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Monday, October 5, 2020

What Could Have Been: Dead Island 2 (Rewrite)

 


When I look back on the work I did from last year—specifically early last year—I often wince. Stylistically, it feels way too self-serious and lacks the spark that I think my current work has. Heck, even stuff from early this year feels like it doesn’t have the seem pizazz that I think my most recent work has. As such, I’ve really wanted to take time to slowly rewrite some of the pieces that I’m passionate about or that hold a special place in my heart.


Now, while I won’t devote, say, a week or something to rewriting piece after piece, I want to take a bit of time to rewrite another one as the game in question holds a special place in my heart as the original is a low-key favorite of mine. That and something happened back in June of this year that I think is worth mentioning. As such, today, I want to go back and rewrite the piece I did on the still unreleased video game Dead Island 2. So, with the sun shining, the warm California breeze in our hair, and with the growling of zombies filling the air, let’s dive headfirst into the apocalypse!


Dead Island


First up, let’s take a quick gander at the original game. Dead Island was announced on August 8, 2007. However, if you're to go by an article request on the Lost Media Wiki, the game’s development goes back a bit farther than this. The request reads as follows:


Dead Island/Island of Living Dead (lost original version of survival horror game; 2005-2008


Information on this supposed original version is sparse; the only info I could find was from a fandom website called the Lost Media Archive. I’ll give you a rundown of what was written on there as the English is a bit… iffy, but just know that all credit goes to them.


Originally, the title for the game was “Island of the Living Dead”. This was likely a placeholder name and was changed due to how generic it was (a great many zombie films utilize the suffix “living dead”, you needn’t look any further than many of George A. Romero’s films). It’s also possible it was changed due to a 2008 (or 2007 if you go by Rottentomatoes) film by Italian horror icon Bruno Mattei bearing the same name. While I can’t find information on when the film was announced, I would hazard a guess that Techland possibly caught wind of this and wanted to avoid confusion with the name and thus, the name was changed to Dead Island.



According to the article, there was only “one trailer” that showcased anything for this version of the game (which you can view below). This one is followed by some screencaps from the trailer and, presumably, some press released in-game images.



Now for the story. According to the article, the story was given a complete overhaul during development. Originally, there weren't any RPG elements—which in the final game is the bread and butter that makes up 65% of the game. The other 35% is made up of 34.9% side quests and 00.1% main quests.


Originally, the game sounded like it was significantly more straightforward. Whereas the game became an open world RPG that had four playable characters that specialized in various weapon types, the original game had one playable character who didn’t have a name. The developers also never spoke of the game’s story; their only comments being that the island (which in the final product is named Banoi) where the zombie outbreak took place was “mysterious” and that it was “with no reason”. The latter quote is from the Lost Media Archive article by the way. I’m guessing they meant “without reason”, but I digress. The developers stated that players would, naturally, have to play the game in order to discover the truth to his bizarre outbreak.


By today’s standards, this is traditional stuff. A mysterious outbreak and a stranger in a strange land. There was a problem with this however and if you’re at all familiar with the time period that is the early/mid 2000s, you may be familiar with the name Uwe Boll. If not he’s a German filmmaker notorious for having made movies that weren’t exactly good. If we’re to assume this version of the game was showcased—or at least announced—around the year 2005 or 2006, then it was a mere 2–3 years after the catastrophically received adaptation of Sega’s classic arcade shooter House of the Dead. This, naturally, led video game forum dwellers and even some journalists to ridicule the game for bearing a similar story to the aforementioned adaptation of House of the Dead.


Oops.


That brings us to the end of the Lost Media Archive article. It claims that a Brazilian gaming website named UOLJogos gave a rundown of the original premise (which they say was showcased in 2006). They say that the premise was as follows:


Após queda de avião, um homem procura por sua esposa em uma ilha paradisíaca misteriosamente habitata pelos mortos-vivos


Now for the translated version:


After a plane crash, a man searches for his wife in a paradise island mysteriously crawling with the undead


Interestingly, there’s a side quest early on in the final product where you go to the sight of where an airplane crashlands in a semi-remote part of Banoi. However, I doubt this is a nod to the game’s original premise. If it is, it’s nice to see that something from the original premise made it into the final version. What a shame. Anyways, let's move onto the main course.


Dead Island: Riptide


Oh yeah, this game exists. Nothing happened here though as far as I’m aware beyond it being DLC that was masquerading as a full priced video game. In spite of it being a follow-up to the first game, it’s not the main sequel. Nay, that’s what we’re moving onto now, so let’s—


Dead Island: Epidemic


Oh, this. It was a MOBA that was canceled during the open beta phase. Next!


Escape Dead Island


t(^.^t)


Dead Island 2


Ah, here we go. The main course; the titular video game! Dead Island 2 was announced as the sequel to Dead Island, taking place a few months after the original. Yager Studios—the folks behind the wildly popular and traumatizing war game Spec Ops: The Line—were the ones to propose the idea to Deep Silver back in 2012. It was in that year that it began development. As for its announcement, that came two years later in 2014 at E3; a very tonally contrasting trailer to the dark, somber one that accompanied the first game. Take a gander.



I would like to state that, personally, this trailer remains one of my favorites of all-time. It’s funny, colorful, and the usage of Pigeon John’s “The Bomb” makes for a visually funny trailer that I seldom see from trailers nowadays. Though let’s get back on track.


At Gamescom 2014, there was some gameplay that was shown off; two of the four playable characters were also showcased. While I’m unsure as to which two were specifically shown off, the four playable characters are now known thanks to a leaked demo (which we’ll get into later). They are as follows:



Dani - Speeder


Ryan - Berserker


Ashlee - Hunter


John - Bishop


Judging by the appearances of the characters from the leaked demo, I’m inclined to believe that Ryan and John weren’t the two people heard at the end of the E3 trailer, but I digress. The Gamescom demo showcased a vibrant, colorful setting of sunny California and showed that the game would include landmarks like the Santa Monica Pier and Hollywood. Given that the game also included the city of San Francisco, and the logo to the game (which you can see as the header for this write-up) showcases a bridge in the letter D, one can also safely assume that the Golden Gate Bridge would be included.


Besides the sunny setting, the demo also showed off a lot more humor and crazy craftable weapons (the latter of which was in the first game and Riptide). The former, however, received a bit of criticism from fans of the first game. One thing that Dead Island was known for was a very somber, realistic tone. While many see the idea of a zombie apocalypse as a time to mess around thanks to the slow moving, shambling undead being a threat to those who are incapable of moving faster than a tortoise, Dead Island took the idea and made it about loss, hopelessness, and a race against the clock. Besides a monsoon being imminent, there was also the threat of a nuclear weapon being used to annihilate the zombie threat. The game was nothing if not quite dark and Dead Island 2 flipped that concept on its head and made it apparent that it would be a lot more upbeat.


Whether or not that feedback was heard by Deep Silver isn’t exactly known, but regardless: development continued on the game until July of 2015 when it was announced that Yager was dropped as the developer citing “differing visions” on what Dead Island 2 should be. I know that this isn’t exactly where I should throw my two cents in, but I genuinely believe that Deep SIlver likely wanted the game to steer closer to what the first game had been and Yager was adamant about the quasi-Borderlands tone that they had gone forward with. Though I digress let us move on.


After Yager was dropped, Deep Silver said that the game had been handed off to an unnamed developer. In March of 2016, this developer was revealed to be Sumo Digital. If you’re unfamiliar with them: they made LittleBigPlanet 3 and Crackdown 3. However, they’re primarily known for racing games, like Forza Horizon 2.


The reaction to Sumo Digital’s involvement was met with… well, to be honest, I don't exactly know how it was received. I really didn’t see much in the way of negative or positive reactions from anyone. True be told, I think most people probably didn’t care as the Presidential Election cycle here in the United States was all anyone could talk to since the news was centered almost exclusively around then presidential candidate Donald Trump. While that may seem like an unnecessary inclusion of politics into a write-up about a video game, all I can remember from 2016 is everything being about Trump. Movie and video game outlets somehow always found a way to include Trump into everything and as such, I think more people were interested in the race between Trump and the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, than a game about zombies.


With that said, once the election ended and Trump became the President, life returned to utter chaos. Though have no fear because in over a year after Sumo Digital was announced as the new developer, Deep Silver stated that the game was still in development. This statement was issued in August of 2017—17 months after the original announcement of Sumo’s involvement. 11 months later, in July of 2018, another statement was given telling people  that the game was still totes in development and nothing was wrong at all in spite of nothing having been shown.


No, really, nothing had been shown.


Like, at all.


No trailer, no in-game screenshots, no interviews, nothing. All we’d gotten amounted to the following statement that I made up:


Oh yeah, the game’s still in development. Like, for realzies. It’s still going. Yup, definitely in development. We totally haven’t restarted development again. No siree.


After that make-believe statement was given, I called upon InfoWars Editor-in-Chief Paul Joseph Watson to say “imagine my shock” when, in August of 2019, THQ Nordic stated that the game had been handed off to Dambuster Studios—the developers of the widely beloved classic Homefront: The Revolution—to work on the game. The one major difference about Dambuster and both Sumo and Yager is that Dambuster is an internal studio of Deep Silver, so they would presumably have an easier time monitoring development of the game now.


As a little addendum here, I recall once seeing something on the Wikipedia page for Dead Island 2 that stated that the game had “nearly been completed” while in development at both Yager and Sumo Digital prior to changing developers. Whether this was merely a fan stating what they believe or some sort of “inside source”, I don’t know. However, if this is true, then either Deep Silver is being really authoritarian about what they want from the game or Yager and Sumo somehow managed to deliver a product that was on par with Aliens: Colonial Marines. Whatever the case, I just wanted to make a note of this, so let us move on.


In June of 2020, a demo was leaked to the Internet of a 2015 version from when Yager was developing the game. It’s here that one could learn the names of the four playable characters and see a little of what the game had to offer. What was seen was, yet again, met with lukewarm reception. While some enjoyed the zaniness, most called it “Borderlands with zombies”. Ironically, the first Borderlands game had a DLC that featured zombies and even that was less colorful than what could be seen here. Still, some liked it and thought it looked fun. Heck, I’d admit that, while I don’t think it exactly screams “Dead Island”, it still seemed enjoyable. If you’d like to take a gander, watch a video that showcases it below. Just be warned, it’s kinda gory. Then again, if you didn’t expect that, then I’d recommend reevaluating your views of zombies from the movie Warm Bodies.



Anyways, since this leak, there has—shock of all shocks—been no news on Dead Island 2. The bomb that was supposed to blow up in the second quarter of 2015 has been delayed for over five years now and it doesn’t seem like we’ll be getting it anytime soon. Though as a joke, I would like to state that in the time since the game’s announcement I have:


Cast my first vote in an election.


Graduated high school.


Lost a parakeet.


Lost my virginity (real stellar move on my part as a Catholic if you ask me).


Started up this blog.


Lost a girlfriend.


Lost a dog.


Been caught in the middle of a global pandemic.


Gotten a new dog.


Lost both of my grandfathers.


And probably some other stuff that I can’t remember.


Indeed, Dead Island 2’s really become a part of my life. It’s a great way to see how much has come and gone in my life. So with that said, the story of this game that has languished in development hell comes to a close (for now). So let’s move onto my personal take on this game as a whole. No, there won’t be any theories on why the game’s languishing—though some future write-ups about things like this may include them.


My Take


You know, it’s good to see that troubled development runs in the family of the Dead Island franchise.


Even after rewriting this, I feel like I’ve come to the same conclusion I did last March: I don’t think this game is ever coming out. While I would love to play it as I loved the first Dead Island, nothing about this game’s development screams one that’ll lead to a released game. Rather, it’s one that’s going to rival Duke Nukem Forever in the way of a game that’ll garner a legacy for being trapped in limbo for eternity. Though if it does ever come out, I have a sinking feeling that it won’t be anything worthwhile.


For starters: as stated earlier: I think that Deep Silver genuinely wanted to the game to be closer to what the first game had been like: a somber, much more realistic game where there was a sense of extremely hopelessness while Yager wanted the game to be embrace the zaniness like the wildly success Borderlands and Saints Row franchises. The two clashed and eventually, either Yager was dropped by Deep SIlver or they left out of frustration with the demands that Deep Silver had imposed on them.


As for Sumo Digital, I suspect that the tepid reviews from both critics and fans of Crackdown 3 led to them being dropped. I’ll definitely cover the game in the future, but if you look at the E3 2014 demo of the game’s multiplayers compared to what was given, the downgrading that took place would make Ubisoft blush until they made tomatoes look white.


With Dambuster Studios now spearheading the game, I have—as stated just above—the game won’t be anything worthwhile. That’s the best case scenario too. If you’re at all familiar with Homefront: The Revolution, you’d probably take one look at Dead Island 2 and throw holy water on it until the game burst into flames and set California ablaze for the seventh time this day. Though hey, who am I to judge? I couldn’t code a Flappy Bird knockoff.


Conclusion


Dead Island 2’s a game that I believe deserves to be memed into existence. Its pitiful development time is one that should serve as something of a testament to how astoundingly poorly games can be handled. While its reveal trailer remains something of an amazing feat given it garnered a lot of interest, what little time the game has left to have even the slightest bit of a splash on the outgoing PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles is hardly worth the effort. I imagine it’ll restart development for a third time at its fourth developer. If that happens though, what’s the point of even bothering to release it? Pouring money into dead projects feels counterproductive if you ask me. Or perhaps trying to make back some of that money is what a studio would want. Who knows and, at this point, who really cares?


Okay, that’s a pointless question. I know I do. I’ll be someone who gets the game day one for novelty.


Anyways, as per the norm: I hope you all enjoyed this write-up. If you did, leave a comment and follow the blog. It’d mean the world to me. Also, I would love to know: do you believe Dead Island 2 will ever be released? Let me know in the comments below and all of that other stuff that content creators say when doing an outro. Anyways: toodles!

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