E3 2011: Dead Island

By Ozzie Mejia, Jun 10, 2011 2:00pm PDT

QUICKTAKE: Deep Silver takes a stab at the zombie genre and infuses it with RPG and exploration elements in Dead Island. Fighting off waves of zombies with three other friends is just as fun as it ever was and Dead Island looks to be a fine addition to the genre.

THE DEMO: The demo for Dead Island began several hours into the campaign, in order to allow myself and the people joining me to play with many of the game’s weapons. We started off in the middle of a decrepit church, where players can upgrade their weapons and accept new missions. We played through a mission that saw us assisting a survivor in finding his family by posting missing person posters nearby, while warding off any incoming zombies, before returning to the church to collect our reward.

DETAILS: With the game starting off well into the campaign, the Deep Silver rep notified us that the game will start players off with two weapon slots and the game’s weaker weapons, but their inventory will vastly increase over time. The bulk of the game saw my playing as part of a party of four running through hordes of zombies while completing objectives, admittedly not the most unique of premises.

What looks to set Dead Island apart is a deep customization system. Dead Island features several different characters and each character has their own unique abilities. In addition to these characters, there are also several different attributes that can be upgraded as the characters level up. This works towards making each game feel like a different experience.

The weapons are primarily for melee fighting. Firearms are available later in the game, but the Deep Silver rep made sure to note that ammo will be scarce so as to not create an overreliance on guns. A sole reliance on melee weaponry isn’t a bad thing, though, as each melee weapon can be upgraded and modded to make shorter work of zombies. I was able to mod one of my knives with explosives, so I could toss it at a zombie and watch him burst into pieces. I took a machete and upgraded it with an electric mod, which would occasionally electrocute zombies upon contact. Players will be upgrading and switching out weapons often, because weapons can also get worn out from overuse. The graphics also help to indicate when a weapon is getting worn down, as it will visibly show wear and tear in a nice touch.

The game contains different zombie types, including standard staggering zombies, large tanks (called Thugs), and zombies that will ram you head-on upon sight. Dispatching these zombies involves hacking away with your melee weapon, but the option is also there to toss your weapon at it. This is particularly useful with a bomb mod, but be careful with it. There’s no friendly fire in the game, but explosions will affect anyone caught in its radius. I don’t think I made any friends when I threw an explosive knife at a zombie and took out my entire party.

Dead Island isn't reinventing the wheel. Anyone that’s grown tired of zombie survival games won’t see anything to change their opinion. For those that can’t get enough of cutting down the undead, Dead Island may provide another source of fun.

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