After ten long years and multiple development teams, Dead Island 2 is finally set to release.
The sequel to Deep Silver’s 2014 open-world zombie survival tale, Dead Island 2 trades in the isolated feel of the fictional Banoi Island for the chance to play on the goofy stereotypes of Los Angeles – or ‘Hell-A’ as the game refers to it – all the while providing players with hordes upon hordes of undead to butcher.
But rather than the differences between the two titles, there’s only one real question on the minds of interested players: Was Dead Island 2 worth the wait?
The answer? Let’s find out.
The story of Dead Island 2 begins with the player attempting to escape a massive zombie outbreak in LA by taking a flight out of the city.
Unfortunately, a zombie makes its way onto your flight and causes the plane to crash landing right back where it started.
Having miraculously survived the crash, you soon discover that you’re not only immune to the zombie virus, but that your DNA may be the key to curing the outbreak and saving humanity.
Thankfully, a doctor in Santa Monica quickly makes contact with you, informing you that they have the means to properly study and utilize your unique genetics.
With nothing but a sea of undead standing between you and the doctor, it’s up to you to fight your way across LA and get the world on the path to a cure.
Of course, as you soon discover, not everyone is keen on the idea of finding a solution, as amidst the hordes of rotting flesh are a number of humans who would rather adapt to this new world than see a return to civilized society.
Overall, I think the story is one of Dead Island 2′s weakest points, and that’s thanks in large part due to the game’s cast of human NPCs.
Throughout my entire time in LA, I found only a single character who I could say I enjoyed being around: a socially awkward, sewer-dwelling horror movie fan named ‘Patton’.
I always smiled when he was on screen, but otherwise, I couldn’t find it in me to care less about any of these characters.
Perhaps it’s due to my living in Southern California that I have such a negative outlook on them, but as someone who grew up surrounded by these types of characters in the real world, I often found myself wishing that I was the world’s only survivor.
My annoyance with these all-too-real-SoCal-stereotypes was only compounded by the fact that the game’s core gameplay loop revolves around fulfilling your neighbors’ various requests, which consists of a lot of “Go here and get this thing for me” or “Take care of this task for me” for very little pay off.
(And for the record, I’m sure these characters’ ‘annoying’ personalities were an intentional design choice, as it’s hard to believe the devs managed to create an entire cast of self-centered egoists by accident.)
But while its story may be its weak point, Dead Island 2 makes up for it in its gameplay.
The violence in Dead Island 2 is so addicting and satisfying that I would go as far as to say it the game provides the best zombie experience in the medium to date.
Decapitation, amputation, and mutilation are the name of the game in Dead Island 2, and you will have plenty of tools at your disposal to carry out this satisfying mayhem.
For example, in one fight, I ran up on a zombie and, with nothing more than a meat tenderizer, I bashed its jaw off, leaving it hanging by nothing but a few tendons and flaps of skin.
In addition to your good ol’ fashioned blunt weapons and firearms, the game also allows for a number of other creative ways to survive, including setting zombies on fire or dissolving their bodies in acid.
The weapon upgrade system is also a lot of fun, providing you with a stream of new upgrades that you can toss onto your weapons to transform them from basic zombie beaters into outright horde destroyers as you progress through the game
Combat also becomes evermore enjoyable as you level up and unlock new abilities, such as a Ground Pound, Drop Kick, or a voice shockwave.
You also eventually gain access to a new ‘Blood Fury’ mode which allows you to enter a rage-fueled state and maim zombies with your bare hands. Plus, it gets it own set of special upgrades, such as the ability to make enemies killed while in this mode explode or the power to spit acid.
To that end, during my time with Dead Island 2, I found my favorite weapons to be a Fire Axe, the aformentioned meat tenderizer, and a bo staff.
However, because I didn’t want to use just any bo staff, I ended up upgrading it to deal caustic acid damage, thus allowing me to dissolve zombies with consecutive hits.
And my Fire Axe? Well, I reinforced it with a buzzsaw blade so that when I swing it, I’ve got a pretty good chance of straight up tearing my enemy in half.
But while wandering the streets of Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, or Bel-Air cutting down zombies is a great deal of fun, it’s not without its flaws.
One of the biggest issues that I had with Dead Island 2 was how it seemed like the zombies never stopped spawning.
Normally when I walked into a building, I would check every room, kill any zombies I found, and then start looting the building.
But oftentimes, I would clear out a zombie in one room just for a group to respawn in the next. This made exploring so tedious that after a while I simply started to ignore entire rooms all together.
Another issue I ran into was that it seemed like too easy for the zombies to sneak up on me.
When I was starting out this wasn’t a problem, but when I found myself continually getting snuck up on by hulking, 7 ft tall undead behemoths because it lacked the sort of audio indicators one would have expected, it all started to feel tiresome.
Another stand out aspect of Dead Island 2 is its visual presentation. The developers have been able to craft a great bubble of LA within the game with some great attention to detail.
Not only are the environments and character models very well done, but the effects surrounding such powers as electricity, acid, and fire stand out in comparison to other zombie titles.
But perhaps the best part of Dead Island 2 is its gore. As I mentioned before, the violence is incredibly satisfying in this game, and that is largely due to how great it looks.
Whether it’s smashing a zombie’s skull open, blowing a hole in it’s chest and exposing its rib cage, or delivering a final curb stomp finisher, Dead Island 2 does not shy away from violence.
You will often come across corpses of those who weren’t lucky enough to escape from LA. This could be nearly intact bodies, or could be something as a bloody pile of viscera. All the violence tells a story.
Ultimately, I found Dead Island 2‘s gameplay to be enjoyable, its violence satisfying, and its combat is visceral in all the right ways.
Dead Island 2 feels like pure video game silliness that fully embraces the charm of the original and makes sure to never take itself too seriously.
While the story is weak and not one that will bring me back for a replay anytime, Dead Island 2 delivers a fresh gameplay experience that feels like it’s constantly evolving.
It’s all so captivating that I’d go so far as to say that playing the game in co-op is a must, if not just to see how much devastating violence you and a friend can unleash.
I don’t know if the game is good enough to warrant a 10-year-long wait, but I have no doubt that fans of the first game will enjoy their time with Dead Island 2.
- The violence is incredible and satisfying.
- The weapon upgrade system constantly had me juggling fun and crazy new weapons.
- Accurately captures the spirit of LA, for better or worse.
- The story felt lackluster and uninspired.
- Only one NPC was any fun to be around at all
- The constant stream of zombies that harass you as you explore gets annoying fast.