Dead Island - skull-smashing preview

The main zombies we’ve seen don’t require a headshot to be put out of commission, which we’re glad about because having to aim for the head with melee weapons against every damn enemy would get tiring. They can be dismembered, though, and it will be a crucial tactic – for instance, you could take out a zombie’s legs just to remove him as an immediate threat because you’re being swarmed, or you could be up against a “miniboss” zombie like the one we saw which looked like an undead body-builder and is too resilient to take down until he’s crawling after you. Regardless of tactical importance, the game clearly wants you to revel in zombie slaughter, because we saw zombie bodies coming apart in ways we may have never seen before: torsos opening like piñatas, heads splitting apart at diagonal angles, and all kinds of rubbery limbs flopping about.

Above: Zombies in bikinis = dead sexy

Merely swatting away with melee weapons for hours and hours could get tiresome, so the game presents many, many ways to deliver a final resting place to the restless dead. You can throw any weapon you carry and then pick it up again after it obliterates a shambler. Since guns are rare, a slightly unrealistic bomb option is available: we saw our player sprint past a group of zombies, pick up a propane tank and toss it amongst them, then hurl a hammer at the tank for a terrific explosion. Not remotely believable, but who cares? Hammerbomb!

Speaking of bombs, we should mention the weapon combination system. Clearly borrowed from Dead Rising 2, Dead Island allows you to gather various parts and upgrade or fashion new weapons at workbenches. We saw it only briefly, but it looked a bit more complex than DR2’s “slap two items together” approach. They also want to stress that while the combined weapons may be entertaining, they’re not going for the “silly humor” approach. So you won’t be combining teddy bears with machine guns, but we did see an electric machete and the sticky bomb. Now, this isn’t the sticky bomb you’re used to: it isn’t sticky due to some glue-type material, but rather that it “sticks” into zombies. Take a little plastic explosive, strap it to a throwing knife, and there you go. One toss later and your bomb is protruding from a zombie eye-socket. If you want to save ammo, you can still use the knife as a shank until you need to throw it.

Above: The electric machete proves the dead can dance

With all this weapon creating, zombie-punching Fury modes, and near-unlimited smorgasbord of zombie dicing options, it would be logical to think that Dead Island is a fun, relaxing empowerment fantasy. Wrong-O. Remember we said the devs want to bring survival to the forefront. The tropical island may look tranquil and you may feel like a hardass while you practice your culinary skills on hapless undead, but this place is dangerous with a capital D. When you’re at the lower levels anything more than a couple of zombies can spell doom. The island may be open and free-roaming, but if you’re not careful you could stumble upon a dense clutch of zombies and no manner of clever sticking-and-moving will save your ass. You’ll have to run until you can get stronger.

Aside from progressing down the usual leveling path, you’ll increase your chances of survival through indirect means. Our demo covered the first area of the game where you wake up amongst a group of survivors trapped in a bungalow. There’s a guy with a pickup truck who could provide transportation, but he’s trapped inside his vehicle. Heroic rapper Sam B. gets the man free and learns that a nearby lifeguard tower could provide a defensible stronghold if only it can be cleared of zombies first. Once Sam finishes off the last of the deadies inside, the pickup arrives with survivors in tow. Now Sam has a base of operations, with a doctor and merchant providing services.

Above: We're not sure why you can't just take a boat and escape the island - perhaps it's too remote?

Apparently there are other groups of banded-together survivors on the island – some of them friendly (providing opportunities to establish new sanctuaries) and some of them not so friendly. We just hope confrontations with them won’t be like fighting the “psychos” in Dead Rising… eugh. We’re also told that a number of vehicles will be available, starting with the pickup truck, since walking around the massive island would take too long. These of course will provide zombie-mowing opportunities, but these will always be risky since a broken-down set of wheels in the middle of a horde doesn’t mean the same thing here it does in easier zombie games.

We saw only thirty minutes of Dead Island, but with the potential depth provided by skill trees, tactical combat, vehicles, and weapon combinations we’re thinking this could very much be a big deal. Something about the combat feels fresh, even if we’ve seen first-person melee fighting before. We’ll need to get our hands on it before we can be sure of this notion, and we don’t know how the greater structure of the game will pan out, but as of now we’re licking our chops for “yet another” zombie game and eager to take a bite out of its necromantic innards.

Mar 3, 2011




  • Cruddi - March 17, 2011 2:42 p.m.

    Is this third or first person game? Or can you choose
  • Agent79 - March 8, 2011 5:34 p.m.

  • UberNoob - March 6, 2011 2:36 a.m.

    I hope the story makes sense. Not just some virus secretly developed my the US government, is then carried on a plan to some country for some reason, crash lands on the island, and is then accidently released on a to resort island.
  • Yeager1122 - March 5, 2011 1:23 a.m.

    Wasnt much intrested from the trailer just thought oh boy another zombie game but after reading this im Excited about this game and kinda do want.
  • EroticInvisibleMan - March 5, 2011 12:43 a.m.

    Trailer, five years of nothing, then a teaser and screens and previews and crap. The fact that they're now jumping right into it, while making me happy, is somewhat unsettling. Feels very DN:F to me.
  • GamesRadarMatthewKeast - March 4, 2011 11:32 p.m.

    I'm guessing the Assassin's a rogue type: you know, faster, less resilient... maybe you can backstab zombies?
  • Crypto140 - March 4, 2011 8:48 p.m.

    You can play as an "assassin" class? I was laughing so hard when I saw that. How could that work? Mabey it will help you give you an edge in killing humans? Humans can pose a threat during zombie invasions too( I mean besides Dead Rising when they are walking flak jackets, that killed the game for me) but who knows? Seriously who does, I want to know.
  • GamesRadarMatthewKeast - March 4, 2011 5:49 p.m.

    The game has a main storyline to follow, but because it's open-world, there are tons of sidequests and general exploration you can do. The devs estimate the game will take 20-30 hours to finish.
  • Manguy17 - March 4, 2011 5:03 p.m.

    hmm...not sure, seems to have the right idea with realistic zombies, but i would prefer if you could make your own characters, because frankly i might not want to play as an angry rapper type. also the rpg elements seem a bit odd, when i first heard it i was thinking they meant ME2 style with some focus of characters and dialouge when its quite, not having to gain xp and the like. i suppose they would get better at survivng over time but they wouldnt just level up and allocate skill points, perhaps if your just naturally got better at the things you did the most..
  • DeepIsh - March 4, 2011 4:57 p.m.

    Meh, boats are too mainstream.
  • CitizenWolfie - March 4, 2011 3:20 p.m.

    I didn't buy into the hype from the teaser trailer as I thought I'd wait until a proper preview. But this looks preally promising. I felt that L4D was a bit too arcadey and I wanted something a bit more "realistic" from a zombie game. I hope there will be moments like in RE4 when you could fortify a shack and defend it until a certain point. Do you know how the single player will work? I'm guessing maybe a timescale where you just have to keep alive like in Dead Rising but maybe the devs will go a different route.
  • Vulneratus - March 4, 2011 11:15 a.m.

    Hmmmmm... with both this and a Walking Dead game coming out further down the line, surely one of them is gonna nail the "survival" aspects... Could be good indeed
  • Mooshon - March 4, 2011 10:59 a.m.

    Starting to tweak my interest. Really want a bonefide, gritty zombie film type affair - without too much slapstick.
  • Peguin - March 4, 2011 8:49 a.m.

    sounds really exciting. Just hoping they come through and its as exciting as it sounds :)
  • CoktorBloktopus - March 4, 2011 8:45 a.m.

    Oh me likey i do prefer a more serious side to my zombie massacring game so Dead rising never got my vote. And time limits on a game is just stupid seriously
  • hllywd212 - March 4, 2011 5:47 a.m.

    @Hobojedi Yes they will release it for the pc. It already has its own steam store page.
  • IceBlueKirby - March 4, 2011 5:30 a.m.

    Wow, I thought the trailer was just a buttload of pretentious BS, but now I'm excited for this game. Let's hope it's as good as it sounds like it will be.
  • Sy87 - March 4, 2011 4:22 a.m.

    This is a zombie game I been waiting for. Looks really good and if I get to hack off heads and maim other body parts it will be great. I can not wait till this comes out and the coop aspect got me excited even more.
  • Hobojedi - March 4, 2011 1:53 a.m.

    Are we going to see this game on the PC?
  • TheRandomFool - March 4, 2011 1:52 a.m.

    If they can pull it off, this will be wicked as can be. If they mess it up, then anything similar will be killed for the next few years. Lets hope they get it right.

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