I was finally able to get some hands-on with Dead Island at this years E3 and I can tell you two things. First of all, it's probably not what you're expecting...at least not if you put a lot of clout into the CGI trailer. What I can tell you, however, is that even though the game itself bears little resemblance to its trailer counterpart, it's also bloody good and resembles other games that have had a lot to offer in the past. The feel of the game remains true to my earlier predictions made after seeing gameplay online. It plays like a zombie FarCry with a DeadRising weapon mod system, and the melee combat of Condemned. The mixture works, even if the combat itself seems to still need a little work.
The demo starts wih you waking up after a long night drinking. There is panic all around you and other island residents are arguing whether to bash your head in with a bat. After you wake up, and they realize that you are not about to turn into one of the infected, you are free to move around the 'safe area' and take missions from the other residents. There isn't much time to hang out since you are almost immediately thrust into a mission which has you rescuing a fellow survivor who is being attacked outside. You grab the nearest thing that can be construed as a weapon, in the case a wooden oar, and head outside.
The melee combat is both visceral and, perhaps, a little overly difficult due mostly to the fact that it's hard to judge exactly how far away you need to be actually hit the zombies. It almost seems like your character should have a little more reach when using something as big and long as a wooden oar. You also have a kick which helps keep the zombies at bay but, again, it just seems to get you a little too close for comfort. The one thing this aspect of combat does offer is a little more intensity so there is a chance that this may be more by design than fault.
When you do connect, however, the effect is what I can only describe as luscious. The sound design of smashing bone being thrust into rotting sinew is fantastically rendered, as bits of blood and flesh fly through the air and a nice rumble jolts through the controller. Use an edged weapon and limbs or heads will appropriately be separated from the torso in a glorious stream of gore. The outstanding feeling of exterminating the dead made me forget how hard it was to sometimes do so.
The part of the island able to be explored in the demo was small but well populated with objects and provided multiple paths which also provided more tactical options. In many cases, I found that it was the smarter move to run from the zombies instead of fight them...especially when being a low level.
Yes, there are levels in the game and I saw three distinct skill trees in the demo with about 15-20 skills in each tree. XP, and damage numbers, fly out of zombies in Borderlands fashion which adds a fantastically gamey feel to the entire experience.
Dead Island is a fantastically open and fun experience that, much unlike the trailer, doesn't seem to take itself as seriously as some would like, but still offers a great romp while adding some new twists on the zombie theme. And just when I thought I was sick of zombies.