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Dead Island Preview

danielrbischoff By:
PUBLISHER Square Enix 
DEVELOPER Deep Silver, Techland 
M Contains Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol

What do these ratings mean?

An oar, a butcher knife, a molotov cocktail, or the hotel pool.

Square Enix and Deep Silver have created a zombie that's all about choice. It's not about what clothes you wear or whether you let your co-op friend into the safe-house at the end of the level. Dead Island centers around the purity of zombie-apocalypse-survival gameplay. How am I going to kill all of these zombies?

The Penny Arcade Expo demo of Dead Island lasted for just five minutes, but in that short time, and in observing another players' run-throughs, I saw more zombies dispatched in more ways than in five minutes of any other zombie game. Deep Silver accomplishes this by largely avoiding gunplay in its entirety. While I haven't held a shotgun, revolver, or assault rifle on the island, I'd assume firing a gun at a zombie feels about as foreign as it does in Mirror's Edge.

Luckily, swinging a melee weapons satisfies in every sense of the word. Visually, zombies show their injuries in numerous ways. If you've bashed in a zombies mid-section, guts and innards will lay around the corpse like the candy from a broken piñata. Swinging a cleaver at a zombie's head will lop it clean off with a nice, healthy spurt of blood.

Audibly, beating zombies results in all kinds of thumps, slices, and groans. Tactile rumble feedback only furthers the experience. Doing damage to a member of the undead will vary depending on your aim. Obviously targeting the head will do greater damage than targeting the arm or mid-section, but you can disable limbs if you wail on them long enough.

Loot luggage, bodies, and trash cans for cash and more to improve your character's stats. Better weapons do more damage and having more skill with subsets of weapons will increase how long you can use them or how accurate you are with them. Developers told me that later in the game you can even find "legendary" weapons to further your growing kill count. Quest givers will litter the land and the entire island is yours to explore.

Easily the most satisfying moment of my PAX demo was kicking a zombie backwards into a hotel pool. Watching the stupid monster struggling to stay afloat made perfect sense to my id. I lured even more to my basin of death and kicked them in as well. As their lifeless bodies bobbed up and down, I mentally counted the days to Dead Island's September 6th release date when Square Enix and Deep Silver will be releasing their zombie-survival simulator upon Xbox 360, PS3, and PC gamers everywhere.
More GR previews for this game:
Dead Island preview posted on 08/31/11.

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