Bleak Doesn’t Begin To Say It: Dead Island

By John Walker on February 16th, 2011 at 9:38 pm.

Courtesy of IGN

It’s been quite a while since a trailer made me say, “Wow.” And indeed since one made me gasp, “Oh my God.” This CGI teaser for Dead Island – a zombie game originally announced in 2007 – is both stunning and horrendous. Bleak like your puppy dying of tiredness is bleak. The game itself sounds absolutely fascinating. An open-ended sandbox zombie survival game, first-person but with an emphasis on melee combat, where you must try to survive for as long as possible on an infested New Guinea island. We have little more to go on, other than the knowledge that Deep Silver are publishing, and that the people behind it are capable of a trailer as brilliantly morose as the one below.

There’s also word of it containing those infamous “RPG elements”, and oddly for a supposedly open-ended sandbox game, a focus on story. The melee is said to let you pick up almost any object you find, Dead Rising-style. And according to IGN who bring us all this info and lots more, because it’s set on a tourist tropical island, the place isn’t littered with high grade weaponry and ammo caches. Instead it’s about foraging and improvising with what you can find.

There’s to be drop-in four-player co-op should you wish to work together, or it works perfectly well in single player mode for lone survivors. And according to IGN, it’s “disgusting”. They’ve got a ton of screenshots and artwork over there.

It’s set for a 2011 release, but nothing more specific than that. Hopefully we’ll be seeing something from inside the game soon enough. As a concept, it sounds fascinating – just hardcore surviving, improvising, scrabbling to keep going. It’s what zombies were made for.

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246 Comments »

  1. Nighthood says:

    That’s a brilliant trailer. The game will likely be mediocre, as lots of zombie games are, but at least we’ve been given the best trailer (bordering on short film) for a zombie game ever.

    I quite like it when trailers are short films in themselves, it’s something that only the games industry can manage to do, though most miss the mark somewhat.

    • Jesse L says:

      Really great trailer. But.

      John, that IGN preview you linked to doesn’t say anything about ‘sandbox’ gameplay. It says this:

      “Dead Island’s developers call it a “first-person zombie-slasher/action-RPG.” That’s a mouthful, and it’s still unclear what the balance will be among those descriptors. Players will be able to choose from a cast of pre-set characters, including a former rapper named Sam B (the only character revealed so far).”

      And…

      “Although Dead Island is a story-based experience, it’s built for co-operative play, and Deep Silver says up to four gamers can drop in and out of the game seamlessly. But if you don’t want to play with friends, you can also play through the game alone… Although the player starts out as a simple tourist with minimal zombie-killing skills, his traits will improve along the way, thanks to a mini role-playing system built into the game. Although Deep Silver isn’t spilling all the details yet, we know there will be a leveling system and a skill tree. As the player progresses, his stats will increase and he’ll gain access to new combat abilities and animations.”

      This isn’t a sandbox game, or if it is there’s nothing to that effect in this preview. To me it sounds like something they dropped along the way. IGN is billing Dead Island as a melee-combat-only zombie game. With a leveling system. And the only revealed character so far is a rapper. He has baggy jeans and a skull t-shirt – I think we can see him in one of the screenshots.

      Folks, let’s not get too excited yet! Or if you do get excited, be careful what you get excited about!

  2. Out Reach says:

    Zombie Children. Mark of a good Zombie Game/Film/Apocalypse.

    But Yes, Bleak. *sticks game on radar*

    • LionsPhil says:

      It’s a bit of a shame they poured on the “bad things happening to innocent little girls LOOK LOOK HAPPY FAMILY HOLIDAY FILM BEFORE SHE GOT TURNED AND BIT DADDY”, because it’s just laughable. I’m sorry, this trailer is funny because it’s trying oh so hard.

      The good bit is the fancypants backwards-forwards storytelling of it, but the actual OH NO THE CHILDREN is just overwraught ridiculousness.

  3. dhex says:

    wow. that’s amazingly well-done.

    • Blaq says:

      Indeed, that is probably the best CGI trailer I’ve seen in quite a while, both animation and mood-wise. Excellent trailer for what I’m hoping will be an excellent game of a somewhat tired genre.

      Does anyone else feel like the opening with the girl lying on the grass would be much better if it weren’t for that burning guy diverting the attention in the background? Hm.

    • plugmonkey says:

      Re: “Somewhat tired genre”.

      Really? Name 5 zombie surivival games. Go!

      There are hundreds of thousands of zombie twin stick shooters, and they’re all shit as they all completely ignore every single interesting element of the zombie apocalypse scenario.

      The more people who make a zombie game, rather than a game with zombies in it, the better. This and Dead State are both very much on my radar. Tired genre? There only about 4 games in it.

    • Blaq says:

      I was more thinking of zombie games, you know. As opposed to zombie SURVIVAL games, which is usually the whole point of there being a zombie apocalypse, surviving. Just because games suck or turn away from this concept, doesn’t mean that zombies are about anything other than trying to survive.

      And besides, zombies as a concept are a getting stale. They’ve been used and overused for nearly half a century now. Little of which was fresh, unique or innovative.

    • plugmonkey says:

      But ‘zombie’ isn’t a genre, anymore than ‘soldier’ is a genre. Call of Duty isn’t the same genre as Company of Heroes. Left 4 Dead isn’t the same genre as Plants vs. Zombies.

      A ‘survival’ game isn’t the same as a game in which you ‘survive’, in the same way that everyone who is alive is not a ‘survivalist’.

      There has been an overload of crappy, unimaginative zombie blasting games. 99% of zombie fiction isn’t about blasting zombies. It’s about survivalism. That’s what is interesting about the concept of a zombie apocalypse: how you would survive, not how many zombies you would blast.

      You say the genre is tired. I say the genre is almost entirely unexplored.

    • Blaq says:

      Yeah, you’re right. We need more zombie FPS games, more zombie puzzlers, zombie driving games, zombie sims games and zombie MMOs.

      You can call it a genre, a sort, a category or a science for all I care. I’m tired of seeing zombies and by the looks of it most other gamers would agree. You can have your semantics, I don’t care much for them.

    • Ravenholme says:

      @ Blaq

      It’s not a genre or category. The word your looking for is theme. And the theme has been abused. The beauty of Zombie apocalypses should be survival games. Instead we’ve had puzzlers and shooters (Though I do love me some L4D), which is a horrible misuse of the theme.

    • MrEvilGuy says:

      “I’m tired of seeing zombies and by the looks of it most other gamers would agree.”
      I don’t know what gamers you are looking at – everybody I know can’t get enough of them (probably because there isn’t enough good ones that represent that survival element).
      The whole “zombie games are overdone” kind of attitude seems to occur from some sort of robotic response which seems to think that too much of something quite apparent is a really bad thing. Of course, if nobody talks about it as being overdone, then we don’t think about it as being overdone. The key here is overt, visible overdoneness. Unfortunately, nobody seems to talk about romance movies or Mcdonalds or marriage or automobiles, and whatever else is far too common for people to even realize it’s too common as being overdone. :( what a pitiful society we live in.

  4. Warth0g says:

    Wow.. hardly ever get past the first 10 seconds of game trailers, but that was awesome. Someone’s been to film school…

  5. Harbour Master says:

    I generally abhor CGI-laden trailers, because they just come across as someone trying to do movie when all I was interested in was game.

    But this – this renews my faith in the game trailer. Thank you.

  6. RaytraceRat says:

    Looks really well done. I wonder how all that FPS turns out, but video looks really good.

  7. DJ Phantoon says:

    Haven’t enjoyed a trailer this much since Dawn of War’s opening.

  8. Dozer says:

    So, it’s like Minecraft but without the building then?

    • JFS says:

      I think it’s more like Super Meat Boy, but the protagonist isn’t smiling that much.

    • Hallgrim says:

      Yes, its like Minecraft but there is an actual GAME.

      /snark

      Looks cool. Could do without the zombie setting, but it would actually be a new kind of game, which is interesting.

    • patricij says:

      I’d love to see Minecraft’s building and open-worldness combined with the hilariousness and variability of Dead Rising 2…I’d play the shit out of such game

  9. Davie says:

    The trailer was excellent, at least. They even managed to avoid the uncanny valley for the most part, despite all those close-up shots. As for the game itself, it might be just the thing I was looking forward to. This looks something like what I hoped Dead State would be when I first heard about it.

    • Ninja says:

      Hopefully this game will be what I thought L4D would be.

      L4D was cool, and Valve is my favorite company, but L4D was only about surviving zombies during a select few sections. It was mostly run forward while killing zombies.

      I want to play games where your goal is just to survive the zombies. Guns tend to make surviving zombies easier, which is why this sounds very interesting.

    • rapchee says:

      @Ninja: heard about Zombie Panic:Source? It`s not so easy even with guns :)

    • Davie says:

      @rapchee ZPS is still about running around and shooting things though. It’s true, a slower-paced zombie-themed game would be just the thing.

  10. kubaduba_pvp says:

    Big hopes for this, Techland is a quite unknown but good developer. Go check Call of Juarez 2: Bound in blood if you want to see their best work. A bit clunky gameplay, but a solid wild west shooter with stunning graphics.

  11. SOAD says:

    could somebody with the adequate knowledge reverse this (so it goes forwards?) if its not too much effort? (and post link :p)

  12. Bantros says:

    Liking the trailer but have to say someone has been watching “The Scientist” by Coldplay recently

    • Dozer says:

      Hadn’t seen that music video before. Almost as disturbing as this trailer, at the halfway mark when he’s wandering around London Underground tracks without an orange high-vis vest, ear defenders or a hard hat!!

    • Doth Messar says:

      Nah there was more feeling in that music than anything Coldplay shat out. Well, maybe except the first album…

  13. Jim Rossignol says:

    Awesome. I’m glad this is still happening. Great concept.

  14. mkultra says:

    Would’ve punched a bit harder if the soundtrack had been Justin Bieber’s “Baby” instead. Not joking.

  15. Spinoza says:

    I’m crying now. Well done John. You ruined my make-up.

  16. Morph says:

    Awwwwww. Sniff.

  17. lonesock says:

    A story focused zombie sandbox game with “pre-set” characters…does this mean I can’t gear up my guy with a sundress and giant foam mascot head?!?

    I’m going to show everyone I know that trailer, though…damn nice.

  18. Shadrach says:

    Wow, will have to watch how this turns out. They should really get their site up running asap though.

  19. derf says:

    Wow. Zombie survival coop. Ticks all my boxes.

  20. tikey says:

    It made me sad.

  21. Navagon says:

    IT UNLIVES AGAIN!

    I’ve been checking back on their “under construction” site every few months for about 2 years now.

  22. Mizghetti says:

    Easily the best trailer of any kind I’ve seen in awhile. Anyone have any idea what song is used in it? Is it an original piece?

  23. adonf says:

    Oh this is cute!

  24. Soon says:

    Well, I’ll certainly remember the trailer, if not the name of the game. Excellent stuff.

  25. mandrill says:

    Wow. I am without words. (these ones don’t count)

  26. Dozer says:

    Also: it needs Staring Eyes tag.

  27. _Jackalope_ says:

    I’m hoping the melee combat is similar to Condemed’s. Great trailer. The end where the father is reaching for his daughter is heartbreaking.

    According to their facebook page, the website goes back up tomorrow.

  28. Tei says:

    Wow. I have watched twice, is great. Is double great, because if you play it the normal way, it looks like the children is abandoned to the zombies. But if you play it in reverse (in cronological order) is the other thing that dooms everybody. In any way you see it, is a master piece. Bravo!.

  29. crainey92 says:

    Pretty epic trailer they have there, I’m quite impressed to be honest. CGI trailers are all nice and stuff but they are no good at demonstrating what the game actualy is which is what gamers want, they want to be convinced that the game is awesome and they are the only ones not playing it. Give me a good gameplay video and I’ll buy it no problem, the concept is good.

  30. Quine says:

    Someone nominate this for something.

  31. Hodag says:

    Techland also did Chrome didn’t they?

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      actually in 2006 when Dead Island first appeared they also showed off Chrome 2. and Warhound, a hardcore military game (arma style). hopefully both those other projects are still alive on the backburner.

    • Tainted says:

      Both are officially “frozen” at the moment aparently

  32. kwyjibo says:

    Fantastic trailer, who says things had to be fun.

    Also, it causes rape.

  33. Kazang says:

    Wow indeed. I feel a little choked up after that.
    This could be a pioneering game if it truly lives up to the level of emotion that the trailer has wrought into it.

    I do feel a little apprehensive though. The setting and tone may be too bleak for a game like this. Zombie survival games are more often than not about the fun of culling the zombie hordes and the visceral combat. Marrying that kind of fun with the deep emotional depths of losing a child in such a horrible way could really either ruin the fun, or make a mockery of the heavy subject matter.

    A film like The Shining or 28 Days Later is not fun to watch, entertaining but not fun. Games really always have to be fun, or up until now it has always been considered so and nothing around right now suggests that a game can be not fun to play yet still entertain and be considered a good game.

    So treading this line of serious story with strong emotional depth and yet remaining “a game” with all that that entails is quite a challenge. Would I enjoy playing a game in which my character has to kill his own 7 year old daughter in order to survive? I don’t know.

    Intriguing.

    • Alex Bakke says:

      I think that, while you’re right in that it may not be fun, if a game manages to evoke that sense of survival in me, I’d be impressed.

    • Miles of the Machination says:

      An interesting point. Throught the trailer I was somewhat conflicted. You’ve got the zombie element that has been trivialised to the point of satire, ad infinitum, and then there is this heart-wrenching tale of loss, and absolute nihilism as you survive to survive, without the solid hope of rescue. I suppose the zombies will simply be a device, as they were in 28 Days Later, and it will simply be a marriage of concepts. But to say it is too bleak?

      I suppose that something that was utterly depressing and draining would lose its public appeal, simply because it was unpleasant to play, but there is not nearly enough to be known about the story to reflect this. After all, if people desire, they could simply shut off from the story and just bash some zombie skulls in.

      Also, I am still waiting for something that matches the intellectual and emotional provocation of The Road..

    • lonesock says:

      @Kazang

      Not to mention you may be playing coop and trying to immerse yourself in the story. I would be annoyed to have to play though single player first just to avoid people dropping into the game and manically hopping everywhere stabbing furniture while I’m holding my daughter for a few precious moments before she turns.

    • Aldehyde says:

      “Up until now”? Do you mean this trailer or do you mean recently?

      I have played games that aren’t “fun” but still bloody good. I am thinking of one game in particular, Amnesia. That game wasn’t “fun” for me but it is still bloody good. Definitely on my top 3 of games last year. Same with the Penumbra games, although I only played Black Plague.

      I really don’t think games have to be “fun” for them to be able to give worthwhile experiences. Sure, games haven’t really wandered far off the “fun” parts in the past but that is because very few have tried to do something which has its focus on something else than “fun”.

    • thisguyisjoe says:

      @ lonesock

      You’ll regret those sentiments when your second daughter is killed by undead furniture.

    • MultiVaC says:

      I was just going to mention Amnesia. That is a game that is not “fun” at all, and really emotionally draining. And it is excellent. It’s important to remember, though, that Amnesia pulled it off so well because it was designed with such a tight focus on creating its emotional response of fear; it was short and very simple in gameplay design. If Frictional had been going for a big blockbuster game with all sorts of gameplay gimmicks I don’t think it could have ever been as successful in what it did. But it does show that games don’t need to be fun to be good, and that they are capable of being more than just fun or exciting. I was also going to the mention The Road, which is a simply amazing novel and probably the bleakest thing I have ever read, and how I hope that someday a game could do something like that. Now that I think of it, The Road was also remarkably minimalist sort of like Amnesia was; the whole story consisted of not much more than two unnamed characters and the unrelentingly harsh world they inhabit. It was so powerful because of deeply it characterized those things, and how brilliant its prose was. If Dead Island can maintain the emotional bleakness in this trailer in the context of the big, detailed, open world zombie survival game it seems to be, it would be quite an achievement. I really, really hope it does.

  34. Alexander Norris says:

    We’ve not had a single zombie game yet except Dead State (which is still not out; curse you normal passage of time!) – but this looks like it might be a contender. Of course, I’m only going off that trailer rather than any concrete info but whoever made it seems to understand half of what makes zombie films.

  35. Maykael says:

    I hope this finally gets to do the open world survival zombie game well. It needs to be bleak, to have an interesting world, to give you that impression of sudden change of rules (The Walking Dead-like). I don’t think anyone has done that in the recent history of games.

  36. Bhazor says:

    Sounds kinda like that Double Bear (some former Obsidian guys) game Dead State.

    Of course zombies don’t really work as a concept.
    http://www.qwantz.com/index.php?comic=915

    Also how exactly can one guy/gang of plucky teens armed with blunt instruments kill dozens of zombies whilst completely surrounded but the combined military and civilian police force can’t contain them when they still outnumber the zombies thousands to one.

    • The Army of None says:

      Correct, except it has a better trailer and will probably be not as awesome as Dead State.

    • DiamondDog says:

      Maybe humans are just really filling and all it takes is one bite and the zombie has to go sit in front of the TV for the rest of the afternoon, slowly nodding off.

    • RadioactiveMan says:

      Maybe the zombies are only interested in eating you while you are human. Once you zombify then the zombies no longer want to devour you. Assuming the zombification process is relatively quick.

      Take that, Dinosaur Comics!

      Also, why does my spellcheck recognize neither zombify or zombification. Get with the times, spellcheck.

  37. rubberpants says:

    Looks about as fun as the hit PC game A Long Slow Death from Rectal Cancer.

    • Spatula says:

      Yeah- man do you remember that bit where you had to use the stethoscope on the extending donkey apparatus… oh the laughs… oh… wait

  38. GreatUncleBaal says:

    Aww, don’t be sad – think of it as an alternate universe where the dead are turned back into living humans – kind of like a zombie version of Martin Amis’s “Time’s Arrow”. Sod the second law of thermodynamics.

  39. Ricc says:

    Hmm, yeah. That’s quite a trailer. :) Well done. Also, Dead Island is now on my radar.

  40. Danny says:

    The trailer is made by Blur, I presume?

  41. Jason Moyer says:

    This needs the “history will be made” music dubbed over it.

  42. stele says:

    Wow – that hit me right where it hurts. Got to go hug my little girl now…

    • baconismidog says:

      Ditto. I feel pretty bad overall. I’ll tell some buddies about that trailer, but personally I won’t be watching it again. Where’s my kid…

  43. Jeremy says:

    That actually made me sad.

  44. BAshment says:

    The start reminded me of that dvla advert where the girl gets hit by a car.

  45. direlog says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the only thing this trailer does for me is demonstrate how inadequate and shallow most videogame narrative is; this trailer is strangely moving, and yet it leans on a visual grammar that’s the result of more than a century of artistic development in a medium that is intrinsically passive and whose limits are demarcated by the attention span of its viewers – not by the simulation of a rule-set, or graphical or physical fidelity, or a series of interlocking systems, spread across countless hours of play. Videogames are difficult. They can’t – or haven’t yet learned how to – unravel narrative in a compact, elegant manner, as apparently even an advertisement can.

    • faelnor says:

      Haven’t played ‘Today I Die’ I suppose? To me, it was as moving as this trailer and had an equal amount of genre platitudes/clichés.

    • Rhin says:

      99.999% of the history of narrative does not center around audience participation. Shit be hard, dawg. Imagine if War and Peace was a choose-your-own-adventure.

    • Eolirin says:

      Disagree: http://www.necessarygames.com/my-games/freedom-bridge/flash

      They haven’t learned how to unravel complex linear narrative sure, but that’s really not something they *need* to do. And relying on complex systems is probably not the right way to go if you want to be expressive. Simple systems work best there. Complex systems are great for teaching complex lessons, but narratives, at least the powerful ones, are typically very *simple* at their core. I really think that’s a large part of why most games don’t manage to be emotionally engaging; there’s too much simulation and not enough raw interactivity. Agency requires immersion, and rules just get in the way of that.

      If you want to split hairs over the definition of ‘game’, then you’re probably right though; anything that’s fundamentally about winning is going to be hard to use to express anything meaningful unless you subvert that motive like with Train. Mechanical systems cannot inherently provide context. If the focus is entirely on the mechanics there’s no way to get a message across. So the only time messages are going to get across is when the player no longer cares about optimizing for the mechanical system you’ve put together. Train breaks if players try to win it; the emotional impact is robbed if players don’t connect what they’ve been doing with the horror of the concepts underlying it and want to stop. And allowing players any incentive of any kind to optimize for your mechanical systems is going to shift the focus in that direction, so you have to subvert that desire in some way, or remove it entirely. It’s unclear if you’re still talking about a game once you do that.

      If we’re talking interactive media though? You absolutely can do something really compelling.

  46. daphne says:

    I’m feeling unexpectedly and unquestionably owned by that trailer, for some reason.
    I’m shallow enough that I think my general expectations for game trailers have dramatically increased in the space of three minutes.

  47. Freud says:

    Hope they go all Eastern European on us and focus on the surviving over hitting things on the head. A less scary Zombie-Amniesia where you have a slight chance of putting up a fight.

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