GDC 11: Our latest look at Dead Island

My last preview of Dead Island impressed me quite a bit. I saw it for the first time two months ago, and much has gone into the game since then. The demo was the same area that I saw before for the most part, so I’ll simply hit on all the new things that were shown off.

First, the animation for the characters and zombies were a lot more polished. It wasn’t perfect, as this is still an early build, after all. Character dialogue was also in place and I’m really hoping the voice actors were just placeholders — most of the conversations and one-liners came off as overly cheesy.

Deep Silver played as the character Sam B, who is the group’s tank character (you can also play as assassin, leader, and jack-of-all-trades characters, too). There are role-playing elements in Dead Island, so you will gain experience points while fighting zombies that you can apply to a character’s skill tree. All four playable characters will share similar upgrades, but they’ll each also have specific skills that only they can learn. Sam B, for instance, is able to learn an attack called “SkullCrusher” where he can stomp on a zombie’s head, and a “Fury” attack, which doubles his strength for a duration of time.

I saw more weapons this time, including sledgehammers, knives, hammers, fire axes and more. Every weapon you use can be thrown at enemies, which helps when you encounter certain types of zombies. Weapons do degrade, but you can fix them at work benches. Swinging a weapon also lowers your stamina bar, so you have to balance out how hard and how fast you’re attacking.

Weapons are upgradable and they can also be combined not unlike Dead Rising 2. One example of a combo we saw was the electric machete attack where every swing of your machete will also hit zombies with an electric blast for extra damage. Another combo was the sticky bomb knife attack, which is a knife with a bomb strapped to on; it explodes after you’ve thrown the knife. I hope they change the name of this weapon to “stabby bomb.”

As for the zombies, expect multiple variations. The slow moaners, the 28 Days Later-like runners, zombies on fire, zombies that explode on contact, ones that vomit at you to much more. There are mini-boss type zombies as well, such as one that has double the amount of strength.

Later in the demo, we were told that you’ll be able to drive cars around the island, which will be really beneficial in cutting down on travel time. Deep Silver wouldn’t say how big the island you’re playing on is, but we can expect the game to clock in at around 20 to 30 hours. I imagine it will be even longer thanks to the side-quests and the four-player co-op which will balance and scale appropriately based on how many people are playing.

This preview session was hands-off once again, so I can’t comment on how the controls are. But everything else is shaping up to an awesome — and more importantly, refreshing — zombie experience.

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Hamza Aziz
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