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The corner of the internet that deals with videogames nearly tore itself in half with excitement for the trailer of a new Zombie apocalypse-themed game called Dead Island. If you have seen it I am willing to bet that you found it every bit as compelling as everyone else did. It is a brilliant piece of cinema, combining an excellent score, technically brilliant visuals and innovative editing that achieves its impact by playing a large part of the sequence in reverse.
All those elements combined to tell a horrific, desperate and sorrowful narrative centering on the death of a little girl which her parents frantically try to prevent.
It’s manipulative, to some degree, but certainly very effective and has definitely served its purpose. People know about the game and they are telling their friends about it. They are talking about how it’s a brilliant piece of film-making. They are talking about how it’s making them feel, how it’s elicited an emotional response in them. They’re even having conversations about it being offensive.
There are discussions happening about whether this is appropriate marketing. There are even people talking about whether or not they can stomach watching the thing.
But you know what they aren’t talking about? What kind of game Dead Island actually is.
Because as brilliant as that trailer is and as much as I love it and as much as I am making sure all my friends see it, that trailer does not tell me a thing about how this game is actually going to play. Is Dead Island an FPS, an adventure game, MMO or RPG? A combination of those things or something completely new? I don’t know.
As for the characters portrayed in it — will I be playing as any of them? Do they feature in the story at all? Taken strictly on its own and to the exclusion of everything else, the trailer is wholly uninformative. All we know for certain is that the game will feature zombies and will take place on an island.
We can’t even be sure that it’s brilliantly melancholy tone will feature in the game itself. Consider the awesome Mad World trailer for the first Gears of War. Gears of War was an excellent balls to the wall, gung-ho action game, that relied only superficially on plot. Mad World gave the impression that there was much more emotional heft to be had in terms of tone, which the final product never delivered.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A trailer is after all about creating hype and in this case it is good hype. Dead Island has my attention and a lot of other peoples as well, which is exactly what it set out to do.
But let’s not become victims of the hype machine, where we glorify this game to high heaven thanks to it’s excellent trailer and then tear it down when the final product doesn’t live up to our artificial expectations. Let’s be smarter than that. Let’s give the Dead Island trailer its due, because it is a great trailer.
But is it a great game?
We’ll know soon.