Why the Dead Island Trailer Failed to Impress Me

Posted: February 17, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,
“OK, even I think this is a little much…”

Like many of you, I caught a bunch of buzz on my Twitter feed today about the “amazing” Dead Island trailer. I watched the video. Then I wondered. What am I supposed to be so impressed by?

Granted, the visuals and the trailer were nice (in a pretentious sort of way- the pianissimo music was a bit much). However, I’ve learned to be wary of nice-looking trailers. Why? Well, let’s take a trip back to 2004, when I saw the commercial for Call of Duty: Finest Hour.

Well, I fell for it and bought the game. The visuals were nothing like the commercial. For that matter, the game itself was a buggy mess of 128-bit shooter mediocrity. It wasn’t the first time a game advertisement had steered me wrong, but the fact that they were using pre-rendered footage and promising “the most realistic combat ever” (guess that writer never played Rainbow Six) without showing a single frame of actual gameplay made it feel extraordinarily slimy and deceptive.

This has made me especially wary and skeptical of new trailers for games (which certainly led to a pleasant surprise when Uncharted DID look that good- unfortunately it had shoehorned supernatural elements that detracted zombies), and I think all of us should remember: this is the first time we’re so much as hearing about this game. It’s being developed by the studio that made the (based on reviews) mediocre-to-decent Call of Juarez. So you can expect a competent game, I guess, but why everyone thinks a pre-rendered trailer of zombies attacking and blood spurting in reverse-motion is some kind of milestone is as alien to me as why people would call a cookie-cutter movie like Avatar groundbreaking. I didn’t see anything that was distinguishable as gameplay. I know what game engine graphics look like, and those weren’t being rendered in real-time.

(I am prepared to eat my words if those turn out to be in-game graphics. But you know that’s not gonna happen.)

And there’s one more little problem I have: people seem to be blown away by the fact that it takes place on an island full of zombies. This isn’t exactly what you would call an original plot, mind you. Resident Evil: Code Veronica and Gun Survivor both took place on an island, as did the (terrific) Borderlands DLC The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned. It’s the same basic plot as in the so-bad-it’s-horrible Sega CD title Corpse Killer, and is predated by the films Day of the Dead, Zombie/Zombi 2, and 1943’s I Walked With A Zombie. So yeah, it’s about as original as Rocky V.

To be fair, I really don’t see the continued pop-culture appeal of zombies. Zombie fiction was pretty much deconstructed and parodied to hell and back with 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, which really should have been the final nail in the coffin. But unfortunately, now zombies are everywhere. Call of Duty has zombies. Red Dead Redemption has zombies. As Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw put it in an episode of Zero Punctuation “do you get a tax break for making a game about zombies?”. They’ve far worn out their pop culture welcome to the point that even classic literature is suffering at the hands of the undead. Apparently Northanger Abbey isn’t any good on its own merits, it needs some flesh eating ghouls! The only franchise that lacks zombies anymore is Resident Evil! That’s completely insane!

Perhaps the only way you could get more cliché than zombies would be to have a buzzcut space marine fighting zombies in a dockside warehouse full of shipping crates. Which I’m sure Activision is working on as we speak.

  1. Hmmm, well I like your points. Dead Island is most likely going to suck, or at best be a mediocre attempt at a Far Cry 2 game with Zombies. The thing is that it should not take away from what was accomplished in that video.

    The techland engine is a pretty versatile piece of proprietary kit so it could, shockingly, be pretty good. Still, still, that trailer is a good trailer despite some of the deliberate grabs for your heartstrings. It conveys a desperation and sadness that, regardless of being representative of the game, is good in its own right.

  2. Martin says:

    Who on earth would be dumb enough to think the trailer for Dead Island was not prerendered?

  3. Martin says:

    Not to mention it was the stylisation and editing that made it interesting.. it’s just a trailer…

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