a few hits. But the grimmest examples of Escape Dead Island's failings as an action game come in the final couple of hours, when you're forced into a closed arena with multiple zombies that simultaneously burn you with acid from 100 yards away with perfect accuracy while their compatriots slice your guts open.

After 40 (yes, for-ty) attempts at one of these sections, I stumbled upon the strategy that allowed me to eke through: I ran in circles endlessly around the edge of the platform I was on until the zombies accidentally leapt to their deaths. (Those guys must not have gotten the "Ledges = Death" memo.)

Wrap Up:

Escape Dead Island is a Must-Skip, not a Must-Play

It's Not Worth Playing for Any Reason Whatsoever: I could bloviate endlessly about the failings of Escape Dead Island. It looks god-awful, even for a last-generation game, with a "graphic novel" style that really boils down to "we didn't put textures on anything." It hard-crashed three times, once in the main menu when I was simply perusing collectibles I had found. It lacks any fast travel, which is hard to read as anything other than a crude attempt at padding out an experience that would be maybe six hours without all the backtracking.

Like I said, I could go on, but I'm gonna stop there. Frankly, Escape Dead Island doesn't deserve another second of my time, and I hope to all that is holy it doesn't get a single second of yours.

Escape Dead Island was reviewed using a retail copy for PlayStation 3 provided by Deep Silver. You can find additional information about Polygon's ethics policy here.

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