All eyes have been on Dead Island ever since that one trailer was released. Could the game actually be that good? Based on the various screenshots I’ve seen, I was beginning to worry. To me, it seemed like it was being over hyped. After all, we were getting excited over a CG trailer with no gameplay footage whatsoever. Having played the multiplayer component for decent amount of time, I can easily say that many of my concerns have been put to rest. There’s just so much fun to be had.
The demo started off inside of a church. This is where you can accept quests, buy weapons, and make upgrades or repairs. We were given a ridiculous amount of money to buy whatever we desired. I purchased and upgraded several types of blades, a mace, a rifle, and even coated one weapon in fire. You can carry pretty much anything you buy, but you can only equip 9 items to your weapon wheel at a time.
Once a quest has been activated, a clear path to your destination is shown on your mini-map. We all left the church cautiously, not knowing what to expect. The first thing you’ll notice is that the environment is completely open to the player. You can go pretty much anywhere you want. And that’s exactly what I did.
The church serves as the central hub. Very little praying will be done.
Not seeing the point of having a bunch of knives as a weapon, I opted to use my rifle first. I learned the hard way that guns need to be used sparingly. You won’t find ammo just laying on the ground, and it certainly won’t materialize after killing an enemy. There’s a bit of a survival horror element to weapon usage, so you actually need to think about what you’re doing at all times.
The enemies themselves are quite ferocious. As fun as it is to kill them, you actually need to put some effort into each enemy you take down. The combat is surprisingly more melee intensive than anything else. If you want to take down the undead, you need to go up to them and punch them in the face. Having three teammates certainly helped with that task. We fended off as many zombies as possible, all while our guide gave us insights to the gameplay.
There are four different characters in the game. Each of which have their own attributes and special abilities. Sam is the Tank class and is good with heavy weapons. Xian Mei is the Assassin and specializes with blades, Logan is the well rounded “jack of all trades”, and Purna is the Leader. I used Logan during the demo. His unique ability is being able to throw a barrage of knives at anything standing in his way. This required use of the Rage meter.
Building up your rage is as simple as killing zombies. You’ll also gain experience points in the process. That XP can then be used to upgrade your character’s skill tree. Even if your teammates were all the same character, they could be leveled up differently, ultimately making them more or less effective in various ways. For the purposes of the demo we were already leveled up quite a bit.
Whether you’re cutting a zombies arm off or chopping off their head, you’re going to have a lot of fun torturing enemies. There were many moments were we just beat on a zombie that was long dead. The most brutal attack was definitely the curb stomp. Despite the horrific setting and circumstances, the game was just hilarious to play. Coming up with different ways to incapacitate your enemies is disturbing, yet very satisfying. And it’s always fun blowing up your teammates by shooting gas tanks. It’s possible to revive fallen friends, but it’s not exactly a good idea to just waste all of your health items unless you need to. If you aren’t healed in time you can respawn nearby but you’ll also lose some XP in the process.
There was a nice variety of enemies always in our way. Some zombies were on fire, some were covered in poison mist, while others served as mini-bosses. One in particular, appropriately named The Ram, was wearing a straight jacket and would charge at us with full force. He has quite a bit of health, but he’s relatively easy to deal with. You just need to side step at the right moment to avoid getting hit. Even the common zombies were no joke. Unlike Resident Evil 5, they don’t just stand there waiting for you to attack them. They will run and you and eat your face at every chance they get. You’re not always alone either. Sometimes you’ll see random survivors out in the streets fighting for their lives.
As all of this is going on, you need to keep track of your various meters. In addition to your health bar, you have to pay attention to your stamina. If you swing your weapon too frequently, your stamina will decrease and your attacks will become less effective. There’s also a meter attached to the weapons themselves. If it depletes, the weapon becomes less effective. You either need to repair it or toss it away. I opted to throw many of my knives at unsuspecting zombies. What’s neat is that you can actually recover them from their dead bodies.
Situations like this happen quite often.
Perhaps the best part about the multiplayer mode is just how seamless it is. You can easily drop in and out of games whenever you want. Unlike some co-op based games, Dead Island’s entire campaign mode is at your disposal and anything you earned offline or online will carry on to both modes.
Even if you’re not into first person shooters, you’ll definitely want to keep Dead Island on your radar. Imagine a zombie game with elements from Borderlands, Dead Rising, and Left 4 Dead. It certainly has the potential to be a great game. We’ll see how it goes once it hits store shelves in September.