Dead Island Is A Decade's Worth Of Zombie Games In One

There is blood on the wall, a smear that drags down to the floor, bits of hair swaying gently in the breeze. I notice it not in the game booting up on the computer, but from my vantage sitting in a mock bamboo and straw cabana in an office tucked away in the Mascone Center.

The couch is comfortable, above in a network of faux green leaves, is a wood sign that says "Welcome". In front of me, a television coming to life, showing the opening scenes of a video game I first saw nearly four years ago.

It is everything good about zombie games, a shambling stitch-work of the best bits of a decade's worth of undead gaming and fiction.

At least that's what I think as I watch Dead Island unfold before me during a demonstration earlier today.

Dead Island is the story of paradise gone mad, Vincent Kummer, brand manager with publisher Deep Silver, tells me.

Banoi is an island resort, a place where people go for two weeks to take a break from the normal.

The game opens with you playing as one of four characters, each of which came to the island for different reasons.

Sam B, a one-hit wonder rapper, came to play the resort and soak in the drunken revelry of Banoi, He awakes, though, to find himself at the epicenter of a zombie outbreak. Shocked into unconsciousness by the uprising, lifeguard Sinamoi drags him to the safety of a beach house.

The game opens with Sam B regaining consciousness. The world is tilted, Sam B groggy. We see through his eyes, a lean man standing over him, a baseball bat raised over his head.

The man shouts at Sam B, asks him if he can understand him.

"Nod your head. Do you understand me? Nod your head!"

He's going to kill Sam B, worried that he's turned, but the rapper finally snaps to and gets up.

"Thanks god," the other man exclaims. There are others in the house, they are babbling, wandering, one sits with her knees pressed to her chest, rocking back and forth muttering.

This is the reality of people facing the unthinkable, the dead rising, the dead coming for them.

"The game is supposed to represent the paradox of paradise and hell," Kummer tells me. "A lot of people die, a lot of people are turned. There are arms, legs, heads lying around."

There is nothing wacky, nothing stealthy about the game's experience. It is meant to be an in-your-face action slasher with a touch of role-playing.

Sam B is playable as a sort of tank. He, like all four of the game's characters, has his own special abilities and can upgrade over time. In the case of Sam B he can crush a zombie's skull under he foot, kicking it into the ground until it explodes like a ripe melon.

Sam B can also enter into a "fury" mode that tints the world red, and allows him to punch zombies into rotting mush. The other upgradeable skills, which all four characters share, are combat and survival.

Dead Island won't be an armory, so using what weapons you can find will be key to survival. Players can also found blue prints and use them to craft other weapons. Something that will be very familiar to gamers who've played through Dead Rising 2.

But Techland's international brand manager Blazej Krakowiak is clear that this is no Dead Rising 2.

"We're absolutely not like Dead Rising 2," he says.

Kummer points out that the weapons you find and the weapons you craft are meant to be things that represent the sort of things a person might use if they were dropped on an island and had to face the undead. There's nothing wacky about the weapons you'll be creating or how they will be used, he says.

Back in the game, Sam B grabs a paddle from the floor of the beach house and opens the door. Viewed through his eyes, the undead that greet him outside are much closer, much more threatening than they would be if the game showed them from a third-person perspective.

That view allows zombies to push up against Sam B., lean into him, bite at him. One of the slow-moving zombies takes a swing at Sam B. Sam slaps the zombie down with blows from the paddle, beating him until the creature drops in a mist of blood. Sams wanders around until he finds a wrench, and then beats another zombie in the head with it, knocking it down and then stomping it until it stops moving.

The game is grisly, but with a purpose.

Kummer says that you can break legs, lop off arms, that these attacks will slow zombies down, take away the weapons that some will use. About that time another zombie wanders up the beach, weaving between surfboards and umbrellas, he's on fire.

You have to take these zombies out from a distance, Kummer says, or they'll injure you.

Sam wanders over to a lifeguard hut where he discovers a workbench. He uses some of the items in the hut, wires batteries, a machete, to create an electrified blade. The weapon sounds a bit wacky, but in practice it's more gruesome than humorous.

The workbench also allows players to repair and upgrade weapons. While developer Techland doesn't have any hard numbers yet, Kummer says that there will be a couple of thousand weapons in the game when it ships for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 later this year, counting all of the customisation options.

Weapons will be mostly blunt and edged weapons, though there will be a very limited number of firearms. They'll be the sort you might find on a dead police officer, perhaps with six bullets in it and no reloads.

The zombies, the slow ones, aren't the only ones you'll come across, Kummer says.

Those slow zombies are called vessels, as we make are way through the beach a new type appear in the distance: Infected. And they're running.

"Those first zombies you saw were sort of like George Romero zombies," Kummer said. "And now you have 21 Days Later zombies."

Sam B throws a knife at one, neatly severing its leg, slowing it down. He cuts through them, taking them down with fists, with wrench, with sledgehammer, with machete.

Then he runs, not from the fast ones, because they're took quick, but from a new crowd of those slow, vessels.

Topping some stairs Sam B grabs a propane tank and tosses it down into the crowd and then throws a weapons at it. The tank explodes, taking out a few of the zombies.

It's time to get to the safe house, Kummer says.

Sam B unlocks a fence surrounding a home, walks up to a garage door and shoves it open.

Inside the house is a hulking zombie, a larger version of the dangerous infected. In Dead Island, it appears, safe houses aren't safe until you make them safe.

Sam works takes out the large zombie with a knife attached to an explosive, and then methodically works through the three-floor home, cleaning it of zombies.

When he's done he radios the survivors, telling them it's safe for them to join him.

They assortment of characters, some with skills you need, all drive over to your new safe house, essentially creating a new save point and base of operations for you.

There is so much more hidden in the game to see still, it seems, but my time has run out. Kummer tells me that the game will have characters that can help you not just with advice and side missions (there are more than a 100 in the game). Characters may sell you goods, or give you vehicles you can use to explore the island.

The game will also have quite a wide variety of zombies including some that explode, some that will vomit on you. There are planes, survivors, a light tower, an armoured truck, signs of voodoo, indigenous people.

Watched from a couch, Dead Island appears to be a game that has carefully plucked the best of zombie games and lore and made it something better. Dead Rising's weapon crafting, Dead Space's limb lopping, Left 4 Dead's safe rooms, Grand Theft Auto's open world, Oblivion's character progression and enemy difficulty, fast zombies, slow zombies, mutated zombies, they're all in here in some bizarre, twisted way.

And then there's the island, a fictional resort in Papa New Guinea with a story of its own.

It's almost overwhelming when the game starts, to see so many different things in action, but as I watch the game played I can see how they fit together, how they could deliver an entirely new experience.


    “And now you have 21 Days Later zombies.”

    A bunch of zombies trying to overcome their crippling addiction to alcohol.

    Techland’s international brand manager Blazej Krakowiak is clear that this is no Dead Rising 2. “We’re absolutely not like Dead Rising 2,” he says.

    Sam wanders over to a lifeguard hut where he discovers a workbench. He uses some of the items in the hut, wires batteries, a machete, to create an electrified blade.


    On a sadder note, I had hoped from the initial trailer that dead island might do something innovative, but at this rate it looks rather unlikely. The island, "a fictional resort in Papa New Guinea with a story of its own." better not turn out to have a bloody "facility" on it!

    Sounds like it'll be a decent enough game! I'm looking forward to it, but damn.. who let this article through? There's numerous extremely obvious grammatical errors.

    Watch it get banned instantly when it asks for classification in Aus

      Not necessarily. Look at BulletStorm. Got passed through without any care.

      Purely because it wasn't a "name".

      Mortal Kombat, on the other hand, was recently banned. It is definitely a "name".

      Dead Island? We'll have to wait and see. I'd say chances are equally good that it'll be approved or rejected.

    I am really hoping this will provide co-op support. This could possibly be the perfect zombie game from what I'm reading.

    One thing that never got me interested in Left4Dead was there was no progression, no real story and it had civilians with easy access to weapons.

    This seems to be more survival-based and has the beloved RPG element I am always seeking.

    In regards to being banned? Perhaps, games like Fallout3, Dead Space and Dead Rising all got through censors and amazingly enough, so did Duke Nukem so this may have a chance.

    From what I understood about L4D2, it wasn't just the gore that got the ratings board upset, but that there was a specific enemy that was in police riot gear.

    I may be wrong though but I'm hoping with fingers crossed.

    i think 21 days later is off by a week...
    gameplay sounds nice but i hope they deliver on the emotion displayed in the trailer. that's make or break for me, otherwise it is essentially "another zombie game"

    This is sounding really awesome.

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