SDCC 14: First look at Escape Dead Island

You know how you get used to something that works for a game series, then something comes along that changes your perspective almost completely? We’ve seen that before with the likes of Metroid, after getting used to it for some time in side-scrolling fashion, only to be introduced to a brilliant first-person perspective in Metroid Prime. Well, Deep Silver is doing something familiar with Dead Island.

After introducing us to the first two games in a first-person perspective (with a sequel, Dead Island 2, on the way sometime next year), the team is introducing a fresh new take on the saga with Escape Dead Island, which it recently showed us during a private demo at its Gaming Lounge over at the Whiskey Girl.

First off, you can tell right off the bat that this isn’t your typical Dead Island affair. The art style in the game, which is usually dark and gritty, has been replaced with a comic book-style motif. It’s also displayed in a third-person perspective, as you can actually see what’s happening to your character, rather than just seeing the action from his eyes.

The game has you playing Cliff Calo, a spoiled brat of sorts who decides to head out to sea to shoot a documentary alongside his friends. It turns out to be a big mistake, as the boat ends up crashing at a nearby island where a zombie infestation has broken out. Injured and unarmed, Cliff must make his way through the island, picking up makeshift weapons and seeking out his friends in order to escape in one piece.

The gameplay we saw in the demo was a mixture of action and stealth, but not the kind of action you’d expect from a zombie horror game. This was more about staying in one piece, as Cliff isn’t exactly the type of guy who’s built for gruff combat. Instead, he has to sneak around foes that can cause him harm, including “shamblers” that could easily make him a meal.

There’s several ways around them. The first is by activating certain noise makers that will get their attention in the level, such as making a phone ring or setting off a car alarm. This distracts them long enough for Cliff to get moving.

You can also run out in the open, if you prefer, to get them out of you way, but this isn’t really recommended, mainly because they’re good at following you around. Fortunately, there is a neat little tactic where you can draw them out, and then take them out from behind with a convenient stab to the neck with a screwdriver. (Other weapons are in the game as well, but this was the only one we saw in our demo.)

Along the way, Cliff will also need to find vital items to continue along, such as a rope to descend to lower levels. Fortunately, Deep Silver kept the controls simple enough, with one-button engagements to activate doors, tie ropes on to objects, and so forth. That doesn’t mean you get off scot free, however, as you still have to deal with the hungry zombies lurching after you.

The comic book style of the game suits it well, from the strange changes to the environments (shipping containers appearing out of nowhere and nearly crushing Cliff flat, for instance) and the cool Batman-esque noise effects that appear on-screen as you stab a zombie to death. Some players expecting the usual Dead Island surroundings may be slightly thrown off with this game’s appearance, but, hey, you’ve got Dead Island 2 coming, so relax.

Escape Dead Island looks like an interesting, yet fun, spin-off for the series, although there are still unanswered questions that can’t help be pondered. We’ll get the answers soon enough when the game ships for Xbox 360, PC and PlayStation 3 later this year.