After the Dead Island trailer hit the web, gamers were craving new gameplay details just as badly as the undead yearn to feast on flesh. Deep Sliver and Techland just gave us a taste of what to expect from the game with an extensive GDC demo.
Although the game takes place in a paradise-gone-mad – the Royal Palms Resort on Banoi Island – the team promises that there will be diversity in locations. Boasting more than just beaches, the entire island has erupted with the outbreak and will feature cities, jungles, and poolsides littered with gore and corpses.
Attempting to avoid being compared to its zombie-themed competition, the team at Techland opted to create its own genre and have branded Dead Island a zombie-slasher/action RPG. Suspense isn’t the focus, instead, Dead Island will specialize in intense, close-quarters combat. As a result, the bulk of combat will be melee in nature, using whatever the player can find – canoe paddles, sledgehammers, knives, and more. Trying to avoid anything outlandish or unbelievable, firearms will only be used if they make sense contextually (like stumbling upon the corpse of a police officer) and once the ammo is expended the gun will be little more use than a paperweight.
Different types of weapons will require unique combat tactics, with blunt and sharp objects performing differently from each other. Deaths are quite gruesome, too, with severed limbs spouting fountains of blood from the ground. Not every zombie encounter will lead to a fight, however, as you can choose to pass some of the slower moving variety. Many corpses will simply crawl about the ground due to some grievous pre/postmortem injury.
Weapon combination will be a part of play, but the team isn’t aiming to usurp Dead Rising. Blueprints and work stations will allow you to combine items, but the focus will be on repairing and upgrading – sharpening or balancing a knife, for example.
Dead Island will feature four character classes, each with a manufactured personality to lead you through the narrative-driven game. The classes are tentatively broken down into Tank, Leader, Jack-of-all-Trades, and Assassin, but are subject to change. Whatever class is chosen, your character is mysteriously immune to the zombie outbreak, and as such has become the only hope for the island’s surviving inhabitants. Our demo followed the exploits of the Tank, a one-hit wonder rap star slated to perform at the resort. Demonstrating one of the class’ unique skills, the Techland rep initiated “fury.” This skill desaturated the world until zombies were outlined in red, allowing the player to supercharge themselves and punch heads off the undead. Really.
It is obvious that Dead Island is taking some liberty with “traditional” zombie lore, but won’t reveal the origin of the outbreak – virus, voodoo, etc. – just yet. But just as each class has some exaggerated super moves, the game features its own brands of special zombies. We witnessed grotesque, bulbous zombies branded “Suiciders” that explode when in close proximity, and more traditional “Thug” zombies that boast an intimidating stature. There are more generic forms of zombies, too, such as aggressive and slow breeds, flaming zombies, and zombies that wield weapons. It wasn’t made clear if these zombies use weapons in an intelligent capacity, or if rather they’re remnants of their human life. Also, expect lots of zombies in bikinis.
Hundreds of quests are promised in the open world island, many of which are optional. If you help a stranded survivor, they may aid you by unlocking a building or lending their skills. But is the risk worth the reward? Sometimes the answer is undeniably yes, as escorting some survivors back to a stronghold may help in a permanent capacity. For example, rescuing a mechanic could result in he or she fixing a car for faster travel. While collecting and escorting survivors isn’t a core element of play, there will be some clear benefits to aiding those around you.
As far as co-op is concerned, we’re promised a seamless four-player drop-in/drop-out experience.
While the game looks undeniably fun, the tone of Dead Island is still in question and seems a bit contradictory to the trailer, which featured a very emotional scene from the evening of the outbreak. The tank character spouted one-liners with every kill and had a decidedly comical overtone. When asked about the nature of the game, Techland said that they will try to offer more personal and meaningful experiences depending on the mission, but that the tone will in general be in the spirit of the genre.
Dead Island is slated for release on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC.