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.
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!