Dead Island Hands-On Preview [X’11]

One of the best examples of video game advertising striking it rich is Dead Island. Developed in Poland at Techland‘s studio, it’s a game that many people were not aware of until a beautifully done teaser trailer hit the internet. Playing backwards, it showed the end result of a zombie outbreak at a lush, tropical resort. One that didn’t end very well for a poor family who did their best to save themselves and those around them.

With that video, the interest in this game skyrocketed and many gamers rushed to put their money down on yet another zombie-filled romp in virtual space. Though, this time, it takes place in a pretty unique location.

On the floor of X’11, Square Enix had a couple of demo units set up for the game. What was available for hands-on, interactive demoing, was a five minute trial of an earlier build of the game. It dropped me into an early part of the experience, with a couple of basic quests to attempt to finish before the timer ran out.

At my melee disposal were a few different items which could be turned into makeshift weaponry, such as an oar and a knife. Every weapon that I came across had different stats, meaning it was important to choose the ones that were best for each unique situation.

What some may not know is the fact that Dead Island is actually part role-playing game. This means that it has an emphasis on weapon statistics and a bar which measures stamina. Swinging your weapon too many times in a row can result in a tiring effect, which means that players must be smart in the way that they approach each melee combat moment with the walking flesheaters. Unfortunately, these walking corpses are on vacation with you, though that doesn’t mean that they want to lounge and soak up the sun on the sandy beaches. They still want brains and, well, more is always better. Right?

Most of my time in this unique, digital coastal setting, was spent on its golden sand beaches. Zombies would notice me when I’d get close and would try to take me out, by latching on and taking a good bite. The goal was to properly take them out without allowing them to get too close.

Ranged weapons worked well for this but were slower than the fast-paced knife and its stabbing action. One tip I have for those who hope to survive this trip next month, is to make sure that the enemy is actually done for before you disregard it. Just knocking down a flesheater doesn’t mean he or she is down for the count. They’re words to live by and, hopefully you will make it out…alive.

Going in, I didn’t expect Dead Island to be so heavy on the momentum bar. It’s understandable considering the type of game that Techland hoped to create, but may deter some gamers. Personally, I didn’t mind it as I’m used to that type of gameplay. The demo was fun and engaging, though there were some rough edges that hopefully will be ironed out in the final version, which is set to hit stores next week.

All in all, I look forward to going on another vacation with a bunch of shanmbling corpses…as weird as that sounds.