Dead Island 2 Review

Developed by Deep Silver Dambuster and published by Deep Silver, the zombie apocalypse slasher is back with a vengeance. It’s been over 10 years since the original Dead Island hit the shelves and there have been many varieties of the zombie genre in gaming. Telltale‘s Walking Dead series had some amazing storytelling, the Dead Rising series pushed the envelope with the volume of zombies on screen at once as well as being farfetched when it came to the story and weaponry, and we have also had the Dying Light series which had a very serious action take on the zombie apocalypse. Dead Island 2 has taken some strong steps in stretching itself in each area.

You get to choose from 6 different characters to play as and each have their strengths and weaknesses. I would suggest also taking into consideration their voice and personality as you get to hear them a lot throughout the playthrough. You survive a plane crash that your character was on in an attempt to evacuate from the infected outbreak in LA. As you escape the plane wreckage, you are soon surrounded by chaos and find yourself trying to defend against the infected. After trying to help fellow passengers your survivor gets bitten but they don’t become infected like everyone else. Can your immunity to becoming infected be the key to creating a vaccine for this infection?

My first impression of Dead Island 2 is that it looks stunning. The details of LA and the character models are impressive. This becomes even more evident when it comes to fighting the infected. As you strike the enemies you can see the damage have an impact in so many different ways. It will appease your gore-hungry mind as you will be lopping off limbs, crushing their bones or completely disfiguring their fleshy corpses with whatever elements you can find like fire and acid.

It seems like the story and dialogue are not taking themselves too seriously and I’m glad Dambuster kept that vibe from that series is known for. It walks a fine line between gritty and humorous without leaning too much into either camp. The one key feeling I got from the game is that not many of the living seems to be taking the apocalypse seriously. The outbreak just seems like a massive inconvenience for everyone, whereas there should be a sheer terror at the walking corpses that are trying to massacre you at every corner.

The combat has improved massively from the first game whilst also maintaining a lot of the mechanics. Weapons can be found all over the place and they all have limited durability. Another main thing they have carried over from the original is that you cannot just face up the zombies and swing your heart out to clear a room. The zombies are quick enough to swarm you and they will flank you. You also have limited stamina so constant swinging will leave you tired. But, they have brought in some interesting new concepts that I am digging.

The first new feature is the level-up progression in the form of cards which have special perks to them. As you level up you get more slots in different categories to assign some of the cards you have unlocked. These range from making your drop kicks more forceful, to gaining more health on a counterattack, and much more. You can change the card you have equipped at any time and utilise different styles which I found a refreshing approach.

The other new feature are the curveball weapons. These neat additions allow you to equip two throwable items that you can switch between with the D-pad. I had a shuriken and a pipe bomb equipped early on and they are quite crucial to situations where you need some crowd control – or a distraction. But rather than having a finite amount that needs scavenging, they are on a cooldown timer – which I agree is a better approach as I am more inclined to use them.

Some other new things are some of the cards you equip can give you some special powers, like a massive ground pound to startle the enemies around you, or a war cry to temporarily give you some health back and grant a minor attack boost. There is also a gimmick I should mention – and I call it a gimmick as it was giving me a flashback to my Rainbow Six days. There is an Alexa feature that you can turn on to deploy some voice commands to achieve some expected outcomes. It claims that if you have a headset you can say taunts to the infected to get their attention. You can also say commands like ‘equip a sharp weapon’ and, well, you can guess what should happen. I tried this a few times and I wasn’t getting the expected outcome; instead, I felt like an old crazy person talking to myself. Maybe it was my headset or maybe the feature just needed a bit more fine-tuning. I am not against voice commands, it’s just a shame I couldn’t get it to work very well.

The story runs about 30 hours worth of content and there are plenty of side quests and activities and secrets to find. The story does feel like a continuation from Dead Island, where those that are immune from the infection are trying to help others and create a vaccine to save humanity. But many of the quests, at least early on, seem to be over such trivial matters. Whilst your intentions are pure in thinking your blood could be the key to humanity, none of the other survivors seems to be bothered and are just wrapped up in how the infected apocalypse has ruined their lives. I am assuming that this was deliberate with the game being set in LA and with celebrities being out of touch with reality. One of the side quests that made that very clear was with a content creator on the roof of a house, asking you to kill zombies in a variety of cool ways so they can upload the content for all of their fans.

                Unfortunately, the game does suffer from some repetition at times, though it was always kind of inevitably with this style of combat. Dambuster have tried hard to keep the combat fresh with crafting tables so you can upgrade/repair your weapons or apply some effects that are found with blueprint, such as a mace that can do electrical damage or a sword that can do caustic acid damage. There are plenty of parts to find all around the map so you can always keep changing your weaponry to keep things fresh. The skill cards too play a big part in the combat, and enhancing the dropkick so it sends zombies flying is always fun. But when it comes to killing enemies the best way is the counterattack. You have a big window in which to parry the enemy and after about an hour you start to recognise the infected attack combos to know exactly when to parry. Then, once parried, the enemy becomes startled and you can press the X button to trigger a quick time event to strike the enemy hard – if timed perfectly, you can even one hit kill them. But once you have learned that counterattack and set your skill cards to give you more health by doing it then you feel slightly invincible.

That is, until different enemy types show their face and shake things up. The big brutes cannot be counter-attacked and boomer sorts who puke acid on you at a distance can ruin your day. A few hours into the game you get to a point in the story where you can find and use guns. They are fun to use but when most of the time you are running away from the infected or having to deal with crowd control its hard to find a good time to use a gun. Even when you do the ammo is quite limited, so I didn’t find myself using much when I was playing solo. But in co-op with your friend as the bait you can sometimes get that window to use your gun to pick off some enemies.

The best way to shake things up is by playing cooperatively and I highly recommend it (especially when you’ve got a fantastic co-op buddy amirite? -ed). It’s always fun to play with others and I feel like it enhances the game considerably as it feels a bit more like how you would survive the outbreak instead of always running into danger solo. It makes the fights with the bigger enemies simpler to handle as one of you becomes the bait whilst the other wails on them from behind. However, they committed a gaming offence when it came to co-op play. When I tried to invite my buddy to join he was told he was not as far ahead in the game as me so he couldn’t join my game. So I had to join his, which was fine as I was only about an hour or so ahead of him, but what a daft concept. I assume they did it to protect the player further behind from spoilers to the story. But if that’s the case it should have been a warning to say this person is further than you in the game which may spoil the storyline – are you sure you want to proceed? That would have been so much better, as some people couldn’t care less about the story and just want to play (and set some things on fire -ed).

Conclusion

I am impressed with Dead Island 2. The first Dead Island didn’t grab me as much and it was only when I tried the demo at the recent WASD event that it piqued my interest. There is a lot to enjoy about Dead Island 2. It looks stunning graphically, the story – although surreal – is gripping enough and the skill card level progression is refreshing. The combat is the feature that feels familiar and could have been quite dull over time, but Dambuster have introduced many things (such as curveballs) to keep things interesting. Fun solo, but even more enjoyable with a few friends, this long awaited zombie slasher comes recommended.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox Series X/S. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • The graphics and details are amazing
  • The skill card level progression is interesting
  • Playing this with others is a great experience
Bad
  • The combat can feel a bit repetitive at times
  • The prevention from joining a friend who is further ahead in the story is daft
8.9
Great
Written by
Gaming, or, games in general, are in my blood. Just shy of an addiction but still an obsession. From opening my mind on the Commodore 64 I have kept up with the generations of gaming, currently residing on the Xbox One. Gamertag: Grahamreaper

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