I’ve been looking forward to this game ever since the developer released screenshots a couple of years back. This game was originally announced in 2008 and for a while I assumed the project had been shelved because no further news came out for a long time. Well it’s almost upon us (Sept. 9th in UK) and it’s going to be a day-one purchase for me. You only have to watch Zombie Flesh Eaters to realise what an exciting prospect hordes of zombies on a desert island is – and it’s surprising no game has used this setting until now. I’m usually not one for reading too much into a game before it’s released if I’m interested in playing it – there are so many websites competing for your attention that I feel they often go into information-overload, the ones with exclusives etc., that they can spoil the game before you get to play it. All I need is a summary of the game and a brief gameplay video – if I still have doubts (Duke Nukem Forever) then I’ll wait for a few review scores to come through before parting with cash. In the case of Dead Island the gameplay looks solid, and the developer has a track record so it’s looking like a safe bet. Here’s a summary of a few features in Dead Island…

Focus on melee combat
Straight away I think of the Condemned series by Monolith Productions. I have both games and really enjoyed them for their unconventional approach to the FPS genre. However, because these games were obviously built with melee weapons in mind, when you did occasionally come across firearms they didn’t feel as affective as say, a lead pipe – which was both unexpected and detracted from the overall immersion in the game. The same problem was present in Dead Rising 2 as well – I felt far more effective with a baseball bat embedded with nails, or hunting knives strapped to my boxing gloves than with any of the game’s firearms. Going back to Dead Island – it’s fine that they have a focus on melee weapons, but I hope this doesn’t mean the aforementioned problems with firearms. If I can’t run down the beach Baywatch-style, dual-wielding Uzi’s and mowing down zombies in Hawaiian shirts I’m going to be disappointed. It’s good that they are taking the lesser traveled road in the FPS genre – but there’s a reason there’re so many games that fit the typical FPS mould – shooting stuff with guns is great fun.

Open world and RPG elements
Both great qualities for a game, and especially in a game dedicated to zombies. The last game I played that did both of these things really well was Fallout 3. I put over 70+ hours into that game – the level progression and perks were a great motivator to continue exploring the vast Wasteland. It reflects very positively on a game when it can hold your attention when you have no specific goal other than wondering about to see what you can find. I doubt the environment will be as large as the one in Fallout 3 – but as long as it has a similar level of immersion and atmosphere I’ll be happy.

Customisable weapons and vehicles
The obvious comparison here is Dead Rising 2. While that game did feature a very large number of weapons, most of which were combinable, I felt that they were let down by a very short lifespan – so often it felt as though the time and effort spent on finding the right combinable parts just wasn’t worth it – because the weapon would break and be unusable in only a couple of minutes. Hopefully the weapons in Dead Island do not turn out the same way. As for vehicles – best case scenario is being able to create something like Dead Reckoning from Romero’s Land of the Dead. Worse case scenario: gun + jeep = jeep with a gun on it!

The game will feature special infected – some which seem like direct lifts from L4D; which I don’t necessarily have a problem with, but since that game did a really good job with balancing them Dead Island is going to have to do the same to ensure they work within the gameplay and not simply dropped in to add variety. It would take balls of brass to release a triple A game with only the standard type of zombie – but maybe that’s what they should have done. Time will tell.

I’m not keen on the developer’s choice to give the player the option to select one of four pre-existing characters. For this type of game I would prefer to create and name my character from scratch, like Fallout 3. What if you don’t like any of them? You’re stuck with them for the entire game! The characters all seem to have detailed back stories and motivations – the problem with this is that players do not necessarily buy in to that and assuming this is the case won’t be able to emphasis with their avatar. Take Kane and Lynch for instance, two characters you really can’t empathise with; as a result all the things that mean something to them mean nothing to the player and whatever  experience the developer wanted us to have is lost.

A recent post on Kotaku featured three tracks from the game’s soundtrack. They are quality pieces – although the first is a little too reminiscent of 28 Days Later for my liking. If they were going to use a film as inspiration it really should have been Zombie Flesh Eaters, the main theme is one of my favourite tracks:

In any case, I’m excited and looking forward to the game’s release. I’ll be posting a review when I’ve played it. Here’s the excellent preview trailer: