Dead Island

Preview: E3 2011
"Dead Island looks to offer a deep, satisfying horror experience."

Editor Mike Salbato and I sat down with Deep Silver to check out the upcoming survival horror/RPG hybrid Dead Island. Set in a tropical paradise, the game is a story-driven experience where the survivors of a zombie outbreak must band together in order to escape their ironically beautiful circle of hell.

The game is similar in structure to Borderlands, where players start by picking from four customizable characters, each with their own strengths and unique abilities. Sam B. is a rapper who specializes in blunt weapons, while the bodyguard Purna is most comfortable with ranged weapons. Xian Mei, the hotel employee, is like a rogue who uses blades and knives, and Logan the surfer is a jack-of-all-trades. Each character also has a special ability when they go into fury mode, enabling them to go on wild zombie-killing sprees. As players progress through the game, they will discover the backstories and motivations of each character.

Not only is each character already distinct, but they can be developed as the player pleases by allocating points in three skill trees: Bullseye, Combat, and Survival. Points are earned as players level up by...wait for it...killing zombies. Another aspect of customization is the weapon crafting system. At workbenches inside of safehouses across the island, players can create weapons with a nearly unlimited combination of properties. All you need are components and cash, both of which are found on the twice-dead corpses of slain zombies.

The section we played in our demo was somewhere in the middle of the game, where our four survivors ventured out of a church to hang posters for a missing person. We encountered several types of zombies: musclebound Thugs, charging Rams, and poison-spewing Vessels. We found out that these zombies are of a slightly more intelligent variety, being capable of using weapons and following players around. They can't climb ladders, though, so higher terrain can be used to a player's advantage. Running and swinging weapons consume stamina, which replenishes quickly but has to be managed carefully to avoid the players being overwhelmed by enemies. We made our way through the horde and completed our quest, earning money and experience for our efforts. There are also a set of in-game challenges that h function like achievements, so dedicated players have a lot of incentives to fully explore the game world.

There are four playable characters so, naturally, four players can cooperate either locally or online in the fight for survival. Items can be traded freely, and players can bring their own character into a friend's game to acquire loot and experience. The game is even courteous enough to warn of spoilers when entering a campaign that is further along in the story than the guest player has progressed in their own game. The difficulty and amount of zombies scale depending on the number of people playing, ensuring that solo players will have a fair shot at success too.

Dead Island looks to offer a deep, satisfying horror experience. With an estimated 25-30 hours of gameplay in addition to a robust multiplayer mode, there will be no shortage of zombie-slaughtering fun when Dead Island releases this September in North America.

© 2011 Deep Silver, Techland. All rights reserved.

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