E3 2011 Hands-On: Dead Island

Everyone remembers when they saw the first teaser trailer for Dead Island and immediately thought “that looks awesome,” right? While the game certainly doesn’t convey the raw emotion that the trailer did, it certainly does offer up a unique approach to the ‘zombies have taken over the island’ genre of game. At E3, we sat down with the team behind Dead Island to try out the game’s co-operative aspect. Here’s how it went down.

We started inside of the typical cathedral-style church covered in anti-zombie measures. We were explained that this point in the game was about six to eight hours in at what’s being panned as a 25 or 30 hour game. One thing Dead Island does different from most other survival games is offers players a completely open world covered in quests. We were playing the drop-in / drop-out co-op version of the game, which has the exact same story as the single-player. The only major draw of co-operative play over single-player is playing with friends, and the experience earned. There is always one huge problem with drop-in / drop-out style games, and that’s character progression — it doesn’t always carry over to each player’s individual games. With Dead Island, that’s not the case, as all progress carries over. Game developer Techland knows that this often leads to exploitation of the system though, which is why they crafted a scaling system. The amount of experience earned in your cooperative partner’s game might not be the same as what you take back to your game, as that could create an imbalance.

The latest Dead Island trailer

More clips, screenshots

We were given a quest to put up posters of a missing person all over town. Before our pursuit, we readied ourselves by purchasing weapons from a merchant, where we were shown the weapon customization system. Certain weapons allow the attachment of elemental perks. For example, a wooden bat can be turned into a wooden bat with a lit torch on the end. Whenever an enemy is hit with this weapon, they are damaged by the fire and are eventually set on fire, themselves. Weapons in Dead Island degenerate with each strike, meaning that they will break down, become less effective, and eventually become useless unless repaired. Finally, there’s the upgrade system, which basically allows the player to upgrade their weapons for higher damage and sustainability.

From here we embarked on the aforementioned quest. To clear things up, the game is nothing like Left 4 Dead, with the exception of combating zombies. The enemies do not go down with one or two hits; they require five or six depending on the weapon that you’re carrying. There aren’t hordes of enemies coming at you; it’s more of a literal interpretation of the apocalypse, as you’ll never have more than a dozen enemies coming at you. This was evident throughout the dozens of encounters that we had on our way to put up the posters, before returning to the church.

Dead Island is more technical than most games. It is a game that mixes the things that we loved about the Left 4 Dead series with modern day role-playing games. Whether you’re taking it on alone, or with a group of friends, Dead Island has the potential to be a big hit when it hits store shelves.

Dead Island launches for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC on September 6th.

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