Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dead Island E3 2011

Basic Info
Developer: Techland
Publisher: Deep Silver
Game Type: First person zombie shooter with rpg elements
Unique Features: Open World, RPG Elements, 4 player COOP, Melee focused
Platform: Xbox 360, Ps3 and PC
Release Date: September 6th 2011, NA. September 9th worldwide

Sounds at least a little interesting right? I was suprised to find that there are many rpg elements in Dead Island. We got try it hands on at E3. The demo we got to play was one I've seen described and used for many other websites. It was a 5 minute demo in which you got to see the intro, a little different for each character, and you start on the beach after being saved by a lifeguard. You awake to find a little safe house filled with people, maybe seven people in total, and it has one weapon and one or two collectibles to find. By the way, there are only two characters in the demo, but four or five in the retail game. We didn't get to choose who to play in the demo, but we randomly got a female melee driven character or a male character who didn't seem to have any special abilities or inclinations, but I'm sure he does or will in the retail. The island you wake up on is the Island of Banoi and it is in a tropical resort.

The in-game cinematic in the beginning was surprisingly interesting, but not as moving as the famous first trailer for this game. Your character is in a club and ends up being really drunk, or something that super disorients you, and in the middle of stumbling around you actually see a zombie, but no one seems to really notice or being panicking. Later on it shows a hotel worker, at your hotel, trying to save someone who has been bitten and asks for your help, but your drunken self is in no mood and steals some kind of painkillers and wonders off to your room to go to bed. I assume this is only a small portion of the intro cinematic, but it was still inviting and made me care about this unknown island and resort.

Let's delve into it. I enjoyed playing this game for five minutes, frantically trying to do what I had not seen the four people in front of me in line do. Although, I was sad that the area in which you could move was fairly limited. I tried to run off up into the Island and I quickly hit a "end of demo area" notification in the middle of the screen. The controls are pretty familiar for a zombie game or fps, except there is a kick button that is used to end zombies when they are on the ground. Zombies are displayed by level and type when you see them. The zombies right out the door of safe house were all level 1 and I only saw up to level 2 enemies in the demo. This suprised me quite a bit, I was expecting some more like Left 4 Dead or Resident Evil, but not only do they have levels but you get experience from killing them.

In the demo we played, which they claimed to have been beta at best, it felt pretty good to smash zombies over the head with a oar or iron pipe. Also, you can throw weapons at enemies. The main one to throw in the demo was the machete, which flung into a zombies face with a satisfying thunk. Weapons also have statistics and you can hold many weapons at once in your inventory, which was also surprising. All of this seems to make this game sound easy, but it wasn't. Not even the demo was that easy, while I never saw anyone die, I did see plenty of people get close to death including myself. Weapons have durability which I'm sure makes many people cringe but in this case it is a great thing. They break in a fairly short amount of time and it seems a lot more realistic then continuously beating down one hundred zombies with a baseball bat.

One or two zombies are pretty easy to fight off, but more than that and except some damage. Groups are troublesome and I appreciate that. It makes me scared to fight too many or attract too much attention, which in my opinion is excellent. They have implemented the familiar zombie grapple, in which you must frantically press or move a button, or joystick, to escape from a zombie bite. Zombies seem to have pretty good AI and come at you slowly, keeping you off guard and confident, but they often break into a run and when one runs they all run. I should also note that you can drive cars in the retail game, not the demo we played but don't hate me for trying ever car I saw, and they have durability like weapons. The hit detection in the demo wasn't fantastic, but it still worked well and I'm sure the retail version will have improved it to a acceptable level by September.

RPG Elements
When you start out the game the first thing you get is a mission/quest, in which it states how much experience you will get by completing it and all necessary information; that was a surprise. On top of that, like previously mentioned, you get experience from killing zombies. The experience you get based on where you hit a zombie, if you kill zombie and how you do it. With that experience you can level up and when you level up you have skills that you may improve. The few that I got to look at in the demo all looked like passive skills, except one seems to be that you actually used somehow but it didn't explain. The one I took was a basic one and it just allowed me to do more damage with melee weapons. The skills are likely going to be different based on each character. Are there more rpg elements you may be asking? Why yes, there are. There are items around, in appropriately random places, that you can use to craft new items. So right now this game has a little bit of Dead Rising, Borderlands and your generic FPS. Like I said before you also have a inventory. You can find healing kits, I'm unsure of whether they are med kits or some kind of shot, that you may also store. Like a rpg you also have decisions to make; you may find someone in danger and may simply just leave them to die, whether or not it affects anything substantial was unclear.

Ign's E3 Video (not our public demo)

Last Comments
I am pretty much always excited about zombie games, especially ones that try something new, and Dead Island is just pressing all the right buttons. They are doing some really unique and they aren't creating some crazy new ideas that may end disastrously, not that I frown about that, but they are using well developed really enjoyable concepts and blending them together into something that looks really special. I still remember seeing this game announced many many years ago and I am so glad that it hadn't died like I originally thought. The 5 minute demo was too short and I cannot wait to see a new build of this game, especially to see the broader scale of the game. Also, exploring this island should be a pleasure on the eyes thanks to the impressive character models, object shadows, physics and environment. The retail game claims to have a huge open island, many types of zombies, four or five characters, many skills, many various weapons and a lot to find and enjoy. All of my hopes could be crushed by the retail version, but I am quite excited about this one and I hope you are too. Thanks for reading.

-Written by Sean Cargle


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