Dead Island Hands-On Preview - To Kill a Zombie

We crack a few (undead) skulls during our hands-on session with Dead Island.

by

Dead Island, the upcoming zombie-themed action game, is the latest example of how the zombie apocalypse is already upon us. Day by day, more books, movies, television shows, and video games are joining the ranks of the undead, and their numbers only continue to grow. But this new game from developer Techland (creator of Call of Juarez) will try to evoke some of the tragedy and emotion you might expect from a getaway-vacation-turned-zombie-nightmare. We recently got a brief, hands-on demonstration of the game to see how the zombie slaying stacks up.

Developer Techland is really going the extra mile with the disgusting sound effects.

Dead Island takes place on a tropical paradise that has turned into a living nightmare after the local populace starts chowing down on one another. We started a few hours into the game, standing outside of a lighthouse. Vincent Kummer, brand manager at publisher Deep Silver and our copilot throughout the demo, informed us that we were in control of Xian Mei, one of the resort's (former) employees. Apparently, her job must have involved a lot of cutlery because Mei's weapon of choice was anything with a blade. Described as an assassin type of character, our character was one of four playable characters in Dead Island, along with a tank, leader, and jack-of-all-trades.

The lighthouse itself served as a makeshift refuge from some of the island's locals. It was a somber scene, and it set the tone for the rest of the demo. All around us, people could barely contain their desperation. Some lashed out with anger; others pleaded for help. One woman wept silently in a corner. When we talked to the leader of this group and were assigned to go retrieve some signal flares from the beach, we were relieved to get out of that den. The path leading away from the lighthouse was lined with bodies; some heavily burned, others torn to pieces. Under the circumstances, this wasn't too surprising. Then one of them moved. The low, all-too-familiar moan that followed left no room for error; this was a zombie that had spotted its next meal.

At least, that's what it thought right up until we used our machete to hack its head clean off its shoulders. Combat was all about maintaining our stamina. Attacking, running, jumping, and other such activities would all cut into our stamina bar, which would refill quickly provided we didn't do much more than walk a few steps. Without stamina, we couldn't defend ourselves. This made battles against large numbers of enemies especially challenging because our initial urge was to lash out wildly at everything in sight. As we became more accustomed to the fighting, we learned--in perhaps the same way a real survivor would in this scenario--to stop and think. Taking that extra moment to line up a killing blow to the head and not waste energy made all the difference in these encounters.

Some zombies have special abilities outside of running at you and will require different tactics to take down.

Throwing a (sharp) weapon was another great way to conserve stamina. Sending a knife or a machete through a zombie's head at a distance was just as effective as in melee, and we could retrieve it from the corpse afterward. However, even with these skills, we ended up getting surrounded once we made it to the beach. With zombies bearing down on us from all sides, Kummer decided to let us in on one of Mei's special abilities. Simply dubbed "fury," this ability sent our character into an adrenaline-fueled rage, allowing her to hit harder, faster, and with less of an impact to her stamina. We could also now see the zombies as red outlines, so none were able to escape our wrath. Though effective, this ability took a long time to recharge, so we couldn't rely on it too heavily.

The enemies you'll be facing run the full spectrum of undead horrors. You want the George Romero-style slow, lumbering zombies? The superspeedy 28 Days Later zombies? Or the monstrous and unique boss zombies of Left 4 Dead? Dead Island has room in its rotting heart for all three. We had already encountered the first two types during our time on the beach, but when we skipped ahead to the city area, we got our first look at the third. Surrounded on all sides by ruined, smoldering shops and office buildings, we could hear a heavy ringing noise issuing from nearby. According to Kummer, the church's bell tower had started ringing uncontrollably; its loud gong, gong acting as a dinner bell for the local undead population. Our mission was to help out the people barricaded within by figuring out a way to shut off the noise.

There was only one problem: the ram zombie. This hulking brute, which took the form of a monstrous titan wearing a Hannibal Lecter-esque straightjacket and face mask, was working hard to put its body through the main door to the church. The coat's thick padding and the beast's natural resistance made a frontal attack impossible. However, it was plenty squishy on its backside, provided we could dodge around its charging form without getting trampled. This proved to be easier said than done because numerous lesser zombies would run up and grab hold of Mei, leaving us helpless to avoid the charging zombie.

Finding a working gun in Dead Island will be hard; finding ammo will be even harder.

Our demonstration ended soon after we felled the beast and entered the church. Inside, we learned that someone had barricaded himself inside the bell control room before turning into one of the walking dead. We happily put him out of his misery. Fortunately, when the game is released, you won't have to face the horrors alone because it will support up to four players in online cooperative play (sorry, no local co-op here). And while the developers are still tweaking exactly how co-op will work, this mode will let you carry over some of the loot and experience you earn in co-op play to the single-player game. Dead Island will be available on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC later this year.

Discussion

289 comments
Zerathine
Zerathine

Sounds good. Somewhat innovative, which is what games need these days

Dominic_18
Dominic_18

so far so good but i dont think anyone can judge it from a video only , i guess we have to wait until we play it and find out if its gonna be cool like dead rising

Armored_
Armored_

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

The-Longshot
The-Longshot

"Finding a working gun in Dead Island will be hard; finding ammo will be even harder"-GS Survival Horror anyone?! I'm in!! =-)

anshanlord
anshanlord

i disagree kazumashadow..... Stamina limitations will make this game more interesting and challenging...I hate games like assassin's creed where u can put down the controller for whole 2 minutes during a fight and still live...this will give this game an edge....

kazumashadow
kazumashadow

The game looks great but in my opinion the stamina limitations and the lack of local co-op are drawbacks.

Gunathar
Gunathar

The cinematic trailer was awesome, but can the game deliver the hype? I fear repetetive zombie bashing may sink the replay value. Also, no local co-op is a shame. Will have to wait for a playable demo before deciding if I finally pick this one up...

rinker03
rinker03

"(sorry, no local co-op here)" Hmmm I have been wondering what is up w/the trend of local co-op. Seems like a step backwards. Who doesn't have a router or hub these days for LAN...

madg23
madg23

@Sydrum ; i totally agree with you on the offline co-op part, how hard would it be to add split screen. i'm gonna buy this game anyway but having split screen would make it that much better.

karateyoyo
karateyoyo

Just a copy of L4D and Dead Rising. Looks like Louis and Coach are gonna gang up and take that gang banger down while Francis rapes Mei or "Whatchyamacall'er." Sorry Techland, but I'm sticking with Ellis here.

Sydrum
Sydrum

No local co-op? Bah. When will they learn? I wish every game out there with co-op compatibilities adapted the Borderlands approach. Free, drop-in & drop-out system, local or online co-op. Why make things harder for the players?

lambofgod008
lambofgod008

Looks awesome. I actually enjoy most first person action games anyway. Looks more "single player" than left 4 dead, which I will welcome.

mer1in79
mer1in79

@smiffy555 ( @mer1in79 Left 4 Dead sucks.) Then i guess you won't like this then i guess you couldn't you play as a team?

Crypto6969
Crypto6969

Sounds like Dead Rising but on a resort. Regardless I will play it.

thereal-15-cent
thereal-15-cent

@counterintellig:This is an RPG/fps, there's more to it than a short campaign. If you're going to rant against unoriginality, go after all those military FPS games. (CoD, Battlefield, Medal of Honor, Homefront) This is going to be way better than L4D.

MitchSayles
MitchSayles

man, they did an outstanding job on the preview that they released. Looks like a must buy for any zombie fans!

ISZIO
ISZIO

this game is awesome but the whole stamina thing..... didn't like

SatampraZeiros
SatampraZeiros

hmmm when I first read about this in 2006 or 2007 I forget which, I thought it would be a Resident Evil like game ( the first Two anyway) now it looks more and more like a mash up of Dead Rising and Left For Dead, I like both games but I feel a bit nostalgic for the old puzzle/shooter games..

wogboypaul
wogboypaul

this will be a revolution to zombie fps and to think it may have some rpg elements is just crazy

TheDarkCrucible
TheDarkCrucible

what is it with game developers and not having local multiplayer now days -.- UGH oh well...

lilflex1
lilflex1

hopefully they release a demo

Doglipstik
Doglipstik

@Cloud-Zehro. Your right about the day and night thing ive been playing alot of dead rising 2, riding around on a tricycle and wearing a dress is cemented into my brain. If the zombie bone structure holds up and the graphics look as good as they are in these screenshots, then im checking it out for sure.

angrySanches
angrySanches

hmm, isn't unusual sunshine zombi horror? I still miss old Resident Evil games. But will keep eye on this one. Who knows ...

YourMonk
YourMonk

This will be fricken awesome!!!!

maester334
maester334

@LpcWarrior and trolled through old comments jus to say that :D now were even e.e

Illuve
Illuve

@counterintellig There is no such thing as something new... All we can do is rehash stuff with a interesting twist on the original or make it with better tech. Technically, our "best" shooters like halo crysis and call of duty are a rip off of every shooter going back to when doom and marathon were king. They themselves are copying paintball and nerfgun fights lol and those things are copying warfare with guns which is copying bows and arrows which is just ripping off good ol' fashioned throwing rocks at yur head... You seem all bent out of shape that these guys are taking something we know people want (can't deny the zombie craze) and running with it. I say... don't troll. Awesome CGI trailer tho...

Cloud-Zehro
Cloud-Zehro

I just saw a video on youtube explaining more about the game, said something about the zombies being detailed in layers, skeleton, meat, flesh, the guy said it'd make for some impressively goretastic kills, so we'll be able to see the level of detail and damage we to do the zombies with our weapons. Also something about bones that are not only breakable, but detachable from the zombies, If this is all done in the right way, this may just be one of the most violent video games to date.

Cloud-Zehro
Cloud-Zehro

@Doglipstik But it's not about day/night, It's about the threat that imposes on you at all times of the day/night, no matter what time it is, there are monsters lurking after you, looking to eat every inch of your body, look at it this way.. You're in the ghetto, you're walking home, It's night time.. You're afraid, you walk home the next day and it's light outside? A gang is following you, they're looking to do YOU harm, guns and all, are you not still afraid?.. Does it really matter what time of day/night it is? It's about the level of threat following you, what you could run into and knowing fully that you cannot stop it from happening, that is where the fear lies, not within how well you can see.

916supermann22
916supermann22

@counterintellig You're list = FTW. The charging zombie did it in for me. L4D should be able to sue off of that one lol!!

counterintellig
counterintellig

1. Zombie FPS is overdone 2. 4 characters is an obvious attempted L4D rip 3. L4D made me sick (run thru the hallway = yay?) 4. Point, shoot, win is a formula for failure. Even with limited ammo/energy 5. Campaign will be short and linear, play once, trade in 6. Zombie FPS is overdone (again) 7. You've played this game before. A lot. How can you get excited over a hallway draped in tropical theme with zombies sprinkled liberally? Oh, and a boss who charges that you have to dodge and...get behind?! WHAT?!? Holy *@#& don't push the envelope off the table here people, keep it reasonable! Gamers aren't ready for that kind of revolutionary game play! Whatever. Pretty? Maybe. Interesting? No. Purchasable? Definitely not.

Spudtaco
Spudtaco

This company is really shaping up to be a contender in the FPS market. They've got their own graphics engine built up now and this combined with the Call of Juarez games should get them serious cash inflows. Expect more sweet games from them in the future I bet ;).

turok0
turok0

what are the system reqs for this?

turok0
turok0

graphics r unbelievable. better than crysis

Doglipstik
Doglipstik

@Cloud-Zehro Thats a good point, but i meant in the sense of the game world. Zombies would no doubt make me piss my pants in real life but as this is a game and I am sitting there with a controller there needs to be a vale of darkness over where they are and how many there are, thats all i'm saying. Like L4D compared with serious sam, thats not the best analogy i know but i'm more scared walking home in the dark than walking home on a summers day.

rigzzsy
rigzzsy

i hope it isn't like l4d, i want a proper survival horror

ChuckSeabreeze
ChuckSeabreeze

man i love zombie games, hope they dont mess this one up

Sergeant_
Sergeant_

As much as I enjoy reading, this announcement confused me. I want to watch how these mechanics come to live not read about it. And I don't understand how people are saying it looks like a L4D game..yes its got zombies, yes its got weapons, does it make it L4D? No. If I made a pixelated game with a sniper rifle and an assualt rifle and sold you the same thing every year, does that make it COD?...probably..but thats besides the point. L4D is a point A to point B styled game - you're escaping. Killing floor was a wave defending game - survival. This seems more genuine, there are no "waves" from what it seems, if you've watched the interviews of this game they tell you that you don't necassarily have the ability to "kill" the zombies...you hit them on the head with a hammer, shoot them in the face with a handgun..they fall down...then as time passes that zombie gets up and has the damaging mark of whatever weapon you used on it, now that is something completely different then any other zombie game out there. L4D and Killing Floor doesnt have that, its just a big clump of various zombies that you will always see -- in Dead Island you'll be seeing the same zombie just it will be deteriorating at every encounter, even if you don't attack the zombies they still become mangled and well...more zombie-like, I'm sure there are ways to permanently take down the zombie, i'm sure the zombie wont be walking around when its head is busted apart by a specific calibrated weapon. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUZV9GoyCD0

TheGreyArea
TheGreyArea

@jukieuk my wife and I solved that problem buy buying another xbox and tv ;) a little extreme, but it makes games like this one all the more fun to play

frost3n
frost3n

Left 4 dead is cool, but Killing Floor is way better when it comes to co-op zombie slashing in my book.

smiffy555
smiffy555

@mer1in79 Left 4 Dead sucks.

jukieuk
jukieuk

Oh no, no split screen, sometimes i just want to play co-op with my husband

mer1in79
mer1in79

Why oh why don't developers make games so you can play split screen i mean don't get me wrong i love playing online but sometimes i just want to play a quick game with my mate before or after going the pub it's just a lot of fun when you can see the reaction of your mate come on techland Left for Dead did it and they are the people who know how to make a top notch fun Zombie killing game.Plus all these driving games without two player split screen come on it's all about evolution not devolution.