Escape Dead Island review: the survival horror genre just became a genuine horror to survive

Xbox 360, PS3, PC; Fatshark/Deep Silver; £39.99

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The Independent Tech

I didn’t think I was going to like Escape Dead Island. I didn’t think I was going to like Escape Dead Island because I don’t like survival horror games – because I’m a massive wuss. Luckily, Escape Dead Island is pretty far from a survival horror game. Unluckily, it’s a terrible, terrible game.

There’s a simple reason why Escape Dead Island is not a survival horror game: it’s not scary, not remotely. I was so ready to be terrified, to have to turn all the lights on and blast Taylor Swift until I was sure it was over, but instead all I got were odd cartoon-ish graphics, repetitive zombie murder and a confusing soundscape – whether a zombie is behind you or 50 metres away the same slimy sound effect is played at the same volume.

There is one other reason the survival horror tag doesn’t fit, it’s not really about survival – not in the way that Alone in the Dark is about survival, is about conserving bullets and battery, Escape Dead Island is about survival in the same way that Titanfall is. It doesn’t really matter. You’re just gonna respawn, potentially with some extra bullets right next to you. It’s far simpler and more effective to just run into zombies rather than sneak past them.

The game tells the story of Cliff Calo and his two friends who’ve come to an island to try and discover whether the zombie rumours are true. They are ridiculously one-dimensional characters. Some stuff happens and now they’re trying to escape this zombie island, hence the name.

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They might have been giong for 'cel-shaded' but they ended up just 'cartoonish'

Here’s the thing, the narrative isn’t interesting enough that I want to keep playing more. Sure, Titanfall has next to no narrative and I keep wanting to play more, but when you’re supposed to sit through the same graphics and button bashing for every zombie kill, you need a reason to want to keep the game going. Escape Dead Island doesn’t give you that – it gives you a clichéd and dull story that seems unaware of its unoriginality. Maybe you could argue it uses horror genre tropes but, as we’ve discussed, it’s not a horror game. That’s not to say using tropes and clichés are necessarily a bad thing, if they’re done knowingly and cleverly they can centre a story.

In the end, Escape Dead Island has the air of a game that thinks it’s much better than it is, much funnier than it is and generally more interesting than it is. It’s the guy at school who thought he was cool but really just copied what the cool kids did without really getting it, and that’s decidedly un-cool.

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