The top ten trending phrases on Twitter are an unpredictable mix of useless celebrities, #memes and eyewitness reports of breaking news, usually before it has been reported by traditional press outlets. Last month, the phrase ‘Dead Island‘ appeared and a click revealed it to be a game, and not a newly announced game, but one revealed some years ago and largely forgotten about. One stylish trailer later and it was one of the phrases on the tip of everyone’s Twit-tongue.
“The trailer we released was mostly a blessing,” says Vincent Kummer, Dead Island’s brand manager at Deep Silver, “because when you put something out there you don’t expect to generate that much interest in the game, especially not for free. However, we are cautious that people might be expecting things from the game, based on that trailer, that simply aren’t there. We’re aiming to make it very clear, early on, what the game is actually about.”
…Which is why they’ve invited me to a warehouse in East London to crawl through underground passages, check out the game and eat pizza in a deckchair. Dead Island is a first-person action RPG set on a tropical holiday island during the zombie apocalypse. There’s a heavy reliance on melee combat using items found lying around and you can combine and upgrade weapons at workbenches. We’re told that guns will feature later on in the game.
There’s also four-player ‘drop in and drop out’ co-op, with different character classes to choose from. One of these is ‘The Tank,’ and this is the class demonstrated in our playthrough as we were introduced to Sam B, a rapper who wakes up after a night’s partying and discovers the undead epidemic first-hand.
“We have a mixture of gritty, emotional storytelling and over the top characters such as Sam B. He’s the one with the cheesy one-liners to the game but the others are far more serious,” explains Vincent. “You begin the game not knowing anything and you’re going to spend the first two hours figuring that out as people discover that you are immune to being turned into a zombie.”
Unlike other zombie games, and there have been many, what we have seen of Dead Island thus far has been set in bright sunlight. This makes me wonder what their approach to fear is.
“Our approach to fear is to have the player constantly worried for their life and that desperation that comes from having to survive using whatever you manage to pick up.”
“We’re saying that our environment is a paradise to die for and we’re building a full tropical island. It all starts at the beach hotel but you’re going to see jungle, city and some surprise locations that you won’t be expecting. There are also outdoor and indoor locations that are totally different and we manipulate the weather in certain ways to add a new level of fear.”
In the good old days, games used to take the time to explain how their zombies come into existence, like Resident Evil and the T-Virus; but, given that they are so ubiquitous these days, hardly anyone seems to bother. I finished by asking Victor how Dead Island’s neck-munchers came to be.
“Zombies are obviously a part of our story and there is of course going to be background to that – it’s not like they’re just going to fall from the heavens. There are so many zombies out there in different media and different ways to use zombies as a metaphor for some failing of human beings. I’ve always liked to think of them as humans reverted to their basic primal instincts, with no good left in there at all.”
I’ll be keeping an eye on Dead Island and will be inviting the developer, Techland, to come on the blog to talk about the four-player co-op, so look out for that.