I've seen it. You've seen it. Your friend who doesn't know the difference between a PlayStation 3 and a Commodore 64 has seen it. In fact, I'm pretty sure my 54-year-old mother was whistling the theme tune to it the other day. Such was the impact of the Dead Island trailer, which the internet gorged upon much like a ghoul would the carcass of a cow. I told myself I wouldn't mention it in this opening paragraph, actually, as everybody has already burnt themselves out talking about it. The thing is though, it gives me some context to debunk a few myths.
Dead Island is not an emotional thriller in the same vein as Heavy Rain, only with zombies instead of Origami Killers. Nor is it a partnership game where you protect your child from hordes of hungry flesh eaters. It's not third-person, and it's not a shooter. And it's certainly not a game about killing little girls through means of defenestration.
According to the game's brand manager, Vincent Kummer, Dead Island is "a Zombie Slasher, Action RPG". Having seen 20 minutes of the game played first-hand, it's probably best to envisage it as Left 4 Dead meets Dead Rising, with a bit of Borderlands thrown in for good measure. I'm not sure whether the idyllic setting alone is enough to differentiate the game from its peers, but there's no denying it looks pretty - although the demo I saw was probably running on a high-end PC.
Picture the scene: a stretch of golden sand peppered with palm trees, surfboards and beach huts. An expanse of blue sky disrupted only by the occasional wisp of cloud, and below it lush green vegetation juxtaposed with expensive looking hotels. The holiday brochure would certainly refer to it as "paradise", but in very small print somewhere below the extortionate price tag would be the disclaimer: "WARNING: Royal Palms Resort may contain zombies."
Dead Island is portrayed from the perspective of four characters. Similar to Borderlands, each protagonist conforms to a class, with tech trees and subsequent skills unique to each. The tank, assassin, jack-of-all-trades and leader offer a variety of different strategies for disposing of the undead, although our first demo focuses solely on the first class on this list. The tank role is assumed by Sam B, a one-hit-wonder rapper visiting the island to resurrect his rotting career. After recording his new song, he hits the cocktails, drinking himself into an alcohol-induced stupor before passing out in a hotel toilet.
Sam awakes the next day to familiar symptoms: a headache, dry mouth, and unfamiliar surroundings. You'd be forgiven for thinking the rest of the island was enduring a hangover of a similar magnitude, what with all the groaning and disoriented bodies ambling about the beach - but no, it's actually the beginnings of the zombie apocalypse. It turns out Sam was rescued from the hotel and taken to a hut on the beach, where other survivors are waiting to discover whether he has been infected or not.
After determining that he's safe, the survivors persuade Sam to help a pal of theirs on the beach, who is fending off the walking dead all on his lonesome. Mr B turns out to be a good candidate for the job as he's one of the few survivors immune to the virus. Presumably the game will offer an explanation for this at some point, but Kummer isn't prepared to part with this information just yet. With no guns to hand, Sam grabs the only object vaguely resembling a weapon, a paddle, and heads outside to work off the remnants of the previous night's Mojitos.