E3 2011: Impressions of Dead Island (Xbox 360)

Dead Island is a game that has been in development for a long time, but wowed people recently with an extremely well done trailer. However that trailer featured no actual shots of how the game actually looked in action. Then, when there wasn’t any gameplay being shown shortly afterwards, skepticism grew around whether or not the actual game could live up to the hype that was generated by one well made advertisement.

Worry no more, if the rest of the game is anything like the playable demo at E3, than it is going to be an amazing game.

The demo started off with a cutscene showing the perspective of someone taking pills and booze. This led to a woozy drunk effect on the camera and the character acting like an asshole at a club on the Island. Then suddenly the dance floor became a little crazy ass a woman attacked another person. After that all hell breaks loose and eventually the character passes out. You wake up in a cabin with people huddled inside hiding from the zombies outside.

Aside from the tropical setting, Dead Island sounds like it might not be all that different than any other zombie game, right? That’s when things got odd. You see, Dead Island is a horror game, but it is also an Action RPG. The first thing you do is pick up a weapon, which shows the weapons stats and what level you can use it. You go outside and the zombies have little lifebars above their heads along with what level they are. When you attack them, numbers show on the screen how many hit points of damage you’ve dealt. After defeating the initial zombies you are then given a quest which you can choose to accept. From that point on you move along the beach as though it were almost a dungeon crawler. You get weapons which degrade over time and then break. Some are level specific, and when you defeat zombies you gain experience. When you gain experience, you can choose to level up and unlock different branches of three different skill trees.

Yep, skill trees. One is for the Rage mode, something I didn’t get a chance to use in the demo, but most of the skill tree seemed to allow longer use or additional bonuses for using Rage mode. There was a Combat skill tree where you could unlock the ability to do additional damage (initially with knives but depending on what you choose later, it looks like you can build towards specific weapons), Finally, there was a Survival skill tree which dealt with how much health packs worked and how much damage you could take.

Going along the beach there were areas aside from the main path to explore. Zombies would drop loot in the form of cash and weapons, there were items also stored in coolers, handbags and so on. There are also appear to be some optional things, like saving people from zombies, that play out. I reached a part of the game where I also acquired duct tape and reached a work bench where I could repair, upgrade, or even craft new weapons.

I saw no evidence of any guns in the game, but there were plenty of melee weapons. The game is set completely in first person, and there were already a number of weapons around to make use of, such as paddles, broomsticks, cleavers, knives, and more. The graphics were amazing, with a lot of vibrant colors which you normally do not see in a horror game. The zombies looked great and the action was quick and brutal. Sometimes a swipe with a blade would take off the zombies head right off of its shoulders. There was a slight blur effect around the edges of the screen when looking around quickly that I didn’t care for, but did not effect any part of the game.

If the rest of the game is anything like this demo, I’m sold. An Action RPG Horror game on an Island? Hell yeah. The developer Deep Silver has also confirmed four player online co-op in the final game, making this the game from E3 that I want to buy the most.

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