Paradise Lost: Dead Island Preview

Paradise Lost: Dead Island Preview

One of the most anticipated games of next month is without a doubt Techland and Deep Silver’s Dead Island, a zombie game that puts you in a tropical resort, throws in scores of the undead, makeshift weapons and some stellar presentation and rolls it all together into a superb-looking title.

Dead Island first caused a media storm earlier this year when it debuted, seemingly out of nowhere, with an amazing trailer that was haunting, eerie and more than a bit exciting. Take a quick look before we continue on:

[youtube id=”o2gPstZ5oA” width=”600″ height=”350″]

It’s quite easy to see why the trailer gripped everyone’s attention. Here was another zombie title, but it was, despite us being constantly bombarded with the undead lately, one of the finest examples of zombie fiction I’ve seen in recent memory. In many ways it reminds me of the stellar TV series The Walking Dead, as the visual presentation and highly aggressive, more realistic implementation of the zombie folk seems to be absolutely top-notch.

What exactly is Dead Island though? Well, the game takes place on a fictional island near Papua New Guinea and puts you in the shoes of several different survivors of a recent zombie epidemic that was infected seemingly everyone and their cat.  It sounds in many ways like Capcom’s Dead Rising minus the mall, but Dead Island has proved over the past few months that it is differentiating itself from Capcom’s zombie franchise by implementing a much more striking form of visual presentation, opting for zombie realism rather than lunacy.

The game itself is set to be from a first-person standpoint of several different characters, but will have a stronger focus on melee weaponry than using conventional firearms. Indeed, many media outlets have already reported that ammo for weaponry is sparse – this is all about using the environment and the astonishing amount of makeshift weapons it can provide in order to fight for your life. The game will not just be an FP…er….M for melee though. Instead it will also implement a skill tree and extensive customization elements, taking the zombie-slicer firmly into disticntly RPG territory and the player will find themselves presented with experience and a skill tree system where you can upgrade your abilities, weaponry and even some vehicles.

You Sir, Eviscerate Thyself Upon My Sword!

The detail that Techland is pouring into their zombie folk is what also makes the game incredibly interesting. Each zombie is said to have a specific musculature system which allows for direct damage to body parts with in game weaponry, meaning you’re unlikely to chop a zombie up in the same way every single time. This will allow the player to directly damage the zombies at will, perhaps cutting off arms, legs or other bodily appendages depending on where you happen to strike the undead chap in front of you.

Speaking of which, since you’re going to be constantly wailing upon zombies, Dead Island introduces a stamina bar, meaning you can’t just constantly bash the hell out of everything a la Dead Rising. This, again, is designed as a means to increase the realism of Dead Island – in real life you simply wouldn’t be able to constantly fight off the undead without getting a little bit fatigued, and that is why Dead Island introduces this stamina system. Likewise in terms of realism, Dead Island’s weapon system will also cause weapons to degrade steadily over time, making a much tenser experience where the player must dash to grab the nearest zombie-killing implement – whatever that may be, ranging from anything from oars to machetes – and send the zombie folk back to their graves. Personally I’m all for this tense, survival-oriented style of play – Dead Island seems to be turning zombies back into something to fear rather than to dress up in various silly masks, and I think that this is a breath of fresh air for the plethora of zombie-related franchises currently out there.

Of course, you’re not going to always be battling for your survival though using only whatever you can find. Dead Island also includes a similar workbench function to Dead Rising 2 where you can combine items and improve them into much more devestating versions of what they used to be. Again, however, the focus here is on more realistic, viable weapons – while Dead Rising revelled in the usage of such items such a parasol combined with a leaf blower, Dead Island will focus on more realisitic weaponry. I’m sure there’s still room for some fun though – the game itself is boasting hundreds upon hundreds of unique weapons, so there should be some exceptionally formidable combinations to get to grips with.

‘You Know, All I Wanted Was a Nice, Quiet Holiday…’

But what of the various zombie types present in Dead Island? No self respecting zombie title in the modern era is content with just regular shambling undead, and Dead Island is absolutely no exception to the rule whatsoever. As you may have spotted above, there’s a large zombie in a straightjacket and a mask present in Dead Island – now quite why there’s a man in a straightjacket on a holiday paradise who’s then been beefed up to massive portions remains a mystery (which will probably be resolved by the plot which will probably involve there being more to the island than meets the eye) but this guy, nevertheless, is a bit more dangerous than your average joe zombie. Dubbed ‘The Ram’, this zombie will pack a meaner punch and be much more formidable than his shambling counterparts.

He’s not the only different type of zombie you’ll have to deal with though – instead players will be getting to grips with ‘The Suicider’ – a horribly difigured zombie covered in putrid boils which will no doubt explode as it charges at you, ‘The Butcher’, who is said to a humanoid with long hair, ‘The Thug’, who will knocks players over, leaving them easy prey for other zombies and also you’ll be getting to grips with zombies that hurl up on you with their putrid innards and are covered in slime. Sounds just delightful, doesn’t it?

These various types of zombies are going to be absolutely all over the island, which is going to be a huge locale filled with a wide variety of open-air and enclosed environments ranging from the humble beach to a jungle or even the underground sewers of the island. Naturally walking through the enclosed spaces means the chances of zombie attack are extremely heightened and exploring at nightime will involve the player having to use a flashlight, thus ramping up the tension of exploring a distinctly darkened locale significantly. The risk of filling your underwear with something you probably don’t want to will be likely a beneficial one though, as players can root through locales for new weapons, cash and a whole host of other handy items that will help you in your quest to battle back against the undead.

Another Route May Be In Order, Have You Seen The Size Of This Guy?

But who exactly are the various characters you’ll be using to battle the undead, and how specifically do they differ from each other? Well, quite significantly actually, as each character has unique abilities and plays very differently from the other. They each essentially start with a class, which are entitled Leader, Tank, Jack-of-All-Trades, and Assassin, with each of these having their own relevant perks and abilities as you level up. An assassin, for example, may find themselves significantly better at using knives than blunt instruments, while a Tank can take significantly more damage and general punishment before going down. Let me introduce you further to the specific characters:

Xian Mei

The former receptionist at The Royal Palm resort, the Chinese born Xian finds herself locked in battle with a zombie horde and steps up the plate. Described as being intelligent, quick on her feet and a fast learner, Xian will no doubt be one of the quicker characters.




Sam B

A ‘one hit wonder rap star’ Sam B finds himself waking up in the middle of a zombie attack and has to react accordingly. He has access to a Rage attack using his fists, and can also crush zombie heads with his feet. Nice.






A reckless former NFL star with a checkered, murderous past, Logan escaped to Banoi in order to swap his personal demons for the lovely bodies of the babes of Banoi.







A former member of the Sydney police, Purna left the force after killing a child molester. She now works a private bodyguard for VIPS, and is sure to be an excellent zombie-killing machine.




Excitingly, all four of these characters will be playable simultaneously, as Dead Island offers 4 player, drop-in, drop-out gameplay via the magic of the internet. That means you can either choose to go it alone, or pair up with friends or entirely random people depending on your preferences.

Dead Island itself comes out September 9th 2011, so be sure to keep checking ManaTank for more information on it, including our review.


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