Dead Island 2 was first teased at E3 2014 (you read that right!) and believe it or not, I was in college at the time. When I first saw the game’s trailer, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this game that really looked ahead of its time in terms of graphics. However, as fate would have it, the journey was never going to be easy for this game. While the game was initially scheduled to launch in 2015, its original developer Techland moved away from the project to work on another game – Dying Light. Publisher Deep Silver kept insisting that the game was still being developed, before Sumo Digital took up the task in March 2016. However, in August 2019, Deep Silver’s parent company, THQ Nordic, announced that Sumo Digital was no longer working on the game. This is when it was announced that an internal team at Deep Silver – Dambuster – was developing Dead Island 2. After years of delays and countless twists, the sequel to the 2011 action role-playing game is finally set to release on April 21st on Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and the Epic Games Store for PC. I played the game on PlayStation 5 and I’ll just say that everything that was promised in the initial trailer of this game has finally been delivered successfully by the studio.
Dead Island 2 deviates a lot from some of the other zombie games that have been released in the last few years. The game doesn’t pretend to be something that it is not, and the authenticity truly stands out here. This game has been made from the ground up to be a fun zombie-slaying experience and in this department, it excels. Whether it is bombing zombies, slicing them into two halves with a sword, or killing them with headshots, this game lets you unleash your attacking creativity. The highly detailed environments take full advantage of modern-day consoles to deliver an immersive experience. Having said that, the game’s story lacks depth and the characters in the game are far from memorable. If you are looking for a serious game with an in-depth story, this game probably isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you are looking for a fun experience killing waves of zombies, this has to be the next game you play.
Dead Island 2 storyline starts from a failed evacuation mission where the wealthy and influential people of Los Angeles (often referred to as Hell-A in the game) try to leave the city as it is infested with zombies. The entire state of California has been quarantined by the US military due to the zombie invasion and the areas within the state are restricted as well, a narrative that serves well to the fact that this is not an open-world game. As you survive a plane crash and face the first wave of zombies, you realise that you are immune (much like Ellie from The Last of Us) and despite being bitten by a zombie, you do not turn into one. You develop a friendship with Emma Jaunt, a popular movie star, another survivor of the plane crash, who offers you to stay at her place along with other survivors, including her manager and maid, among others. As the story unfolds and you make efforts to leave the city, you are promised by a renowned doctor (Dr Reed) over a radio call that a cure for zombies can be created through your blood. The game’s story revolves around your journey to reach the doctor and the situations you face afterwards.
While the storyline is largely predictable with some twists and turns, the game clearly doesn’t plan on giving you a life-altering story either. While some of the dialogues can be borderline cringe, the light-hearted nature of the game is entirely intentional. This is a fun game with a focus on killing zombies in as many creative ways as possible. Dead Island 2 is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and considering this game’s genre, this works in its favour rather than against it.
You are given a character choice from six options right at the beginning. These options vary in strengths and weaknesses. Depending on your playing style, you can choose to be a character with varying toughness, stamina, peak health, agility, resilience etc. Do keep in mind that you will not be able to change your character throughout the story campaign once you have made a choice. Dead Island 2 gameplay can simply be described as – see a zombie, kill a zombie. While the game’s fighting style focuses primarily on melee combat, guns are eventually introduced when you are more than halfway through the storyline. I enjoyed the melee weapons a lot but after a stage, it becomes impossible to deal with the sheer number of zombies that come your way if you don’t use guns and pipe bombs. Although killing zombies early on is easy in the game, towards the latter stages, the level of difficulty increases drastically. Especially if you are a newcomer to this genre, you would find it hard to deal with the waves of different zombie types that come your way as you progress through the story. While you might die several times, you would learn something new every time and eventually figure out how to kill specific zombie types and the weapons that are most effective against each zombie type.
There is a card-based skill progression system in the game and it is divided into four sections – Abilities, Survivor skills, Slayer skills, and Numen skills. As you unlock new cards, you are provided with new ways to tackle zombies. Some of these moves can be used to stun zombies while some others provide you with health benefits when you slay zombies. Depending on your play style and the character you chose in the beginning, you can equip your character with different skills to progress through the story. In-game cash can also be used with traders to buy weapons but I found it to be rather redundant as you can easily get most of these weapons by killing zombies and even lying around in the city.
Interestingly, there is an ‘Autophage’ bar associated with your character and it increases if you use certain skill cards instead of others. With an increased Autophage level, your character is inclined more towards the morally dark side but while playing through the game, despite seeming like a big deal at the beginning, it eventually felt a bit gimmicky at the end.
Weapon upgrades are crucial and once you find your favourite weapons, you need to make sure you upgrade them on a regular basis as otherwise, it becomes hard to deal with some of the stronger zombie types. As weapon degradation is also an active aspect of this game, you need to repair your weapons from time to time. One thing to keep in mind is that even after respawning, your weapon could be in a degraded form, so it would be a wise idea to keep your inventory full of backup weapons. Fabricating medical kits can also come in handy when you have to face several zombie waves at once.
One surprising aspect for me, when I started playing the game, was that it doesn’t have any difficulty levels, if you are playing the game, you have to play as the developer intended for you to play it. Having finished the game, I can say that the game can get difficult at times but if you apply yourself and have some patience, you can get through. The key here is to learn the patterns in which the zombies attack you and figure out the weapons that deal the most damage. While exploring the city, you have to repeatedly search for keys and find circuit breakers and plug them in. While at first, it didn’t bother me much, after a certain point, it felt like a mundane requirement that didn’t require much skill and wasn’t fun to do either.
While I personally played only the single-player campaign of the game, there is a co-op mode available in the game too. In this mode, you can join your friends or other online players to explore the fictitious version of Los Angeles filled with zombies you can slay. Once the game is released, you will be able to find plenty of players online to join hands with you. What’s better than killing zombies with friends, right?
Graphics and sound
This is a department where Dead Island 2 truly shines. Whether it is the detailed environments or the zombie guts spilling out, the game looks incredible at all times. While I had some reservations about the game’s graphics, considering how long its development cycle has been, as soon as I started playing, I had to put all these concerns aside. While there are no graphics options inside the game, it ran smoothly for me and I rarely found glitches, which will also be most likely fixed with the promised Day 0 patch that the developer will be pushing out. The zombie-infested version of California in this game is a sight to withhold and irrespective of whether you are roaming around in mansions or at the beach, you will find the game to be a visual treat. I personally preferred the daylight visuals over the night visuals but even in low-light scenarios, the graphical fidelity never took a hit. The game uses FLESH (Fully Locational Evisceration System for Humanoids), which effectively means that if you target a particular part of a zombie through a specific weapon, it will trigger a particular animation. So you can choose to slay the zombies in the style you prefer, and… at the risk of sounding like a psychopath… let me just say that the results look great.
As sound plays a key role in this game, it deserves special mention here. By listening to nearby zombies, you can actually plan your attack moves accordingly in this game. With the 3D surround sound on the PS5, I enjoyed an immersive experience while playing this game and in one particular combat sequence with a zombie clown, the game’s sound elevates the atmosphere to a whole new level that is usually reserved for horror games only.
Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5
- Melee combat is fun
- Impressive graphical fidelity
- Card-based skill progression offers variety
- Storyline is basic
- Repetitive gameplay elements
- Lack of memorable characters
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