Dead Island has been one of the more interesting projects recently, having been announced as far back as 2005 and not showing its face til its controversial trailer a few months ago depicting the very depressing scene of a family being torn apart on a vacation by zombies. It depicted the death and life of a zombie girl and how she became that way, and it evoked such a strong response some wondered if the trailer was a cynical attempt to hype the game.
Does anyone know where the nearest toilet is?
For that reason, it was imperative that when the opportunity to sample the actual gameplay arose, I took it. But even after having played only five minutes of the game, my opinion had improved considerably.
Deep Silver brags that Dead Island takes a much more realistic approach to the zombie apocalypse genre, and they're not kidding. The entire mood of the game is appropriately grim, as survivors on a remote beach resort have huddled together in pockets of safe havens. You are one of four survivors who are apparently immune to the zombifying agent (whatever that may be), and represent a small beacon of hope to the other "normal" survivors, as a menacing hurricane is moving in.
The gameplay is somewhat reminiscent of Borderlands: you receive quests, you get experience from killing zombies and completing missions. The zombies themselves are different levels and varieties, from the easily killed grunts to the more potent mini-boss zombies.
The difference between Borderlands and Dead Island, however, is the mood. You really feel like the impending horde is a threat, and you're overmatched. Even when your character grows confident after whacking a number of the undead, a lot of strategy has to be employed, because a group of even the lowest level of zombies can overwhelm you.
Stop breaking the law Ass****!
The chief reason for it is the fact that melee attacks expend your stamina, so if you swing wildly at zombies, you'll become exhausted for a precious few seconds, and that'll give the zombies the opening they need to chow down on survivor souffle. Some of the options available are, say, to fling knives to down one or two zombies, then beat on the remaining zombies with a bat or boat oar, then grab the knives stuck in the downed zombies and decapitate the stunned zombies to finish them off. The game knows how to keep the player challenged, so when special zombies start appearing, like fast zombies or exploding zombies, the player has to adjust - and if, say, two fast zombies appear, the player better be prepared.
There are firearms in the game, but weapons and ammunition on a beach resort are extremely rare, of course, so when it is encountered it's treated like its weight in gold, in a "just in case of real emergency" sort of way. It seems like Dead Island will be a difficult game, which is actually kind of refreshing in this day and age. The game is hard in the "damn, that almost worked - gotta try again, I know I'll get it right this time" sort of way, and will probably be even better during co-op multiplayer.
Getting back to the mood of the game, missions are similarly realistic and grim. Nothing in the game seems artificially tacked on; the flow and the suspension of disbelief are extremely well done. During a mission, sometimes you'll rescue another survivor and they will have a mission for you to do right there in the middle of your current quest. You can opt to help them, ignore them, or even screw them by driving off in their vehicle. This is survival, and sometimes, just sometimes, you may give in to temptation and make choices that will would normally make you wince. It's a zombie dog eats zombie dog world and in the middle of an apocalypse, sometimes you have to fortify your own safety at the expense of another.
Damn, and I was so close to getting past first base...
All in all, if you want a game that doesn't soften its tone and takes its subject matter seriously, Dead island is the game for you. That's not to say there isn't humor in the game, even if the humor tends towards gallows most of the time. Regardless, this is one game to look out for - it seems like a real winner.