Bonus points for a headshot on a zombie with a man purse! (Not really.)
On a technical level it’s easy to see that Deep Silver paid a lot of attention to co-op. Story progress, experience, dropping-in and out all behave as you’d expect. Dead Island has been tailored for the discerning co-op gamer. You can check out our full FAQ on Dead Island's co-op, but rest assured, there’s very few negative aspects in terms of co-op play.
I should note that Dead Island isn’t truly an "open world" game. There are very large maps that are separated by fast travel locations. Players aren’t tethered together in the larger zones, but they have to be together when entering certain mission locations. You can be on opposite sides of huge maps, which is cool, but ill-advised. The game scales up the enemy count when more players join in.
Money is shared. If I pick up $12 bucks, everyone gets $12 bucks. XP scales to your level, but it’s shared on a scale. If I kill a zombie, you’ll get some XP if you assisted in some way. Anything you place in your inventory will go back to your game when the session is over.
Contrary to what the game tells you on a load screen, any player can join any game. If you’re level 1 and want to jump into a level 30 character’s game, you can. You won’t earn any story progress or mission rewards. You will get a ridiculous amount of XP if you can take down a zombie. If you are a level 30 character and want to hop into your friend’s new game, you can. You’ll get 1 XP from killing zombies, but you will get rewards for completing missions, even though you already completed them! The best thing is that the rewards scale.
When I joined Nick’s level 15 character with my level 25, we completed a story mission from his game. We both got the 1500 XP bonus, even though I had already completed the mission. He got a level 15 weapon, and I got a level 25 weapon. Exploit-licious!
Rock, paper, scissors meets truck, gun, bat. Bat usually loses.
The game lobby and party system are incredibly smooth. If you’re playing solo you’ll be notified whenever an available game with similar story progress is open. Simply press left on the d-pad and you will hop into the host’s game. Since you both have the same story progress, everything that happens will occur in your game as well. Other people can enter your game at any time. If you don’t want any help you can set everything to private. When the host leaves the game you can continue on your own. The game even lets you create a new copy of your character at a matching level of a friend’s game and then you can save that in a separate slot. Like I said, there’s a lot of attention to technical detail.
All isn’t quite perfect though. There are some visual miscues like slow texture loads and some weird shadows, and the inventory can get a little wonky in shops. I’m willing to make exceptions when a game of this scope supports four player co-op so well. There are even multiple Achievements/Trophies rewarding various co-op milestones.
Dead Island is the closest thing to date to an open world co-op action RPG. As an added bonus, it has zombies. There’s plenty of content here as well with lots of side quests to keep you occupied. You should have no problem putting 30 hours into the game before seeing the end with one character. Not to mention all the return vacations you’ll be making to Banoi with friends. Dead Island breathes new life into the zombie genre.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
The Co-Op Experience: Team up online with four players to survive a zombie infested island. †Players can trade items and weapons, drive each other around, revive fallen teammates, and kick the crap out of zombies.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.