(CBS) - What happens when you take Far Cry 2 and throw experience points and infected cannibalistic maniacs into the mix? You get Techland's new open-world zombie role-playing game, Dead Island (out today).
The concept of an open-world zombie RPG is a fascinating one. The character depth, customization and interactive plots that have come to define the modern RPG would lend themselves well to an emotionally explorative and harrowing zombie apocalypse. No doubt this game will inspire an entire genre of video games to follow. Unfortunately, Dead Island never delivers on this potential.
The game tries to take itself seriously, but never explores the psychological trauma of waking up to find your favorite tropical island resort overrun by zombies. Characters feel hollow and the plot is uninspired and never successfully strikes emotional chords.
These shortcomings alone aren't what bring Dead Island to the land of mediocrity. After all, the star attraction here is the exciting and visceral zombie killing, right? No.
None of the zombies in Dead Island are particularly intimidating. Most are content to sit and munch on their manwiches without paying you much notice. Those that do take an interest in you are so slow that they can be easily out-run or just kicked to the ground. Sticking to classic horror canon, zombies also can't climb obstacles or open doors.
While surviving in the zombie apocalypse, never forget rule number one: cardio. You'll spend plenty of time managing your stamina meter that drains whenever you run, jump or swing your weapon. Engaging more than one foe at a time will drain this meter rapidly, often leaving a speedy retreat as your best option.
Should you find yourself out of stamina, your weapon degraded to the point of uselessness and an empty rage meter - don't worry - you still have one more trick up your sleeve. Enter, the "zombie kick." It's like the Spartan kick, but you kick zombies.
Not only does your "zombie kick" pack more stopping power than punching, it also doesn't require any of your precious stamina. This presents the player with one absolutely repetitive strategy: kick, kick, bash in skull, retreat and repeat. This unimaginative game play is ultimately what makes Dead Island a complete bore to play.
Techland relies heavily on gamers' inherent love of zombies, but even an island full of them isn't enough to make this game anything more than frustrating. Even with its open-world environment, the experience here never matches the excitement and cooperative fun in Left 4 Dead.
"Dead Island" is available now for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. It is rated M for Mature by the ESRB.