12th Jan 2008 | 10:00
Nope, Dead Island isn't the latest ITV reality show for necrophiliacs - this is a new survival horror from the makers of half-decent cowboy shooter Call of Juarez.
Kind of a bloodthirsty Far Cry-meets-Lost-meets-Resident Evil, Dead Island is set on a tropical paradise that inexplicably becomes a holiday haven for a different kind of evil tourist that likes to eat brains (and put their towels by the pool at sunrise - probably).
After a plane bringing you and your wife to the island crashes, you wake up on a beach, alone, with only a huge array of weaponry for company, as you begin your desperate and frightening search for your beloved.
Dead Island is a free-roaming game, so it's up to you how you proceed and where you go, whether it's straight into the nearby hotel complex to check in and headshot a half-naked zombie sunbather or trek into the tropical forest for a nice bit of sightseeing and undead immolation.
"There'll be a lot of different environment settings, interiors and outdoors with challenging landscapes," says product manager Marcin Pióro. "We've designed a huge, realistic-looking tropical island with roads, infrastructure, marinas, pool bars and a dynamically changing ecosystem that reacts to the spreading of a zombie epidemic. You have the option to backtrack to previous locations to complete tasks that you didn't complete, or plough on ahead."
Dead Island will feature a whole army of undead nasties, from the lurching, moaning classic species from George Romero's movies, to the fast-moving monstrosities like those in the 2004 remake of Romero's Dawn of the Dead, all controlled by a planned AI system (or rather an 'Advanced Artificial Life System' as developer Techland would have it) that will create spontaneous individual and group behaviour.
"The zombie's main aim is to find food - well, flesh - human flesh at best. They've got some memories of their previous human life, which is why you can find them around the places where they used to hang around, like hotels," continues Pióro.
"You can also take advantage of the zombies' primal instincts to take out tougher non-zombie enemies. For example, you can act like bait and gather a few slow zombies to follow you and let them do their thing with an opponent you can't handle by yourself."
This ability to use the environment and AI to your advantage has been used most recently in STALKER and BioShock, and again, your choice of allies in Dead Island will ultimately affect the storyline and finale.
"Yes, there are role-playing elements, with dialogue choices, interactions with NPCs and side quests. The non-linear gameplay means you'll have a lot of choices to make, different tasks to accept, some of which will help or harm you, and every completed quest will have an effect on the game world."
However, for me the most exciting aspect of Dead Island is the amount of gore and blood-splattering that'll be present, with a detailed damage model for violent zombie kills of the Soldier of Fortune variety. So when you smash a baseball bat into a zombie's chest, you'll see its rib cage cave in from the blow.
Techland are describing Dead Island as a 'first-person melee' game rather than an FPS because you can pick up and use objects to kill the undead around you - not unlike Capcom's excellent Dead Rising zombie-in-the-mall game on the Xbox 360.
"We assume that you will fight with everything you find and what you can handle to carry," says Pióro excitedly. "For example when you are in the jungle you can find a branch or rock, in the hotel kitchen you can pick up a frying pan or a meat cleaver.
"Although we're focused on melee fighting rather than shooting, there will of course be guns on the island, but the combat system also gives you the chance to take advantage over the opponents by using the environment. Places like pools filled with water, electric fences, gas supplies and so on provide great opportunities to deploy traps - and you can also combine those elements."
So what about multiplayer? Well, with Valve and Turtle Rock's amazing-looking Left 4 Dead being released early in 2008, plans are in place for co-op play mode (although not in the single-player storyline unfortunately) and some other surprises, as Techland
"don't want to make another standard multiplayer shooter."
Dead Island is a fantastic premise for a game, although it's too early to tell whether the developers have bitten off more flesh than they can chew with the ambitious free-roaming levels, emergent gameplay, interactive environments and gore physics that accurately simulate injuries from different sources.
One thing they're sure of though, is how scary the game will be: "There will be things far more hideous than zombie women in bikinis."