I'm done gilding the lily here, so let me just take you into the bulk of what I got to see as well as control in Dead Island.
Right out the gate, three other players and I delve deep into the equipment and upgrade systems. To wade through zombies, we are going to need some kick ass gear, right? The first thing to take note of here is that firearms are extremely rare on the island -both in "shops" and lying about. To give you some appreciation for that statement, a well crafted Kukri was about $400 while a POS assault rifle was over $23,000. We were given enough "fun money" so we could play around for the demo's sake, but from the signs of cash laying around, you would need to save up a bit for some serious firepower.
Now that we had gear, it came time to upgrade everything and add on extras. Upgrades and add-ons work a lot like an RPG leveling system. You might be thinking, "Why level something if weapons deteriorate and are destroyed over time?" Well it is possible to fix and reinforce items, so you can keep the same weapons throughout the game. This way, if you build an awesome electrified kukri, you won't have to worry about finding a new one unless you are extremely careless - though finding random crappy items is extremely easy.
Once all the preparation was finished, it was off to tackle the mission of the demo. Something epic had to be in store right? Well if running out into a zombie-infested town to post missing person posters is epic to you, then you would have creamed your undies. Yea, the mission wasn't too exciting, but it did give us a great feel for the combat and size of the game. Eight percent of the game's playable area was offered up here and it felt huge. Commence the "That's what she said" jokes.
While trying to run about the large location as a team, one of our party got introduced to an interesting feature as it comes to combat; going as the lone wolf is only manageable when you are playing single player. The number of zombies in the world are directly related to the number of players playing co-op with you. So as we had four, they were everywhere and did not scale down as players split from the core group. Enforcing one of the big features in the combat, teamwork.
Now as the basics go, you can look at pretty much any FPS and get a good idea on how the combat is for the game. Just think more hand to hand than shooting and you've got it. There are a few nice additions to this though. You can throw any weapon you wield at any time so you can still pretend you have all ranged capabilities. Then there is the "rage" mode, which is different for each character. I only got to see Xian Mei's, which turned her into a crazy fast, knife wielding, slicing & dicing blur on screen.
Even though we had some rough parts due to poor player choices, we finished the mission pretty quickly and then went into a free roam state. You can read that as trying all the crazy items and attacks on the nearby helpless zombies. If the game was made up of just that, it would already have my enjoyment rating to 90%. I am sure that the missions of the final game will be more robust and make sense which will add that extra 10%.
I am extremely excited to play the final version in a few months - even hunt down that Easter egg that was mentioned in my demo. Lastly, it was mentioned that the family from the announcement trailer will be in the game, but not as a mission or as playable characters.