June 9, 2011 at 6:02 PM ET
We knew this the moment the first trailer for “Dead Island” was released — the game was not going to be a light-hearted, undead-fightin’ romp through the lighter side of the apocalypse.
The “Dead Island” teaser trailer, which went viral seemingly in a matter of minutes after it was released in February, revealed in reverse order the heartbreaking tale of a very young zombie in the making. And from the trailer’s haunting music to its cinematic narrative to its bleak tone, it grabbed our attention like no game trailer has in a long time. And yes, it certainly raised our hopes and expectations.
Of course, the question has been — will “Dead Island” the game live up to “Dead Island” the game trailer?
This week at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in L.A., folks from Techland and Deep Silver — the developer and publisher behind “Dead Island” — have been giving attendees some hands-on time with this open-world action/horror/role-playing game coming to the Xbox, PS3 and PC. In particular, they’ve been showing off the multiplayer component.
And while playing this small bit of the game (which launches Sept. 6) does not yet answer that big question about how good “Dead Island” ultimately will be, it does reveal that the game stays pretty darn true to the trailer. No, you won’t find a sad little zombie girl chasing you down. But what you will find is that “Dead Island” is going to be gritty and grim in tone … just like the trailer. And personally, I think that’s a good thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy me some zombie-killin’ fun dripping in dark humor. But I also entertain the occasional fantasy about what it might really be like if the zombie apocalypse struck. And I’m thinking … “Dead Island” is nailing it pretty close.
During a hands-on demonstration Thursday, myself and three other players found ourselves dropped into a once-beautiful resort city — a city now rotted and chaotic from an infection run rampant — on an island off Papua New Guinea. The devastation you see on screen is epic in scale. Buildings gutted, cars burning, the place is a mess of terrified survivors and hungry infected.
You can play the game single player all the way through, or you can play with up to four people. And friends can jump in and out as they please with the intensity of the combat scaling up and down depending on how many players are present.
This emphasis on four-player co-op as well as “Dead Island’s” open-world and role-playing elements makes this game feel like something of a cross between “Left 4 Dead” and “Borderlands.” And as with the game “Dead Rising,” the combat in "Dead Island" is very melee focused.
That means guns and ammo are hard to come by and you instead must rely on finding all manner of objects to swing and throw at the zombies — baseball bats, wrenches, kitchen knives, etc. You’ll even have to use your hands and your feet to keep the beasts at bay. I was told that there are hundreds of different objects to be found around this world — yes, even some guns. And to keep things interesting, players will be able to modify the objects they find in the “work bench” areas to make them more powerful.
Personally, I like the in-your-face melee focus — especially for a game that seems to be trying to simulate something akin to reality. If the zombie apocalypse really does happen, you can bet most of us will be sharpening kitchen spoons and tricking out hockey sticks to fend off the undead.
Meanwhile, as we made our way through the wrecked streets and buildings found in the demo level at E3, we ran across a variety of zombies — the more run-of-the-mill Walker zombies, the giant-sized Ram zombies, the explosive Suicide zombies. And there are others — the agile Butcher zombie and the Floater zombie (found in the sewers) among them. And yes, these zombies are the stuff nightmares are made of.
As with “Left 4 Dead,” staying with your three fellow human partners is important if you want to survive. And each of the four characters has unique skills as well as access to a Fury power which makes you stronger for a short period of time.
“Dead Island” includes a variety of role-playing elements — there is an experience system and a skill tree to work your way through, but the demo didn’t reveal those details. And since this is an open-world, sandlot-style game, you’ll be able to take on various side-missions as you choose.
Almost nothing in the way of story was revealed in the demo I was shown, though Techland has released an additional trailer for this week’s E3 event that reveals a bit more of what’s going on (see above).
From my experiences during the demo, “Dead Island” is certainly a game I’d like to pay a visit to when it arrives in September. I’ll be bracing myself for the nightmares until then.
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