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Bald Rage: Will the “Real” Dead Island Sequel Please Stand Up

A man is hanging from a pole in a gym.
A man is hanging from a pole in a gym.

It seems that every time we turn around, the fans of one thing are comparing it to something else. Whether it be one movie to another, one game to another or even one character to another, we always are dying to know what is better. This time I am going to analyze two products that actually should be compared to one another because they both originate from the same source. The 2011 survival horror game Dead Island and its conclusion, Dead Island Riptide, achieved a cult status for being an open world, playable B-movie. The story itself was pretty deep as the zombie outbreak was based upon a real world disease that comes from eating brains. The problem there was that the game took itself so serious that it wound up being unintentionally hysterical. Between the random glitches and ragdoll physics that work just a little too well, players cannot help but laugh as they are fighting for their lives and hacking through the undead. Dead Island Riptide was a proper end to the story but left players wondering what would come next. The mysteriously empty boat drifts towards an unknown port and as that Sam B theme song starts to play, you just know something was not right. For the past year, fans have been speculating what the next adventure would be. There were rumors that the next title would be called “Dead Island Hurricane,” not entirely ridiculous since the events of the first game took place during a typhoon. The truth finally started to come out earlier this year. Techland, the developer and owner of the Chrome Engine that powered Dead Island, would be working on a new IP for Warner Bros. Games called Dying Light. Deep Silver, the publisher and owner of the Dead Island IP, would be working with developer Yager to make Dead Island 2. Obvious answer aside, fans may be wondering which game is the “real” successor to the house that Sam B built. To find out which of these games will let gamers become a “pimp of the dead,” whilst “playing for the champions,” “blowing stuff up good,” all while “getting stronger,” let’s take an in-depth look at what we know so far.

This is one of those times where gameplay alone is not the primary draw for me. Both Dead Island 2 and Dying Light feature your character doing roughly the same things. Dead Island 2 is obviously the real sequel to Dead Island. . . but then again, it is not. There are various reasons why I say this and  you may or may not agree after reading this. What I posted above was the original reveal trailer for the first Dead Island game. It did not feature any gameplay, but it set the tone of the game. Regardless of how many laughs the title provided, you knew that the characters were in a very miserable, near hopeless situation. In Riptide, the four heroes of the first game wound up on another island, still in the New Guinea archipelago; the nightmare they thought was over had only begun and the game was introduced in a similar way to the first:

In the first Dead Island, you would pick up booklets containing facts about the indigenous peoples of New Guinea and how some of their tribal practices had spread the disease Kuru. You also picked up recordings of a reporter who was originally trying to expose an illegal logging trade on the island of Banoi and wound up with the story of a lifetime (that he never got to report). In Riptide, you found postcards from people vacationing on Palanai that told of the beginnings of the outbreak and there was a lot of cool WWII history tied up in the story. It was of course made up, but it tied into events that really did happen in the area during the war. The culmination of the game has the final boss informing the protagonists that by leaving Palanai, they are damning the rest of the world and that they are the real monsters. This is part of what sold me on the series; it was another zombie game but it wasn't just another zombie game. It had a solid story whose basis in reality made it stand apart from let's say, your average “umbrella” conspiracy. So you can imagine the level of confusion I had after Deep Silver and Yager introduced us to Dead Island 2 at e3:

I am not going to lie, when I saw this trailer, I was and honestly still am, psyched that Dead Island 2 is coming out. I will absolutely play this game. What I am getting at is that after watching the first two trailers, if they had not shown the Deep Silver logo at the beginning, I never would have guessed that this was Dead Island. The tone of Dead Island 2 is a complete departure from the previous games and with the game not out yet I am not going to say that is a bad thing; I am only pointing out the facts. Why Dead Island 2 seems to be more of a “Shaun of the Dead” than a “Walking Dead” is mind boggling and a bit frustrating, having come to expect a certain style from the series.

Now, let's take a look at what Techland has to offer now that they are seemingly off Team Dead Island. Flashback a year to e3 2013 where Techland put out a trailer for the upcoming Warner Bros. Games title, Dying Light. Yet another zombie game, we see players fighting their way through zombies using weapons similar to those crafted in Dead Island. We also see them using parkour and using evasion more than combat as they try to make it to the location where a plane has dropped supplies.

You get the feeling of a much more serious title where there are several dangers. First and foremost, there are the undead of course and the survivors are using everything they can get their hands on to keep from joining the zombie ranks. The second danger is time; as one of the survivors goes down, we see the main character quickly decide to leave them and escape just as zombies were about to tear him apart as well. The environment itself poses an additional threat as the protagonist saves a girl only to watch her fall to her death as she misses a long jump that he makes. As he finally reaches the roof where the package touched down, he faces what may be the most dangerous thing in this game: other people who are also trying to survive. There was no comedy or happy go lucky feeling in the trailer and the tagline of “Good night, good luck” gives the feeling that this game will offer much satisfaction as you progress through it. As someone who has been playing the Dead Island series for a few years now, this is the game that looks more like a proper sequel. The ability to craft weapons, the idea that sometimes you may want to avoid certain fights and being able to go everywhere so that buildings are no longer obstacles just feels like the natural progression of the Dead Island series.

Now I keep mentioning the story of Dead Island and that is because the story is a big part of what made me love the series. This is also part of my skepticism towards the official sequel game. Deep Silver’s Dead Island 2 site says the following about the upcoming game:

When it comes to the apocalypse, it is all about your attitude. Set after the events of Dead Island and Escape Dead Island (not even mentioning Riptide) Dead Island 2 takes you to sunny California in the aftermath of the zombie outbreak. This is Dead Island as it was meant to be – an intense, visceral romp through the sunshine state with you and your friends in a seamless multiplayer experience. Choose from an elite crew of heroes who are immune to the zombie virus and eager to run headfirst into the apocalypse. Craft thousands of weapons, upgrade your vehicles, hunt for epic loot and live the dream in the ultimate zombie slayers’ paradise!

In terms of the original game, this (to me) is the stupidest way possible to continue the story. We go from survivors that are perpetually fearful for their lives to the zombie equivalent of storm chasers and big game hunters. I understand that realistically, there would probably be a few morons that really try to be like this if there were ever a zombie apocalypse. I would just think that a proper continuation of the story would involve looking for a way to stop people from turning, especially with the virus spreading to North America. Who knows, the actual game may have the plot turn that way and what we have seen may only be the beginning of a larger story. All we know so far is that the characters start out as thrill seekers which perhaps explains why some of the weapons we have seen would clearly make a lot of noise and attract more zombies.

The story of Dying Light will almost definitely not have anything to do with that of Dead Island, not only because it is a different IP but because Techland is not working with Deep Silver on this game so there would be some trouble there. There will, however,  probably be some vague references and possible Easter eggs alluding back to it. Considering the direction of the story at the end of Riptide, this just feels more like the actual sequel as the scenery looks like a major city has been exposed to the virus. Here is Techland's description of the game from the website:

Dying Light is an action survival horror game presented in first-person perspective. The game is set in a vast and dangerous open world. During the day, you roam an urban environment devastated by a mysterious epidemic, scavenging for supplies and crafting weapons to help you defeat the hordes of mindless, flesh-hungry enemies the plague has created. At night, hunter becomes prey as the infected grow in strength and aggression – but even more lethal are the nocturnal, inhuman predators that leave their hives to feed. You will need to make use of all your skills and any available means to survive till dawn.

For a full breakdown of what the game provides, check out the info page on their site. While of course I agree that the actual player should be having fun playing any game, the idea of the in-game character doing so under the circumstances seems insane, for lack of a better term. DI2’s site shows a weapon called the Grinder which looks sort of like a weed whacker for zombies. Sounds fun, but seems highly impractical for this game series and would better fit in a series like Dead Rising. At the same time, their site also features a weapon called the Homestrike, which is a baseball bat combined with a bowling ball that has chains wrapped around it. That is something I will be extremely anxious to get my hands on as a melee weapon is always more valuable than a gun or mechanical weapon that requires fuel. Dying Light’s info page tells you straight out that guns are noisy and that they will attract zombies, which was even true in the first two Dead Island games. Being ridiculous in a game is fine and when that is the type of series you have, it makes sense. A problem arises when you continue a story with a more serious tone and start getting too silly. In terms of story, Dead Island 2 seems to very much be jumping the shark thus far.

To be crystal clear, I want to say that I will buy both of these games. More than likely, I will enjoy both of these games. There is even the possibility that all my speculation could be for naught as the Dead Island series is known for starting in one direction and twisting in another without notice. That or it could just be that since Dying Light presented itself to gamers first and is getting such a huge response that Deep Silver told Yager to make it as different from that game as possible. DI 2 could also wind up being the Saints Row of the series; we will not know for sure until release. Dying Light is currently slated for a February 2015 release and Dead Island 2 has yet to receive any launch date information other than 2015. As more information becomes available we will keep you posted.

This one goes out to the people criticizing Dead Island 2 because “it does not take place on an island.” You are complete morons and I hope you realize that. The story’s direction almost guaranteed that the virus would reach a mainland at some point, that is no reason to change the name of the series. A lot of the more recent battles in Star Wars have taken place on a planet’s surface, especially in the Clone Wars animated series. Should they have stopped calling it Star Wars? Of course not. Please stop being idiots. So what if the game takes place in California and it is called Dead Island? You are still going to play it so get over yourselves.

  • Slick's Nit-Picks: Dead Island Riptide