E3 2011: DEAD ISLAND Seeks to Revive Zombies

E3 2011: DEAD ISLAND Hands-On

Deep Silver, the authors of one of the most talked about game trailers of all time have brought a playable version of Dead Island to the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2011 in Los Angeles for some behind closed doors, hands-on demos and Newsarama got a crack at it.

Dead Island is an up to four player co-op, sandbox-style zombie survival game. With drop in, drop out gameplay you and up to three other optional friends try to survive, and maybe find out the truth behind a recent zombie outbreak on the isolated island. An island, that should be noted, that turns out to be much larger than just the beachfront resort depicted in the trailer.

Quizzing the developers on hand, it was revealed that the island is divided into several open-world zones: the city, the resort, the beach, the jungle, a sewer system that also connects them all, and other areas that couldn't be revealed at this point. In each area there is a safe zone that survivors have taken shelter in. In these zones, you can interact with other survivors, buy/upgrade weapons and pick up missions, either for the core storyline or the purported 200 side missions, and venture into the infected areas to retrieve crucial items, save people or accomplish other goals for rewards of money or items. There will also be scattered collectables, that will persist in each individual’s game, even if it is collected by an ally in co-op first.

For the demo, a Dead Island developer took a team of three others with him on a mission to put up posters out in the infected zone to help a man try and get in contact with his lost family. While precise directions were provided via a white line inside a familiar-looking round mini-map, players are welcome to chart their own path through the ruins, as per the genre's dictates. Zombies and other players were also pointed out on the mini-map, with the latter also given on-screen icons informing your of their direction and if they are being attacked or have been downed. The penalty for dying in multiplayer has not yet be determined. 

Like in Left 4 Dead, it is advisable to stick together, but teams can divide themselves up and accomplish multiple missions separately and at the same time. Another semi-similarity is the presence of four player characters, though in Dead Island each are differentiated by their stats (strength, speed, etc), specialties in favored weapon type (edged, blunt, etc) and each possesses a unique three-pronged skill tree that you can buy into after gaining levels. Though it should be noted that there is not a unique storyline for each of the four player characters.

While the character/enemy animations, some of the environmental visuals and the combat were still in development at the time of this demonstration it's clear that, although though there are some types of guns available, melee combat is the focus of the action. A key element is a fatigue meter is drained when using your weapon, running or jumping, reducing the effectiveness of each, though the meter regenerates quickly. Available weapons include baseball bats (some with nails in them) kitchen and chef knives, hammers, knuckle dusters, machetes and other more exotic bladed implements. Each is individually assigned a name that reflects its various, almost random, stats like damage dealt, its own durability and the rate that it saps its wielder's fatigue. Some weapons can also be modified, for example, with batteries to create electric machetes that add shock damage to attacks.

In the demo you could carry eight weapons in your active inventory and dozens in your menu inventory, letting you experiment with techniques like throwing a knife, running up and pulling it out of your target, then hacking at that same zombie at close range until it stops moving. If and when you take damage, pick-up and purchased health packs can be stacked are a quickly and helpfully self-administered by a designated face button press.

Enemy types include classic walkers (though it was reveled that 'higher level' walkers could use weapons) larger brute zombies, zombies on fire, zombies that emit a noxious gas and zombies that explode when you attack them. In addition to your melee weapon, a useful kick button with help push back a charging attacker or stomp to death a downed zombie. A string of kills will let you trigger 'rage mode' which will give you enhanced vision and let you tear into foes with added strength.

Dead Island seeks to revive the zombie game on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 September 6, 2011.

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