E3: Hands on With Dead Island

Remember last summer when Clash of the Titans came out? That trailer was amazing, all rock and action and great visual FX. … then when the game came out, it was a total cheese fest with legendarily shoddy 3-D imaging. Basically, the final product wasn’t anything like the trailer, and we all walked away griping.

So, anyway, I played Dead Island today, a game made famous by its beyond-epic trailer.

If anything Dead Island serves as a reminder that fully-rendered, full-motion videos made to advertise a product, well, they aren’t always indicative of the game play within. Not to say Dead Island is a bad game, but you compare it to the powerful, backwards moving, human drama in the trailer and, well, you come out a bit confused.

When the game begins, your character (seemingly customized, based on all the variants I’ve seen from a couple different demos) wakes up in a shack to the side of the beach, surrounded by worried, frenzied people. Seems that you had a bit too much to drink last night, and during the time you were crazy drunk, zombies invaded the island. Now most of the populace is dead, but they’re still moving, and hungry. Luckily, you were pulled to safety by a dude… a dude who is now in trouble. So, you grab an oar and throw your life away for justice.

Compared to that first trailer, a slow, emotional struggle of a mother and father to save their little girl, a trailer with a very imaginative set-up, the final product seems, frankly, hokey, and a little shallow. Dead Island is better represented by this second, less popular trailer.

The gameplay and visual design, both, of Dead Island are very quick and loose. The controls are extremely fast and fluid, like your character is on speed at all times. The zombies are fast-moving, quickly decaying beasts, all in Bermuda shorts, and all of them explode into enormous fountains of blood upon a single strike with a sharp weapon. There’s little new to combat, really. You pick up various weapons, flail about, beat the zombies down. There are a few nice tweaks, though. First off, zombies are relentless and can use weapons too; they’re a serious threat. The main character has a stamina bar, which can be divvied up between running and striking. Your weapons can break through over-use. Really fervent players can wail on zombies even after they fall, hacking bodies limb from limb. You know, for fun.

Also worth noting is that the game has a pretty decent item and experience system. Killing zombies earns you action points, which you can spend on new abilities and feats for your character. There is a talent wheel which lets you train up from squire to Lord. The item system allows you to grab seemingly random items on your path, and turn them into MacGuyver style gizmos. Get the duct tape! Get the sticks! Get the dynamite!… and you made a… dynamite stick? I’m sure that’s good for something, right?

So, anyway, the game doesn’t look bad. The combat is simple and fast. Its bloody. The skill tree intrigues me, I guess we’ll have to see more about it later.

Hope you have a thing for wrinkly men in Bermuda shorts. This will be your life now...

But in the end, I still have to count myself among the disappointed. This simply isn’t the game that was promised by the trailer.  Audiences got behind the trailer thanks to great, clear graphics, and the human plight of a sympathetic in-game family. None of the heart of that trailer seems to be in the final product.

While it can still be played and enjoyed without the drama or intensity that the first trailer promised, I can’t say the game ends up as more than a typical, mindless hack and slash. Thats fine and all, I like a good bit of hack and slash, but the advertising doesn’t match the product and that’s really too bad.

I was hoping for something just a little… bigger.

Oh well, go, try it out for yourselves. Maybe there are some nuances I missed? Sound off!




You've got red on you.

  • http://padinga.com/members/maul42/ Maul

    You know what else is weird about this game? You get money from the dead zombies and buy weapon repairs with them.
    Seriously? This game needed an economy system? That definitely tips the scales from survival/horror to action-arcade. Why would anyone in a zombie apocalypse charge me to fix my weapon?
    Hell, I should be charging them for saving them from the plague of undead!!

  • http://padinga.com/members/thecrimsonking/ TheCrimsonKing

    This is sad to read. I expected great things after that awesome trailer. …Oh well, there are plenty of good zombie games out there.

  • http://padinga.com/members/maul42/ Maul

    Well, keep in mind, it not necessarily a bad game, just different than the tone of the advertising would have had us believe.

    Mecha gave the game a shot, and liked it quite a bit. I think its just off-putting because the promos give the appearance of a wholly different product.

  • http://padinga.com/2011/06/12/e3-2011-tomb-raider-and-the-square-enix-round-up/ E3 Square | Padinga.com

    [...] and made our respective trousers just a little tighter. You know, a little game-chub. Meanwhile, Dead Island, which Square is publishing for Deep Silver, came out as a good game, but one totally different [...]