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. Coins says:

    I think this is a great moment to bring back the ‘videogames don’t have to be fun’ debate. (see Pathologic)

    Also. Great trailer. I cried. A little.

  2. Crumpled Stiltskin says:

    Someone likes Coldplay

  3. Emperor_Jimmu says:

    If you throw me through a plate glass window 6 stories up there is and 80% chance I will die. Throw me through a plate glass window 4 stories up and there is an 80% chance that I will live.

  4. Resin says:

    Awesome. Nothing like family to get a zombie story moving. I hope this game is as deep and sentimental as its trailer.

  5. Temple to Tei says:

    Wow. Really impressive. Can RPS create a fake award so we can give it to these guys.

  6. Kieron Gillen says:

    Yeah, well played – but making really, really, really big promises for the game.

    KG

    • Harbour Master says:

      I’m appreciating the trailer as PR and deciding not to read too much into it on the game front.

      Down that road, there be many broken hearts.

    • Vandelay says:

      I agree with Kieron that they are saying a hell of a lot with this trailer, even if unintentionally. I don’t expect them to be making a game in which you actually play a member of this family (who would play the little girl in the four player co-op mode would surely end up in many a fight amongst gamers,) but they are suggesting a tone that is commonly not seen in most zombie games. In general, mowing down hordes of enemies is what you expecting, not struggling to survive and protect the lives of those closest to you.

      It would have been easy for them to just splice together cuts of shuffling figures wondering around a sandy beach, getting stuck on sun loungers, as some steel drum music plays in the background. Then, suddenly, one of them looks up; all of them start charging after four guys hacking and slashing their way through the hordes. One of them grabs a pistol a shoots the head off a snarling zombie. High fives all round. Dead Island! That would say nothing about the game, but trying to inject a little bit of emotion is telling us that this might be different.

      If it doesn’t deliver on what this trailer proposes, then it could be disappointing (although, even if they just make a good survival game out of this, it would be unique.)

    • dhex says:

      it is writing a big check, but i figure this: the games industry, like most industries, is rife with copycat trend-riding. maybe this’ll catch on? it’s unlike any other game trailer out there. it’s not just michael baysplosions and dudes stone cold killing everything like a giant erection made out of guns*.

      maybe it’ll be part of a change towards adding a little bit of genuine art to the glossy artifice of games publicity.

      or not. but still.

      * don’t get me wrong – that’s my favorite genre, but variety is the spice of life.

    • SpinalJack says:

      @Vandelay

      How did you get the idea of a coop game where you play man/wife/child?

      Clearly you’d only play the man in that family after all his family turn into zombies.
      Then the other characters will be a misfit, ragtag group of strangers forced to work together to survive or at least find that the best way to look out for themselves involves staying in a group.
      Because, as we all know, you don’t need to be faster than a zombie, just faster than your neighbour.

    • saturnine says:

      @SpinalJack

      Quite sure the dad becomes a zombie too, at one point the little girl takes off a chunk of his neck or something right before he throws her out the window. So no dad for you.

    • poop says:

      @dhex this trailer reminds me of those terrible horrors of war w/ sad music trailers they put out before every gears of war game, it isnt exactly original but it is pretty well executed.

    • aldo_14 says:

      Quite sure the dad becomes a zombie too, at one point the little girl takes off a chunk of his neck or something right before he throws her out the window. So no dad for you.

      The wife isn’t bitten at any point though, is she?

    • Nomaki says:

      Yeah, you see the wife is pushed to the floor and set upon by a bunch of zombies.

  7. fearghaill says:

    Considering so many games don’t include children at all, or make them unkillable, having a child get bit, turned, and thrown out a window in the trailer is certainly making a statement.

  8. KaL_YoshiKa says:

    I was planning to bitch about how CG trailers for games traditionally gloss over the most important features of the game in question (in-game graphics, playability etc) and that as a benchmark of game quality they’re entirely useless.

    This is just way too fine to shrug off. Glad to hear Dead Island is still going ahead – here’s hoping the spirit of the trailer ends up alive in the game because they’ve set expectations damn high with this.

  9. WJonathan says:

    Worst resort commercial ever. I HATE those pushy bellhops. If you give me good service, you get a tip, but don’t coerce me like that.

    • Doth Messar says:

      And someone should do something about those fat yellow Hawaiian shirt wearing American tourists. They’re always eating something!

  10. JohnnyMaverik says:

    Oh cool… I thought this had been canned. Nice to be wrong.

  11. Mephistoau says:

    Wow. Incredibly moving trailer. Kudos to them for that, that was intense.

  12. Hatsworth says:

    “RPG elements”

    Guessing that means mindless grinding, ugh.

  13. passingstranger says:

    I wonder if they have the guts to make a game this unflinchingly hopeless. What makes the concept of zombies really interesting, I think, is the fact that it’s about survival at its very core. It is a mindless, ever-encroaching danger that has no concept of friendship or compassion or nobility in the face of adversity. It just kills. It kills everyone.

    I assumed the pitch for this game would be something along the lines of “Dead Rising, except, you know, on an island. Palm trees!” But this hints at a greater realization of the genre’s potential than any other game, or any medium, I’ve seen.

    • Archonsod says:

      “It is a mindless, ever-encroaching danger that has no concept of friendship or compassion or nobility in the face of adversity. It just kills. It kills everyone.”

      The kids or the zombies?

    • Al Ewing says:

      “It is a mindless, ever-encroaching danger that has no concept of friendship or compassion or nobility in the face of adversity. It just kills. It kills everyone.”

      This reminds me of Space Invaders. Games used to be all about that kind of ever-encroaching, hopeless threat – zombie games might be a way to bring that back in a gaming world that increasingly craves endings and completion.

      Was Space Invaders the first ever zombie shooter?

  14. JFS says:

    I thought the zombie genre had reached its climax with Left 4 Head, but it seems there is still some spark left in its rotting corpse. As this is RPS, all puns intended, of course.

  15. fuggles says:

    I’ve uploaded the reversed trailer to: http://www.mediafire.com/?29tg8b5jtt555p3
    What really got me was the bit where the dad sees the mum raise the knife, sees the daughter, steps IN FRONT of daughter to protect her from the mum before being distracted by the fat zombie. It’s…far too thought out.

    EDIT – nuts, seems like I’m very late to this party. This is interesting, someone has put it in the right order, albeit at the cost of the sound

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waQCMfVebCA

  16. Davee says:

    I like the concept – it’s something that I’ve felt has yet to be done in a good way.

    Hope it turns out good!

  17. Doth Messar says:

    I was sad before I watched this so now I’m booking passage to New Guinea.

  18. Shadram says:

    Wow. Excellent CGI work and a very moving scene. Kieron’s right, though: it promises a lot, and I now have very high hopes for the game, but also expect to be disappointed. Wait, does that mean my hopes aren’t really that high? I’m confused now.

  19. pakoito says:

    PEGI 18! some developer has grown some ball at last.

  20. Jake says:

    This trailer really looks like my sort of thing, as I love zombies and don’t like children.

  21. lethu says:

    I am once again proud of gaming. Similar moments for me were while watching the World in Conflict trailers.

  22. Hoaxfish says:

    Thank god for reverse-time matrix zombies!

    without them that family wouldn’t have had their daughter back, and wouldn’t be able to enjoy their sunny tropical vacation!

  23. Gabbo says:

    I remember reading about this in an ages old PCGamer (their ‘zombie issue’), and thought it had dropped off the face of the Earth. That trailer, oh god that trailer; makes me glad it did not.
    I just hope I’m not a one-person zombie slaughtering machine and there is some attempt at strategy/evasion as acceptable tactic in dealing with the zombies

  24. El_MUERkO says:

    Some of those screen shots on IGN when looked at in high resolution suggest LoD issues in the distance. It’ll be interesting to see how aspirational the game is.

  25. gulag says:

    Holy fucking shit! This guy isn’t kidding!! Click on the link (Oh wait)!!!

    Spiders would shit silk strands if they saw how good this web was!

  26. John P says:

    Very effective trailer. The game is probably heading for a ban in Australia, but I hope I’ll be able to play it.

  27. Zwebbie says:

    I can’t help but think the overexposure to zombies we’re getting is the worst thing that could happen to them. The original concept is brilliant, since they’re a bunch of opposites brought together; they’re dead, but they also live. They’re mindless, but they were once human beings. It’s a very surreal threat in a very common coat, that of your next door neighbour.
    Unfortunately, the situation has been shown so often now that it loses its effectiveness. You’re not looking at a mindless threat in the guise that was once familiar and trusted, even loved maybe. You’re not looking at a human, you’re looking at a zombie.

    • Nick says:

      The worst part is that the overexposure hasn’t yet led to a truely great zombie game in the vein of Dawn of the Dead (original). Yet.

    • Zwebbie says:

      I don’t think we can have anything great now that we’re all desensitised. Look at how far this trailer has to go to pull at your heartstrings: you’ve got a little girl, transformed into a zombie, then defenestrated by her father, in reverse, with sad music, with flashbacks. That’s how much you need to make them tragic again! When, IRL, I’d have a lot of emotional trouble hitting a human being with an axe, even if he or she isn’t behaving like a human.
      Bloody walking corpses aren’t categorised as humans, but as zombies. They’re their own category, and therefore you don’t see the tragic twist from what it should be.

    • Sic says:

      It’s no so much the overexposure, it’s the fact that zombie movies/games/series are almost exclusively made in a fashion that would make lovers of the zombie genre throw up a little in their mouths. It’s just not quality stuff we’re given.

      Sure, Dead Rising might be fun, but it’s not a zombie game, it’s just stupid.

      We’ll probably get OK zombie games whenever mainstream gaming grows up (again).

    • BrendanJB says:

      @Nick: The original Dawn of the Dead is so completely overrated. Yeah, it was decent for it’s time, but it suffers from so many terrible design decisions and drawn out, often poorly directed, scenes. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still one of my favorite movies. But I don’t understand people heralding it as some kind of zombie defining epoch. It’s a fairly average movie, and has been outdone many times over.

    • Nick says:

      @BrendanJB if you want to be taken seriously, don’t say stuff like ‘x is so overrated.’

    • Terraval says:

      @ Nick

      If you want to be taken seriously don’t act like a twat. Someone saying something’s crap without qualification is silly, yes, but he gave plenty of valid reasons why the excellent Dawn of the Dead isn’t perfect. Funnily enough decrying something without reason is exactly what you did, and makes you sound a condescending prat.

  28. Bungle says:

    To me, the father’s face looks more realistic from 1:40-1:52 than anything I saw in the L.A. Noir trailers. I assume it was heavily touched up for the trailer, but it’s still impressive to look at. Looks real to me in a few shots. You can even see sunlight through his ears.

  29. Gazanator101 says:

    I would sneer at the thought of another zombie game coming out – being today’s most over-subscribed and arbitrary idea for a game, even when that game has nothing to do with zombies – but watching this trailer, I’m actually kind of impressed and cannot wait to see where they are going with it.

  30. ManaTree says:

    That…was amazing. Granted, it’s not a good idea of what the game will be, but as an independent piece of work, it’s just great.

    That music, too. Oh. Man. I’m guessing it’s probably in-house/commissioned for the game. I want it.

  31. bill says:

    That’s a seriously good trailer.

  32. Freud says:

    Wouldn’t it be hilarious if this is a Kalypso-like copy of L2D?

  33. PoLLeNSKi says:

    Nothing to say that hasnt been said by someone earlier in the comments. GJ

  34. DOLBYdigital says:

    Wow that was intense…. great video although now I have to try and go to bed… probably shouldn’t have watched that so late at night, wonder what kind of dreams I’ll have tonight!

  35. the_fanciest_of_pants says:

    YES! I had been dying (har har har) to play this when it was announced way back when, I even checked the website a few months back to see if there was anything new.

    I had pretty much given up on it.

    Also that trailer is amazing.

  36. Nemon says:

    I feel a little embarrassed sitting at work going *sniff* and all, but wow… that was beautiful. Sad and beautiful.

    Now I must rapekill something.

  37. Tunips says:

    Let’s see how it does at avoiding RE4-style problems when it’s revealed the New Guinea is not primarily populated by white tourists. Or worse yet, if it’s revealed that it is.

  38. brulleks says:

    I’d also given up hope of this game ever creeping up out of its grave, it’s been so, so long since any mention was made of it.

    Interestingly, this trailer is even capturing the attention of non-gaming press – there’s an article up about it on film site Dark Horizons today. And a positive one at that.

  39. Atic Atac says:

    This is an expertly made trailer, no question about it. However using the death of a child to promote your videogame is just not an option in my opinion. I’m jaded, but I will never be jaded enough to accept this. Will be staying away.

    Maybe it has something to do with being a parent. Reading The Road was one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life.

    • Sic says:

      It’s not the fact that the child is dead that lends itself to the actual promotion of the game. It doesn’t celebrate the death of a child.

      What they are using is your relationship with children. You’re angry that they’re using your personality to be engaged in a product. You’re angry at your own engagement, which is only a problem if you think the product is problematic.

  40. Kadayi says:

    Loved it. Whether the game lives up to the promises is another matter, but still an effective and well crafted trailer, and as others noted not too terrible on the uncanny valley front.

  41. Miresnare says:

    “Maybe it has something to do with being a parent. Reading The Road was one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life.”
    I’m a parent of a 16 month old. I find things like this trailer and books like the Road to be almost unbearably difficult to watch (or read) after he arrived, but I don’t think it’s an off limit or taboo subject.
    Excellent trailer. I’ve just watched it twice in a row and I’m sitting here feeling absolutely shell shocked.
    Yeah, I’m a pussy.

    • Atic Atac says:

      The Road is still one of the best books I’ve ever read. I do however feel that they stepped over a line with this trailer.

    • JB says:

      Father of two girls here, and I disagree re: crossing a line. Like The Walking Dead, I think having children involved makes it more realistic. They are everywhere after all.

      I also understand that it’s not going to be to everyone’s liking, just wanted to put in my 2p worth.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      I was thinking about this issue. Not a parent, but even hanging around with friends’ kids last weekend and thinking about them in context with this was that big stab through the heart. I was thinking “Christ, what would a parent make of this?”

      KG

    • JB says:

      Oh goodness yes, it’s heart-rending. But that’s good sometimes. I re-read The Road regularly, and that’s not the most enjoyable experience I’ve ever had, but it’s a bloody brilliant book.

    • AndrewC says:

      Male-Genre stuff, like zombies, horror and action, creates its entertainment through violence. Trangressive acts, unrestrained responses – these are the things the genre stuff is designed to deliver. It relies on a slight disassociative relationship between viewer and content. The audience is not there to have an emotional reaction, but a visceral one, and descriptions of what they have seen tend towards words like ‘intense’ or ‘awesome’ instead of ‘sad’ or ‘happy’. The characters tend towards the bland or the caricatured, thus making it easier not to have emotional responses to them, the situations and venues tend towards the similar, like a child coming back again and again to the same play-set. It isn’t, completely, an accident.

      So no wonder that people who start approaching this content from an emotional perspective (like having recently had a child) would become offended or shocked by the imagery. It wasn’t designed to be responded to emotionally. The image of a dead person can be the same in a ‘horror’ movie and a ‘drama’, but their content is entirely different.

      So it is not so much a ‘crossing of a line’ in terms of content but a ‘muddling of a message’ or how it wants the content seen.

      Thus, you can not just shove a plangent piano score on top of gory action and hope for the best, as you will confuse the messages. Certainly to me, when the music was mixed with the OTT gore shots of the second half of the trailer, the result was a slight ridiculousness.

      Umm, other than that, I thought the trailer was very good!

    • Spatula says:

      I’m a parent and i have to say the trailer is all the more effective because of it. It’s cliched, but you can never really understand the horror (around the thought) of not being able to protect your child, until you have a kid.

      It hits you in square in the gut and REALLY affects you. I’m not ashamed to say that i was moved by the trailer and as mentioned by someone above (though for his little girl) I desperatley want to give my son a hug right now :-)

      I think it’s a frankly brilliant trailer and was clearly designed to effect the parents among us more (the part where the father reaches for his injured child is heartbreaking) and i don’t think this is a bad thing; it would be great for games to become a bit more grown up.

      Granted, the trailer will probably not be representative of the game (though a truley bleak survival zombie game would be epic) but that’s not really the point. Take it as a ‘short film’ and it’s simply stunning.

      More of this sort of thing

  42. Bilbo says:

    That’s how you do a trailer.

  43. Ian says:

    About damn time we got something from this.

    They released the original Call of Juarez and I loved it. They announced this and it looked interesting. AND THEN NOTHING.

  44. Calabi says:

    Whats wrong with me I cant stop my eyes from leaking.

  45. Pani says:

    Golly that was an intense trailer.

  46. hjd_uk says:

    Bloody kids, always wanting pocket money, going off to the arcade, getting chewed on by the undead, they’ll be the death of me…

  47. plugmonkey says:

    Reply fail.

  48. Stevostin says:

    Holy fuc*ing sh*t this looks promising.

  49. JethroD says:

    A terrible trailer, sad to see people falling for this base manipulative crap.

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