In the latest installment of our 254-part series “Games Sugar Played at X’11” we have Dead Island, much-anticipated co-op zombie masher.
This particular demo was timed, so I quickly set about grabbing my weapon—a wooden paddle—and getting down to business. The business of zombie-murder, that is—and as several franchises can attest, business is good.
The beach I stepped out onto seemed safe enough, until a zombie came up at my flank and grabbed a hold of me. A prompt informed me that I should pull the left trigger, setting the zombie up for a pull of the right trigger that socked him directly in the face, staggering him away.
This was actually one of the more satisfying moments in the demo, so intuitive that I didn’t actually need to see the second prompt to know what the game wanted me to do.
Now the zombie was down, but he wasn’t out—he was climbing back to his feet. I swung the paddle and he crunched nicely, but to my surprise, he endured.
The zombies in Dead Island are a little bit different than you may be used to from the game’s direct competition, Left4Dead. That is to say, they are durable. Their legs can be broken, their arms can be chopped off, but they will persist in their slow, haggard pursuit of your brains all the same.
When this first zombie dropped onto his belly from my latest blow, I came up close and struck again—this time with my character bending over and delivering a heavy, brutal blow that put the monster down for good.
Feeling quite satisfied with my labored dispatching of this slow-witted creature, I turned around to be immediately greeted by two more.
This demo wasn’t about hordes; zombies traveled alone or in small groups, but their increased toughness meant they still felt like legitimate threats. Additionally, another wrench was thrown into the works in the form of the stamina meter; whether I was swinging, stabbing, or sprinting, all my actions drained the meter—which upon emptying, would leave me temporarily defenseless. As such, managing fatigue is as important as managing the small groups of zombies.
Later, I managed to grab hold of a knife—and nearby was a group of especially dim zombies who didn’t attack when I approached, probably deliberately set there for the purpose of testing out my exciting new killing technology. The knife, when swung properly, would decapitate a zombie and put him down in one blow.
When wielded with less accuracy, though, zombies would fall, still alive, and eventually climb back up to their feet—necessitating that I get in close, lean down, and start hacking at body parts to finish the job.
After dying once and running quickly through the beach again, my demo time had expired.
I left feeling that the demo had not really introduced me to the core mechanics of the game. Weapon crafting, character progression, the skill tree, and co-operative play—these features were nowhere to be found. This was merely a combat demo, and though that combat was crunchy and satisfying, I felt that I hadn’t really found the identity of Dead Island there—though with the game set for release on September 6, it won’t be long before players are able to get their hands on the larger game at work here.