Dead Island 2 is an action RPG with survival horror elements that has been eagerly anticipated by gamers since its announcement in 2014. The original Dead Island game, released in 2011, was praised for its unique take on the zombie apocalypse genre.
With Techland, the original developer of the Dead Island series, choosing to focus on Dying Light, it was up to Deep Silver’s in-house Dambuster Studios to take over the development of Dead Island 2. The game’s release date has been pushed back multiple times, leading many to speculate that it may suffer from the same development issues that plague many games that go through a “development hell.”
AT A GLANCE
Developer: Deep Silver Dambuster Studios
Publisher: Deep Silver
Release Date: 04/21/23
Final Score: 9/10
Despite these concerns, Dead Island 2 holds up as an exciting entry into the zombocalypse genre. With a new development team at the helm and several years of development under its belt, Dead Island 2 has lived up to the hype, delivering a fresh and fun-packed entry for fans of the series.
Dead Island 2 takes place a decade after the first game, with the zombie outbreak now spreading to Los Angeles, also known as Los Diablos. As one of the six playable characters, the player escapes on a plane only to crash land in the city, forced to find shelter and devise an escape plan. Along the way, they meet other survivors and explore iconic locations such as the posh neighborhood of Bel-Air and the beach of Santa Monica.
As the story progresses, the player uncovers the mystery behind the zombie outbreak and their own immunity to the virus. Could their immunity be the key to stopping the crisis? And is there someone behind it all? The only way to find out is by fighting off hordes of undead using various weapons and skills unique to each character.
The adventure begins in the city of Los Angeles, where the story starts with a video that alternates between the characters boarding a plane full of VIPs, which unfortunately crashes. One of the characters available to choose from is Amy, a paralympic runner. Her skills include Relief Pitcher, which allows her to regain much-needed stamina when successfully hitting a zombie with a thrown weapon. Her second skill is Divide and Conquer, which boosts the damage she deals when attacking isolated zombies.
Bruno is a hustler by profession and the bad boy of the group. He has the Backstabber skill that gives him a moderate damage boost when attacking zombies from behind. His Rapid Reprisal skill buffs his agility and heavy attack charges following a successful dodge or block.
Carla is a stunt motorcyclist who must be confident in a situation like this, as she can’t be afraid of death. Her skills include Dig Deep, which calls on her robust personality for a moderate toughness boost when her health is critical, and Mosh Pit, which provides a minor damage boost when surrounded by a throng of zombies.
Dani is a foul-mouthed, Irish, rockabilly badass who is ready to destroy a swarm of zombies. Her Bloodlust skill slowly refills her health when slaughtering multiple zombies one after another. Her Thunderstruck skill causes her heavy attacks to trigger a forceful explosion.
Jacob is the “antihero with rockstar flair.” He moved from London to Hollywood to become a stuntman and has the Feral skill, which gives him a stackable damage boost when attacking multiple zombies in quick succession. His Critical Gains skill provides him with a boost to critical damage when his stamina is low, and successful critical damage hits recharge his stamina.
Finally, Ryan is a firefighter who is actually an exotic dancer with some impressive moves to show off when fighting off hordes of zombies. His Retaliation skill gives him a force boost when using a block or dodges to evade an attack, and his Seesaw skill allows him to regenerate health each time he downs a zombie.
The story of Dead Island 2 is engaging and full of twists and turns that keep players on their toes. The addition of new locations and characters breathes fresh life into the series while retaining the classic gameplay mechanics that fans love.
In addition to the main story, Dead Island 2 offers a plethora of side missions that range from mundane to absurdly entertaining. Some side quests require you to revisit areas you’ve already explored, which can feel a bit repetitive. However, there are others that offer unique and humorous experiences, like helping an influencer record a video full of stylish zombie executions.
Throughout the game, you will encounter various characters who each have their own backstory and motivations for escaping the zombie-infested city. As you progress through the story, you’ll learn more about the origins of the outbreak and the mystery behind why your character is immune to becoming a zombie despite being bitten.
The game’s setting in Los Angeles provides a unique backdrop for the story, allowing players to explore different areas of the city, from the upscale neighborhood of Bel-Air to the beaches of Santa Monica. The game’s graphics and attention to detail in recreating the city are impressive, adding to the immersive experience.
Dead Island 2’s gameplay focuses heavily on close-quarters combat, where players are encouraged to use sharp and heavy weapons like knives, hammers, and even pieces of concrete to take down hordes of zombies. The game features a weapon modification system that allows players to add properties to their weapons such as dismemberment, fire, or electrical effects, but with some modifications that come with a disadvantage like reduced durability, speed, strength, or damage. Players need to repair their weapons frequently with the money earned from completing missions or finding cash in various places.
The game offers a variety of short-range, middle-distance, and long-distance weapons, including firearms like rifles and shotguns. Players can hold down the right trigger to prepare a strong attack, but it’s slower and less effective than quick and fast attacks that can cut limbs and have durability. Dead Island 2 also allows players to equip weapons that can be thrown such as shurikens, electric shurikens, homemade bombs, bombs that mitigate fire and stun enemies, Molotov cocktails, and more.
Skills play a significant role in the game, with each character having two innate abilities and gaining experience as they climb levels, unlocking cards that they can use to recover energy, increase damage, or resistance to attacks by performing activities such as dodging, blocking, or finishing enemies. Players can mix and match their skill decks to create lethal combinations.
The gameplay of Dead Island 2 is heavily focused on character progression and customization through the use of skill cards. Players can acquire these cards by leveling up, finding them in hidden locations, scavenging them from zombies, and completing quests. The skill cards are divided into four categories: Abilities, Survivor, Slayer, and Numen, and can be equipped to three core abilities at a time, as well as two slots for Fury abilities.
Players have access to 15 skill deck slots, plus two innate cards that are non-customizable. The skill cards provide various special powers and abilities to aid the player in combat, with some being specific to certain characters while most are applicable to all. The Skill Deck serves as the central hub for browsing and selecting skill cards, allowing players to swap them out at any time.
Overall, the gameplay of Dead Island 2 provides players with a high degree of customization and progression, allowing them to tailor their character to their playstyle and preference. The skill cards and skill deck system add an extra layer of depth and strategy to combat, making it a standout feature of the game.
Lastly, Dead Island 2 features a special skill that can only be used once the player fills a meter by performing certain actions like dodging, blocking, or finishing enemies. Once the meter is full, players can unleash their fury, turning into a killing machine, allowing them to take on entire hordes with ease. It’s important to note that the skill doesn’t make players immune to attacks, so caution is advised when using it.
Dead Island 2 offers a semi-open world environment where players can progress through the main story while also engaging in side quests that allow them to gain more experience and develop their characters. These side quests can add hours of gameplay to the overall experience, and completing them can help players to gain a deeper understanding of the game’s world and its inhabitants. By taking on both the main story objectives and side quests, players can fully immerse themselves in the game’s world and become more invested in their character’s development.
In Dead Island 2, the absence of vehicles may seem like a letdown for some fans of the first game’s vast open world. However, the game compensates for this by providing a variety of areas to explore on foot, including the iconic neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Players can use the environment to their advantage by climbing on top of cars or other objects to avoid the zombie hordes.
Furthermore, the lack of vehicles encourages players to engage in more intense combat scenarios, where players have to be more resourceful and strategic in their approach. This adds to the overall excitement of the game, making it more thrilling and challenging. While the game does limit exploration to a certain extent, it still offers plenty of opportunities for players to experience the world and all its undead horrors.
Visuals, Audio, and Technical Performance
Despite being visually stunning, Dead Island 2 is limited by its age, having been designed for older console generations. While the texture work and shadows still hold up well on newer consoles like the PS5, the game still shows its age in some aspects. For instance, reflections and traveling between zones always require loading screens, which feels like a throwback to the previous generation. Additionally, the lack of ray tracing is especially noticeable when exploring the various buildings of Los Angeles, where mirrors and reflective marble floors appear with static, low-resolution textures. These issues don’t detract a lot from the experience, but it’s a shame that the added horsepower of the current generation consoles isn’t used to their full extent.
The lack of fancy lighting and reflections is however quickly forgotten thanks to – Dead Island 2’s “Fully Locational Evisceration System for Humanoids system.
The FLESH system is undoubtedly the standout feature of Dead Island 2, delivering an incredibly satisfying and gruesome zombie experience. The system’s anatomically correct layers of skin, fat, and muscle can be ripped away with remarkable accuracy, revealing breakable bones and destructible internal organs. Players can use blunt weapons to shatter skulls and detach eyeballs, or sharp weapons to dismember heads and limbs and slice torsos clean in half, thanks to the advanced fluid and soft body physics. What sets the FLESH system apart is the progressive damage it inflicts, meaning that every strike, kick, punch, or shot leaves a visible injury that affects the area you’re striking. Using bladed weapons, for instance, allows you to slice through skin, clothing, muscle, and eventually bone, all generated on the fly. This progressive effect results in more damage and feedback than other games that allow you to hack off limbs but lack the FLESH system’s progressive feeling.
Dead Island 2’s sound design is an often-overlooked aspect of the game that deserves recognition. From the haunting ambiance of the game’s world to the visceral sound effects of combat, the game’s audio is an integral part of the experience. The environmental sound effects in Dead Island 2 are outstanding. The game’s audio team has done an excellent job of creating an immersive soundscape that sets the tone for the game’s world. The sound of zombies moaning and groaning in the distance adds an unsettling feeling of dread as players traverse the game’s world, while the sounds of car alarms, gunshots, and explosions help create a sense of chaos and urgency. The game’s soundtrack is also noteworthy, with an excellent mix of ominous, haunting music and intense, adrenaline-pumping tracks that fit perfectly with the game’s tone. The music complements the gameplay perfectly, adding to the overall immersion of the experience. Where Dead Island 2’s sound design really shines, however, is in the game’s combat. The sound effects of weapons hitting zombies are incredibly satisfying, with every hit having weight and impact. Whether players are swinging a baseball bat, firing a shotgun, or cutting off limbs with a machete, the sound design makes every hit feel impactful and visceral.
Dead Island 2 runs smoothly and performs well on both the PS5 and PS4. The 4k resolution and 60 fps target on the PS5 is a great improvement over the previous generation, and the fact that the game still manages to run at a respectable 1080p with a 30 fps lock on the PS4 is impressive.
A smooth and consistent frame rate is crucial for a game like Dead Island 2, where split-second decisions and reactions can mean the difference between life and death. The fact that the game runs without any noticeable hiccups or drops in frame rate is a testament to the developers’ dedication to providing a quality gaming experience.
Overall, it seems that Dead Island 2’s performance is top-notch, providing players with a smooth and seamless gameplay experience on both the PS5 and PS4.