There seem to be two distinct types of Zombie games.
First there’s the po-faced uber-sombre post-apocalyptic tale of broken lives, ruined civilisations, dehumanising acts and fractured characters. Think The Last of Us. Better yet, think The Walking Dead. Coz it’s better. These are heavy experiences, often in spite of the completely bonkers central foe…
Second there are the openly irreverent splat-em-ups, which revel at the glorious squishability of the aforementioned bonkers central foe. This is often at the expense of any sense of tension or drama. Dead Rising typically delights in wanton destruction. Left 4 Dead, despite allusions to the first group ensure players are the gun totting match of any horde. Splat first. Story second.
While the original Dead Island, and it’s now legendary cinematic CGI debut, tended towards the former, the truth is it was stuck somewhere between the two. The recently revealed Dead Rising 2 seems to plant its flag in camp number two (an educated guess considering no substantial gameplay has been revealed). Ditto online battle arena title, Dead Island Epidemic.
But while it might seem as if the IP has finally decided upon a tone for itself, enter the positively psychedelic Escape Dead Island – A psychological mystery adventure with stealth elements. Deep Silver, it seems, don’t want us to get too comfortable. Not with a completely bonkers central foe to play with.
Regardless of its shifting tone, Escape Dead Island, for my money (all three shiny pennies of it) looks the most promising entry yet.
Players awake with exactly the same info as the character. They’ll be tasked with finding out what’s going on, why they’re on an island, what happened to everyone, what they should do about it, and most tantalisingly, is it all in their heads?
It’s a most cerebral effort from a franchise known perhaps best for the satisfying smulch it makes when you clock an undead skull juuuuust right. Additionally, in stark contrast to previous gameplay models, Escape Dead Island presents an intensely vulnerable protagonist.
Beyond the psychological horrors of not knowing what the f*ck is going on, our plucky hero is unarmed, unable to confront more than a single foe (at least initially) and crucially, NOT immune to the virus that seems to have rotted the flesh off the island’s inhabitants.
Escape Dead Island, then, is necessarily a stealth game. Sure enough you’ll solve puzzles and navigate environments, but you’ll do so while trying your best to AVOID confrontation. Kind of exactly like what any rational human would do when confronted by a roaming corpse…
Furthermore, to drop players as far from their comfort zone as possible, Deep Silver have hired development house FatShark to make this little undead enigma. These dudes did both PC PVP hard as nails fighters War of the Roses and War of the Vikings.
This is very unexpected.
This is very uncomfortable.
This is a very good sign.
Escape Dead Island represents a risk for Deep Silver.
Sure it’s not the biggest risk in the world, especially as it’s a current-gen only $40 retail product.
But it proves a willingness to offer up diverse experiences within its brand. It proves there is more meat on the bones of this IP that the decayed visages of its antagonist would have you believe. It proves they aint just content to slop up the same experience over and over and rake in the green.
Which is good.
In case that wasn’t abundantly clear…
Escape Dead Island will drop for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC in Autumn 2014.