Previews

Dead Island: Left 4 Dead copycat or much more?

Tropical resort of the living dead...

Techland's standing on thin ice. Scrap that, the company's not just standing on it: it's jumping up and down, waving its arms and yelling, "Look at me!" at the top of its voice. If the studio isn't careful, that ice is going to break and Dead Island's dream of blockbuster sales will drown.

We are, of course, talking about what happened back in February. Late last year the only people who still remembered that Dead Island even existed were those of us who booted up the ancient teaser video from time to time to guffaw at the unspeakably brilliant/awful (we're torn on that one) music. Then, from out of nowhere, a haunting CG trailer from UK animation studio Axis hit the internet and the world went nuts for Dead Island.

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Suddenly all eyes were on the game and the PR team wanted nothing more than to keep the word of mouth rolling. Press releases about the trailer, the reaction to the trailer, and the retweets of the reaction to the trailer were assaulting our inboxes. The steady drip of screenshots and info began to flow alongside a relaunched website.

You couldn't budge for talk about the game. And that brings us to the present day. We're now at a situation where the publishers seem to genuinely believe Dead Island is a multi-million selling AAA game in waiting. What was once a game open for access is now a project guarded with such secrecy you'd be forgiven for thinking the game's newly instated PR plan was a photocopy of Call of Duty's. Dead Island is officially HOT STUFF. Or is it?

FACING THE DEAD
It gives us no pleasure to plunge the pin into Dead Island's bubble but it needs to be said: all of the hype up until now has been wholly misdirected. People wowed by the trailer are getting excited over a fallacy - Dead Island never was, and never will be, anything like the events depicted in that extraordinarily well-made (if manipulative) short. The real game is actually a slower version of Left 4 Dead crossed with first-person bashers such as Condemned.

To be fair, it's looking promising enough, but we do worry most people will be disappointed by the game in action. After promising an emotional wringer of a title, Dead Island just delivers the silly sight of hip hop recording artist Sam B bludgeoning a zombie to re-death with a broken oar.

Injured players aren't portrayed as valiant heroes dying a martyr's death to save the rest of their group. Nor are they seen as family members tragically torn from their loved ones. Instead, bitten fighters can simply reverse the zombie virus and patch up their wounds by having a sip of liquid from drinks cans found on the floor, then carry on with the senseless massacring.

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It's going to be incredibly tough for Techland to funnel the 'emotion' people have been talking so rabidly about into the game (Sony's Team Ico is the only studio who've managed such a thing with any degree of success). Is Dead Island honestly going to be more real and more visceral than all the many many other zombie games in history, as Techland claims?

We'd be mad not to seriously doubt it, and continued claims to the contrary, coupled with more Axis trailers in the future ,will talk up a fantastic game that, ultimately, won't be anything like the finished article. You have been warned...

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