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Harumph avatar 1:03 PM on 02.18.2011  (server time)
Cautiously optimistic about Dead Island

If you have eyes, been on the internet lately and are a fiend for zombie games, youíve no doubt seen the trailer for Dead Island Ė the open-world, zombie FPS action RPG. Though itís one of the most ambitious titles Iíve heard of in a long time (outside of Awakened), Iím trying not to drown in the sea of hype that its teaser trailer has unleashed on the unsuspecting masses of the interwebs. Donít get me wrong, the trailer is amazing - the way itís cut together and the story it tells definitely gave me chills. But the meager amount of information Iíve seen about the game so far isnít enough for me to buy a ticket on the hype train just yet.

Iím gonna take a moment to examine the tags put on this game Ė open-world, zombie FPS, action-RPG. Each of those genres is great on their own but put them together and Iím not quite sure what you get. Sure, it sounds amazing in theory Ė but then again so did the giant controller that came with Steel Battalion (well it sounded awesome to me back then anyway). Action-RPG would be easy enough to pull off Ė most games (like Borderlands and even Dead Rising fits into that category) manage to integrate some kind of RPG element(s) pretty successfully. The open-world/zombie FPS aspects of Dead Island have me slightly more concerned, though.

With the info that there will be running zombies and unique zombies along with the standard shambling buggers, Iím a little wary of the FPS aspect. FPS zombie killing in Left 4 Dead is one thing, but an open world filled with zombies where you could potentially be playing solo is a whole different situation. In L4D, you have guns along with melee weapons to stave of the zombie horde, but you also always have backup. I canít shake this feeling that in Dead Island Iíd be constantly surrounded and harrassed if I were playing by myself.

Speaking of playing with myself, errÖ by myself, Dead Island will have drop in/drop out co-op play. Youíll allegedly have four different characters/classes to choose from and can jump into games on the fly - similar to Borderlands, Iím guessing. What concerns me is whether the game will scale to your characters or whether areas of the game will be geared toward different levels (newer characters to more leveled-up characters). Even though I loved Borderlands, the way the game scaled to your character (and the playthrough youíre on) was incredibly annoying. It basically meant you had to play with other characters the same level as you, or else the lowest level character was going to be getting stomped on quite regularly.

The FPS melee part of it kinda makes me a little nervous, too. Even the melee combat in L4D2 is spotty sometimes and thatís what theyíre looking to emulate? If anything, Techland should be shooting for a gameplay style similar to the Condemned series. The combat in those games was intense and brutally satisfying where as the combat in L4D feels almost arcadey at time Ė like how you can just run around, swinging your weapon without looking (if youíre covered in Boomer bile, perhaps) and still manage to take out zombies.

But beyond the mechanics of the gameplay, with such a huge, persistent, open-world Iíd be more than a little worried about how smoothly Dead Island would run. With such a high level of detail Iíve seen in the screens and with all the elements of RPG and exploration that will allegedly be available, Iím more than a little worried that Techland will have trouble getting it to run at a reasonable frame rate.

And if you still havenít gotten enough of me being a Debbie Doubts-a lot, I wasnít sure where I had heard of Techland before. Well, Wikipedia helped in giving me another reason to be uneasy Ė the biggest games to Techlands credit are the Call of Juarez series and the recently released nailíd. I donít mean to be a jerk, but Call of Juarez is okay at best and I donít even know how nailíd could translate to a game like Dead Island. Itís great they have FPS experience with the CoJ series but the first game was pretty rough and the second was decent but couldnít really compare to bigger name FPSes (Halo, COD, etc.).

Still though, Iím holding at cautiously optimistic. Open-world games are awesome, zombies are awesome as are FPSes Ė itís almost blasphemous for me to think something combining all those elements could be bad. Maybe I just want so bad for Dead Island to be mind-blowing that I canít help but think about how easily it would be to screw up. At least thatís what Iím telling myself.

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