Dead Island E3 2011 Hands-On Multiplayer Preview -- When Timeshares Go Nightmarishly WrongBy Dana Vinson - Posted Jun 20, 2011
Everyone likes to take a vacation with friends. Sometimes, these vacations are lovely. Sometimes, someone forgets his or her passport. Sometimes, the entire island you're on becomes overrun with zombies, and you and your friends have to fight and claw your way to safety.
Fortunately for us, Dead Island is the latter kind of vacation, and we all get to bask in its zombie-slaying glory. At E3 2011, we went hands on with Dead Island multiplayer co-op mode. It's the first time we've gotten to take a look at the campaign with four humans playing together to smash heads and spray blood all over the island paradise.
The entire campaign is playable in co-op mode, and you can drop in and drop out with different friends at different times, or play consistently with the same people to level up together. If you choose to play with someone who’s a higher level than you, the game will warn that there are spoilers ahead. At that point, you can choose to proceed or not at your own mental risk. If you hate people and want to play alone (or maybe you only sort of like people so you have a team of two), you will not be accompanied by AI teammates; instead, the enemies will scale depending on the number of players in your party.
The demo consisted of a side quest, as to not reveal parts of the story without the context of the whole plot. The NPC asked our team of four to venture out of the safe house--or in this case, safe church-- to hang posters in order to help him find a missing loved one. No one, however, had the heart to tell him that his loved one was probably already a brainless zombie running around in cargo shorts.
While in the safe house, we were able to buy a variety of weapons from a weary shopkeeper and then use a workbench to repair and upgrade them. Whereas other games put an emphasis on FPS gameplay, Dead Island focuses mainly on melee weapons. Guns are available, but ammo is hard to come by, so it forces you to choose the time and place for firearms wisely. I equipped weapons like an axe, machete, and knives, and after repairing my death tools, I was able to upgrade some of them with extra goodies. For example, my machete—after I was done with it—would jolt zombies with a major electrical shock. Yes. Yes. Yes.
I should mention, however, that we were given an unlimited bank account to play with during this demo (all the repairs and upgrades costs money, of course). In the real world, you’ll have to start at the beginning and earn your own money, but during this demo, we rolled out in style. This is an important note, because Dead Island is an RPG, so a large part of the gameplay involved leveling up, collecting money, and strategizing how to use your resources to maximize your killing potential.
Once we were done equipping, our team set out into the world. The vibrant tropical setting had been muted by destruction: fires burned all around us, buildings lay in different states of ruin, and of course, the walking dead were all around. These aren’t the hordes of zombies that you’re accustomed to from other games; these are small clumps of smarter foes. This setup does not necessarily make staying alive more manageable, but it does give you the time to set up creative kills with your teammates.
While it might seem like the bizarre lovechild of Left 4 Dead and Dead Rising, Dead Island is an action-adventure RPG that seems more mature. If you just want to spray and prey in silly hats, you won’t find it here. Instead, what you’re going to get here are hardcore, team-based missions. And that’s exactly what we did. We killed zombies while traveling to waypoints, eventually making our way back to the safe house where we started, because at it’s core, Dead Island is about killing zombies, but not in the way in which we’ve become accustomed. One thing that will seem familiar, however, are the special infected that you’ll encounter, which include a suicide zombie that will do damage when it explodes near you and a large zombie that charges at you uncontrollably.
Where L4D is about volume of kills, Dead Island is about quality of kills, but it comes at a price of complexity that casual players will probably shy away from. The formidable menus will be a barrier to entry, but even though this level of detail won’t appeal to everyone, the options available in Dead Island are beyond extensive, and players that live or die by their inventory will drool over the endless combinations. Players who are ready to graduate from the stress-relief killathon or over-the-top time trials to a more refined zombie slaying experience will probably want to check out Dead Island and what it has to offer.when it arrives September 6, 2011 for the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.