Xclusive Hands-On Preview of Dead Island at The Mana Bar Melbourne
Last Thursday I was invited to attend a very exclusive hands-on preview at The Mana Bar Melbourne, for an Australian Exclusive Event for Dead Island. This invitation took me by surprise as I was very much under the impression that the game would NOT see the light of day in Australia. In case you have no idea, Dead Island was developed by the team at Techland and published by Deep Silver. They have pretty much made all Zombie fans dreams come true. You are stranded on an island and have to hack, slash, shoot, explode, kick and punch your way through what feels like thousands upon thousands of flesh-eating zombies… and all this in first-person view.
But before we get into the Xclusive Hands-On Demo of Dead Island we have to bring up this years Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. Specifically on the last day – I was running around trying to get interviews with all the extra booths in the corridors. After visiting the team at The Witcher II, I could see the Dead Island and Deep Silver logo and, not wasting any time, walked up to the front desk where a few of the developers were talking to each other. I very politely explained that I’m from Australia and asked what were the plans to release Dead Island in our country, given that we did not have an R18+ rating at the time (technically we still don’t). All the developers looked at each other until one of them decided to answer me. “We will NOT be releasing Dead Island in Australia and we have no plans to release a cut down or edited version of the game to that part of the world!” With that I sighed and asked if I could at least have the Dead Island Note Pad they were giving away.
Upon returning to Australia I noticed advertising in magazines and retail stores for the game and assumed that very soon this would end, just like it did for the latest Mortal Kombat. As it turns out Dead Island not only was approved in Australia with an MA15+ rating, but it will also feature everything that the developers had originally planned. It seems our rating board in this country has a very grey area with Dead Island simply for two reasons: 1) The title clearly states that characters are already dead, and, unlike the title of “Mortal Kombat”, implying that characters are alive. 2) The “people” who you are killing so brutally are already dead! Even though they look human the game constantly states that they are Zombies.
So that now brings us to the Mana Bar Melbourne, which was transformed into a tropical island resort with relaxing music, cocktails and appetizers. They even managed to squeeze in a few frightening statues to help set the mood. One of the biggest highlights was having a professional make up artist come in and do very quick bite, scratch and brain scars for guests. I can tell you now that no one messed with me on Brunswick Street after people could see my brains coming out of my forehead!
I must admit that when I did get the chance to play the game it was on a PS3. Obviously the controller layout will be slightly different and the loading times should be much better on the 360. For sound we had the latest Turtle Beach 7.1 Headphones connected which worked out perfectly for a few of the more dramatic moments. The demo starts with you choosing one of four characters to play as and it is worth mentioning here that essentially this will allow you to play the game with plenty of variety, but most importantly the game will support 4-player online co-op for the campaign as well as a “Gears of War” Horde-style mode.
Over the next 60 minutes I could pretty much do what ever I wanted which worked out very nicely. One of the things I noticed about the game is that it is all feels very familiar as if it is something you have already played before. Now this is not a bad thing at all as the game takes elements from other famous game franchises. Games like Dead Rising, Far Cry, Fallout 3, Left 4 Dead, Resident Evil, Gears of War and even Call of Duty. The team at Techland have taken the best parts of those games and made it work in their own new title. I have to say that this works really nicely as the action is intense and very graphic.
A couple of other nice touches to the game was the compass at the bottom right corner telling you exactly where to go. Without this you would get lost very quickly and most likely get very frustrated. The other feature is customization which will allow you to put together special weapons by combining them together. This will make sure gamers find everything and try mixing and matching weapons to get different results. I think the best thing about is that you truly feel like you are on a remote island with no one to help you against an army of zombies. At the next turn or behind the next door you could be attacked at any moment which gives you a real edge of your seat experience.
One of the things mentioned early on was that a monsoon was approaching and that surprisingly got me very excited. The chance to see hundreds of zombies on the beach with giant waves clashing, the wind howling like crazy and some crazy lightning would be absolutely perfect for some intense and very suspenseful moments. Apparently the game does indeed support dynamic weather and hopefully we will see some dramatic changes in the weather just like we have here in Melbourne.
The only major thing that I was extremely disappointed with was the lip syncing. There are a lot of things that I can let pass in a game today but after seeing games like Mass Effect, Gears of War or even Halo Reach with such good voice work it is a real shame to see this done so poorly in the game. To be fair this was a demo and the released version may have this fixed but it was so noticeable that it actually pulled you out of the experience.
Finally my favorite feature was surprisingly the voice acting that felt like it was an American doing an Australian Accent with a New Zealand Character. I’m not sure if this was intentional but I love hearing the exaggerated Aussie/New Zealand accent in any video game. “Crikey, there’s a bloomin Zombie. Let’s chuck it on the barbie with some Fush ‘n’ Chups“. Okay no one actually said that in the game but you get the idea. All the characters have some classic one liners that set the mood perfectly and will actually make you chuckle out loud at certain times.
At the end of the day Dead Island is fantastic and a must-buy for all fans of Zombie games. There are some very brutal attacks and with the first person perspective and some great surround sound this is an island that you will want to stay on for a very a long time. With all the extremely violent kills that you can come up with and the ability to have three other friends join you in the campaign mode will make this an instant hit. On top of all this when you buy the collectors edition not only do you get some cool downloadable content, postcards, key ring and even a T-Shirt, But you also get the Turtle Beach X11 or PX21 Headset depending on where you pre-order from.
So what are your thoughts on the game? Are you surprised that it will be released in Australia? Are you sick of Zombie games? Check out the official game trailer and share your thoughts with us in the comments below.