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E3 2011:Dead Island Hands-On - Just when you thought you were sick of zombies


I was finally able to get some hands-on with Dead Island at this years E3 and I can tell you two things. First of all, it's probably not what you're least not if you put a lot of clout into the CGI trailer. What I can tell you, however, is that even though the game itself bears little resemblance to its trailer counterpart, it's also bloody good and resembles other games that have had a lot to offer in the past.  The feel of the game remains true to my earlier predictions made after seeing gameplay online.  It plays like a zombie FarCry with a DeadRising weapon mod system, and the melee combat of Condemned.  The mixture works, even if the combat itself seems to still need a little work.

The demo starts wih you waking up after a long night drinking. There is panic all around you and other island residents are arguing whether to bash your head in with a bat. After you wake up, and they realize that you are not about to turn into one of the infected, you are free to move around the 'safe area' and take missions from the other residents.  There isn't much time to hang out since you are almost immediately thrust into a mission which has you rescuing a fellow survivor who is being attacked outside. You grab the nearest thing that can be construed as a weapon, in the case a wooden oar, and head outside.

The melee combat is both visceral and, perhaps, a little overly difficult due mostly to the fact that it's hard to judge exactly how far away you need to be actually hit the zombies.   It almost seems like your character should have a little more reach when using something as big and long as a wooden oar.  You also have a kick which helps keep the zombies at bay but, again, it just seems to get you a little too close for comfort. The one thing this aspect of combat does offer is a little more intensity so there is a chance that this may be more by design than fault.

When you do connect, however, the effect is what I can only describe as luscious. The sound design of smashing bone being thrust into rotting sinew is fantastically rendered, as bits of blood and flesh fly through the air and a nice rumble jolts through the controller. Use an edged weapon and limbs or heads will appropriately be separated from the torso in a glorious stream of gore.  The outstanding feeling of exterminating the dead made me forget how hard it was to sometimes do so.

The part of the island able to be explored in the demo was small but well populated with objects and provided multiple paths which also provided more tactical options. In many cases, I found that it was the smarter move to run from the zombies instead of fight them...especially when being a low level.

Yes, there are levels in the game and I saw three distinct skill trees in the demo with about 15-20 skills in each tree.  XP, and damage numbers, fly out of zombies in Borderlands fashion which adds a fantastically gamey feel to the entire experience.

Dead Island is a fantastically open and fun experience that, much unlike the trailer, doesn't seem to take itself as seriously as some would like, but still offers a great romp while adding some new twists on the zombie theme. And just when I thought I was sick of zombies.


  • SomethingSnappy 8 years, 6 months ago

    cool shit

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  • kd_battletoad 8 years, 6 months ago

    Thats some great news, Joseph. Cant wait to try it.

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  • Kickagnome 8 years, 6 months ago

    I love reviews by Joseph Christ.

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  • Mark 8 years, 6 months ago

    When I saw the trailer, I was really impressed. Totally stoked for it.

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  • slivermoon 8 years, 6 months ago

    This sounds rather badass. I hope for a gameplay video to surface soon.
    Would you happen to know if there's co-op? I know that co-op has been beaten to death in this day and age but I think it'd be really interesting with what players can do together in this sort of setting.

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  • Dimensaur 8 years, 6 months ago

    I will take entertainment value over gritty realism any day of the week. I'm happy to hear that the melee combat has a good response when you land blows. My biggest concern for this game was it would get stale and repetitive really quickly with such a heavy emphasis on melee combat and a game setting that is seemingly limited in environmental diversity. I understand the demo area was small, but were you able to gather any info on other game areas? The lack of interesting environments is still a concern I have, but it has been alleviated somewhat.

    Also Joseph might I say, you have a way with words my friend, painted a beautiful picture of the melee combat there.

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  • pioshfd 8 years, 6 months ago

    At the end of the day, it sounds like a pretty open-world co-op zombie game. Not too realistic but hey, from what Joseph says, arms and legs separate from torsos and that's satisfying enough for me. Throw in skill trees? I'm definitely looking forward to this game. Now to find other people to play it with...

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  • Comradebearjew 8 years, 6 months ago

    I'm a sucker for zombie games, and this one looks fantastic.

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  • CocoPanda 8 years, 6 months ago

    The combat system has really got me interested, and zombies are probably my favorite creatures so this should be fun.

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  • Underdog 8 years, 6 months ago

    the combat just seems so clunky. this game raises the same problem for me as Skyrim, it may be cool to navigate the environment but if its not fun to actually play why should i waste my time. Hate when they call something survival when they really meant to say hack n' slash

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  • Tim 8 years, 6 months ago

    Right in the fucking head!

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  • Soulglove 8 years, 6 months ago

    Sounds good. Should be fun with multiple people.

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  • Terror Teddy 8 years, 6 months ago

    i have high hopes for this game

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  • Sei 8 years, 6 months ago

    Melee combat of Condemned huh? IMO after awhile, Condemned would feel repetitive with the melee combat. Hope I won't get that feeling with this, because I can't wait to see how this turns out.

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  • DamonD 8 years, 6 months ago

    "First of all, it’s probably not what you’re expecting…at least not if you put a lot of clout into the CGI trailer."

    I didn't, so fine by me! Having seen several minutes of gameplay footage, and with Joseph's impressions, it's one I've got pencilled in. I do think I'll be checking this one out.

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  • Domukari 8 years, 6 months ago

    Pretty much sealed the deal for me.

    Cooperative Multiplayer has been confirmed for this game right?

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  • Rendrak 8 years, 6 months ago

    You can play as Nick and go crazy with a fire axe in this game? Fuck, I'm sold.

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  • Skittles0520 8 years, 6 months ago

    The original trailer sucked me in emotionally, but this one really made me want to play it...the story of you getting drunk in a bar, then waking up in a zombie infested island sounds like my kind of

    has there been a release date yet?!

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  • Minyme 8 years, 6 months ago

    Game looks sick, and the release date is sept 6 skittles.

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  • Wahhbuffet 8 years, 6 months ago

    Needs m0ar Zombies...

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  • TheSage 8 years, 6 months ago

    From what I seem, it looks like a great zombie game. Dead Rising was not the zombie game I was expecting, as the control system was too convoluted, and the timed missions were something I did not like. The big open-world zombie feel of Dead Island really excites me, and it's good to see that Dead Island can actually be a good game, and that Dead Island won't be known only for it's debut trailer.

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  • lemith 8 years, 6 months ago

    After seeing the last gameplay trailer, im not sick of zombies... But vampires on the other hand...

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  • RedUnit10 8 years, 6 months ago

    Looking good, much better then a L4D clone.

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