If nothing else, the cinematic trailer that went viral on the Internet back in February gave Techland’s forthcoming zombie Dead Island the kind of publicity its developer could only dreamed of.
A comparatively small Polish developer, Techland couldn’t have hoped to generate the kind of built-in attention that a release by, say, Valve or id Software would have. But with the release of a surprisingly well-made promo, Dead Island went from the kind of game journalists would have greeted with a shrug to a topic of considerable debate.
The promo’s subject matter – a young girl infected by a zombie bite plunging to her doom, as her parents try and fail to repel an undead incursion into their hotel room – polarised opinion, with some accusing its makers of poor taste or employing shock tactics for their own sake. The quality of its editing and production, with a jigsaw-like structure that recalled Christopher Nolan’s early movie masterpiece, Memento, was roundly praised.
All of this Internet hubbub did much to disguise the fact that the cinematic trailer had very little to do with the game it was advertising – not a huge surprise, necessarily, since such tactics are employed all the time in the videogame industry. But what was less well known at the time is that Techland had nothing to do with the making of the trailer at all. It was actually handled by a Scottish firm called Axis Animation, a piece of news that didn’t come out until long after the video had enjoyed almost three million views on Facebook.
As earlier screenshots and production footage had already revealed, the actual Dead Island is an action adventure game along the lines of previous zombie-themed games such as Dead Rising, with players using improvised weapons and running-away tactics to survive on a tropical island seething with the undead. The family depicted in the trailer were nothing to do with the original game, but according to a recent article over on C&VG, Dead Island’s developers have been working to tie similar characters into the game after the promo’s positive response.
Which brings us to the new teaser trailer for Dead Island, called Tragedy Hits Paradise. Unlike February’s promo, this one shows us actual in-game footage, mixed in with postcards of smiling families and holidaymakers, perhaps included as a nod to Axis Animation’s earlier creation.
It isn’t as artful, moving or debate-inspiring as the earlier footage we’ve seen, but it at least gives us a better idea of what the game itself will entail – an open tropical island environment, and a whole lot of zombies. The trailer’s not without a bit of imagination of its own, either – the brief glimpse of a couple of zombies running around on fire is a moment of Dali-esque surrealism.
Whether Techland can deliver a game that’s worthy of the game’s initial burst of attention remains to be seen. Expect another trailer to appear at next month’s E3 expo, and the finished game to come shuffling out of the palm trees sometime later this year for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.