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Dead Island: The untold story of its shocking trailer

How Dead Island hit the headlines and the secrets of its harrowing tale...

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"I've much less of an issue if the trailer's quite obviously a supporting piece of artwork, describing aspects of the game without pretending that it's you playing," says trailer director and Axis cofounder Stuart Aitken.

"I thought where DS wanted to go with the trailer was fantastic, and I think one of the reasons for that is because it's a self-contained thing in its own right. I'm much happier with that than the opposite. But there's a fine line: CGs are generally going to look better no matter how great a game engine is."

And in fairness, the game does look good. It's an open-world, first-person adventure set on a tropical island. Even better, it boasts four-player co-op, (think Left4Dead with palm trees) and weaponry you can gussy up at workbenches.

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You play one of four characters - Sam B the hip-hop star, Purna the bodyguard, Logan the surfer, or Xian Mei the hot hotel worker - charged with completing missions to survive, and maybe finding out what caused the undead outbreak.

The tasks we've seen are basic, though - like fighting to a set location to protect a survivor. Each has their own special skills, like Sam B's fetish for hardcore melee weapons.

But those weapons are scarce, so if you want to slay the undead you'll need to get creative. Attach charges to a machete for electrified decapitation, or build sticky bombs. It's a tribute to the best zombie games and films, shipped to a super sunny location and turned up to 11.

FAIR GAME
Teaser vs trailer, CG vs real-time, cinema vs game. These distinctions are important, and while there's no controversy in making a stunning piece of game-related art - "it's not about whether it's a frickin' game," says Troy, "promote it as a piece of entertainment that people are going to be a part of" - it does leave viewers scratching their heads.

Comments for the teaser on YouTube cough up platitudes such as 'Day 1!', even though the trailer gives no meaningful impression of gameplay. We point out that Axis wasn't even allowed to associate itself with the trailer until shortly after release, and ask if there's an element of lying by omission there.

A deliberate attempt to confuse Techland's and Axis' talent and ideas? No, believes Troy. "It's quite typical for agencies to be embargoed for an indefinite period of time simply because the publisher or developer doesn't want you competing against the buzz and what the trailer's all about."

"There are eyeballs on it and they're getting attention. That's the goal at this point. They achieved it in spades," states Ant Farm director Lisa Riznikove.

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"Especially at a time when it's really hard to break out. Whether it works as a marketing campaign remains to be seen; it could become another Snakes On A Plane [big hype, not-so-big box office].

To be honest, to sell lots of games you gotta have two things: good marketing and a good game." First one ticked, then. Now it's down to you, Techland.

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