Games

The other night I watched the Dead Island trailer. I was amazed.

“This,” thought I, “is how a zombie outbreak would really be: heart-wrenching, frantic and hopeless.”

In a genre where every game has you hunting zombies like you’re some sort of aquatic filter feeder and they are krill — where the characters are bad-asses to whom the sight of a rotting corpse shambling towards them is no more disturbing than crossing the path of a violent and ankle-loathing terrier – this trailer showed the haunting side of an outbreak that the modern human, enthusiastic in the certainty of its own survival and the copious supplies of weapons and ammunition that magically appear in convenient locations, seems not to think about.
It looks like an actual horror game. With horror instead of stupid one-liners and blazing shotguns.

Of course, this was only a cinematic trailer. To make a game as frantic and emotionally stirring as that is going to be difficult.
There’s a Holy Trinity of making games: What the consumer wants, what the game needs and functionality that caters for both. It seems like zombie games give the player a lot of what they want: action and guns, both of which detract from what a zombie outbreak needs, which is a sense of urgency and real danger, and maybe a bit of fear.

The prospect of battle being mostly mêlée based makes a lot of sense to me, as I’m not from America and therefore guns aren’t a casual accessory for civilians. Furthermore, that mêlée weapons degrade and break adds that sense of urgency. Reloading a gun is one thing — having an axe break in half in your hand is quite another.

Left 4 Dead is a great zombie game, but it follows a very basic pattern: You get health and ammo at a checkpoint, then work your way through hordes of zombies in the happy and certain knowledge that there’s more health and ammo at the next checkpoint. Whether or not Dead Island is going to have that certainty of safety on the other side of its rotting hordes remains to be seen – it’s difficult to break that “Do this and get rewarded” scheme in a game without making it into a simulation.

 

 

When I was browsing through the screen shots, I came across one of a zombie in a huge restraint suit charging at one of the characters while she held a samurai sword. When I first saw this image, I thought it a pretty stock-standard Zombie-Action! Game shot and flicked past it. Samurai swords are too easy, I think. And restraint-suit zombie? What a gimmick.

It was only looking at it a second time that I really realised what was going on in the shot. Sure, there was still a samurai sword, but the background really told the story of why this gimmick zombie was present. There’s a police van crashed in the background, and a few police zombies milling about. This zombie was in this huge restraint suit because he was a prisoner in transport. Suddenly he seemed more like a horror than a gimmick. But, yeah: a samurai sword.

As much as there is of the game that’s yet to be known and to what degree the game shall change to balance those player-wants and game-needs, and whether or not the game will ever be released, as news about it has been popping up every now and then for a few years now, I have to say that the trailer has captured my interest and excited me more than any other announced release.