My hands-on started in a church where my group of survivors was given the task of rescuing more survivors and unlocking another safe haven. One of the first things I noticed were the acoustics of the church. A woman was praying somewhere and her chants echoed loudly off the walls. The sanctuary was crowded and dark, filled with hopeless souls looking for help.
Instead of fetch quests like collecting an arbitrary amount of widgets so Non-Player Character X can fix Nonessential Item Y, the church inhabitants’ requests are much more dire. Someone’s daughter is diabetic and needs you to get insulin from a pharmacy. A man’s wife and adult daughter were turned into zombies. He can’t bring himself to kill them, so he asks you to do the deed. This is where the game’s emotional impact — so clear in the announcement trailer — shines through, adding weight to the tasks.
Once I ventured outside the safe haven, I was greeted by warm skies and sunlight, along with packs of undead. As the demo progressed, the weather took a turn for the worse, shifting to a cold grey rainstorm. I was told the weather is dynamic, meaning each time you play through a mission it could change. It was here where I noticed the motion-blur filter the game implements over its visuals. It wasn’t as aggressive as what’s in Halo: Reach, but it’s there nonetheless. Why? I’m not sure, but it’s not something I’m a fan of either way.
While it may sound like nothing more than zombie-game potpourri, Dead Island is greater than the sum of its parts. The way everything works together feels incredibly organic — this is no thrown-together version of the best bits of Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising and its sequel, or Dead Nation. Going into the demo, I was afraid I was in for a me-too shooter with zombies added in. Thankfully, those fears were laid to rest, like so many undead at the end of my machete.
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