Dead Island: Worthy of the hype?
30th Jul 2011 | 18:30
If you've watched that trailer - which starts with a dead child lying on some grass, then slowly rewinds, soundtracked all the while by the haunting strains of violin and discordant piano, cataloguing over how the young girl came to be 'infected', then took a slice out of her father's neck, then came tumbling from a seventh story window - and many of you have, and read about Wired magazine going on record to say the video is the best game trailer they've ever seen...
Well, you might have suspected there was a little more emotional resonance to Deep Silver's zombie opus Dead Island than in, say, the two Left 4 Dead titles or in Dead Rising.
Yet what you might not be expecting is just how different the game is to the aforementioned releases - or any other zombie game that's gone before. It's first person, yes. But it's not a shooter - in fact there are barely any guns in the whole thing.
And yes, it's got zombies in it - but more often than not they merely look like a marginally bedraggled take on the humans you'll be interacting with, so you won't be slicing their head with a cleaver, then running away giggling (and if you do, you really should seek out medical attention immediately).
No, Dead Island is a very adult sort of zombie game - an RPG - with skill tree systems, experience points and the like - set on a luxury Papa New Guinea resort gone wrong, and sort of best described as Fallout 3 with a glass of martini in its hand and a bloody canoe paddle in the other.
Oh, and there's not actually any children in it, the developers saying their absence adds an element of reality to the game, showing that they "just didn't make it".
I WILL SURVIVE
We've played two lengthy segments of the game now. The first saw us running around the resort trying to find a hotel security card, accepting a host of "come and save me from having my brains eaten" side quests along the way.
The other took us to the fringes of the island resort and charged us with driving a rickety RUV along a maze of dusty backroads, in a segment that's best described as Far Cry gone survival horror. The vehicle is hard to drive. We crashed it five times.
Then it broke down. Within seconds we were set upon by zombies. All of which would be fine if we had a gun, but since we didn't, we had to rely on a rusty butterknife to fend them off. This sort of melee combat is incredibly important to Dead Island, which, if you've ever watched a George A Romero film, is much how these things are always have supposed to have been (see also: early Resident Evil games).
ISLE BE BACK
Speaking of survival horror, we can report that the game is scary. Sure, a lot of it takes place in daylight, under aburning sun, but if you've ever read Max Brooks' astonishing World War Z novel, you'll be aware that zombie apocalypses (especially the most interesting ones) don't just occur during off season.
Dead Island's holiday resort is often a tranquil place, even when things have gone to s**t. But there's always something creeping around in a toilet cubicle, or in a beach hut, that will summon the horde if you disturb it (and slyly, the maps are designed so that you will have to disturb it more often than not). Rest assured, there will be blood.
Dead Island is due in under two months, and by the looks of what we've seen, it's almost ready to ship. It's also looking beautiful, innovative and deeply immersive - and like it might really be worthy of that video's hype. Is Dead Island the thinking man's zombie game? Heck, it might just be the definitive zombie game...