For a game everyone had long considered six feet under, Dead Island 2, after all this time has officially arrived on our shores. After its initial announcement back at E3 2014, this sequel changed developers on THREE separate occasions and had been memed on for almost a decade as vapourware. Now, as of April 21st, the global gaming community can finally experience this follow-up to a survival action RPG fan favourite in all its gory glory… Well, unless you live in Germany, that is. They’ll have to deal with a censored version, of course. No shocks there.
Bring On The Destruction!
Taking the DNA of the original and tuning up several quality of life aspects has made the zombie-slaying mayhem even better in this sequel. Landing a well-aimed headshot with a hammer or baiting a group of zombies into a trap(s) set with explosives, electricity, fire, and Caustic X (a corrosive substance) and watching the carnage ensue never gets old. As a general party starter, each of the six playable Slayers can throw bottled meat which is perfect for lining zombies up, alongside other destructive objects like Chem Bombs and Molotov Cocktails which add even more elemental chaos to the carnage. Since these throwable items called Curveballs are on a cooldown setting, this means that players always have a trump card on hand to influence the proceedings.
The new F.L.E.S.H. system—similar to the limb dissection in Dead Space—makes every violent assault or finisher feel incredibly gratifying too. Each body part can be immensely damaged and torn away in meticulous detail, right down to the individual muscles, limbs and bones of the relatively extensive array of zombies. While the unlockable Fury Mode abilities—limit breaks for the everyday RPG fan—lets players go to town and tear big groups of enemies to absolute shreds. Classification boards be damned.
Dead Island 2’s robust combat rewards players who utilise the ever-expanding arsenal of resources and manage their stamina gauge to always have an offensive/defensive move ready. Striking zombies in vital areas like the head will usually result in critical damage and often push or stagger them for follow-up assaults. Those who make use of the various Skill cards found throughout the game can also receive health boosts or stat bonuses, as well as dish out strong attacks which cause different types of debuffs.
Simple, Yet Comprehensive Combat Mechanics
A Matrix-inspired force push from the palm deals some heavy damage and weakens/stumbles a single target, while a mighty drop kick can blast zombies off a ledge for a ‘THIS IS SPARTA!’ style boot to their demise. It’s just so fun trialing things out and seeing what sticks; modding each individual weapon with different status effects and physical enhancements also brings another layer of gameplay depth.
Not only do each of the six Slayers contain their own distinct base stats, but they also withhold Innate Skills that are unique to each person. For example, Amy regains stamina upon a successful weapon throw, whilst her second trait allows her to deal more damage to isolated zombies. Even though you can’t change Slayers throughout the game, Dead Island 2 offers a solid amount of replay value in experimenting with different characters Skills and stats for subsequent runs. Players can then also witness the unique dialogue changes each Slayer portrays during the story. There are no major narrative differences between Slayers, as they all play out identically. However, for those who enjoy seeing how each character acts/reacts in the same scenario, they should get their money’s worth doing so.
It’s also very easy to pick up and play through the varied catalogue of story and side quests across the eye-catching locales of LA and San Francisco. The optional missions are always available to be fast-travelled to and offer some enticing equipment, mods and XP rewards as well. Throw in some lite platforming and pixel-hunting detective work in a gated, semi-open world structure, and that’s Dead Island 2 in a nutshell. All things considered, I love how the game slowly introduces nifty new mechanics which flow into each other seamlessly, as it’s wicked fun using an arsenal of customisable tools and environmental hazards to set up stupendous slaughter scenarios—especially alongside 2 friends in drop-in/drop-out co-op.
Even Better With Friends
Unfortunately, there’s no cross-play available, but gamers can still journey on with two friends via cross-gen connectivity. That means Sony’s PS4 & PS5 and Xbox Series S|X & One owners can deliver the zombie smackdown together. In terms of performance, there are only AMD Fidelity FX options for upscaling and shading. Although, even on my NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER VENTUS card, the game ran super smoothly at a near-constant 60FPS. Not something I often say about PC ports… I only encountered one hilarious glitch where a character model’s bottom half clipped through the floor during a cutscene, but that’s all she wrote regarding in-game stability.
While the story of escaping HELL-A, as in LA—nice pun—is probably NOT what you came for, it does feature some decent acting and a combination of silly, yet solemn scenes that may just leave a bite mark or two. Speaking of, the atmosphere in this sequel is a lot more wacky and wild compared to its predecessor. Certain moments may become a tad intense, albeit there’s hardly anything in this sequel that will scare the player. This tonality fits Dead Island 2 to a T though, especially when the upbeat, but sometimes goofy-sounding music kicks off during a major encounter. You can’t help but admire the game here.
With over ten years in development and three complete studio changes, Dambuster has somehow successfully morphed Dead Island 2 into a modern action-packed, gore-fest that’ll keep players’ bloodlust more than satiated. Mowing down zombies with an array of customisable weapons and environmental hazards is always satisfying. While slicing up enemies into bits, luring them into an electrical explosion or drop-kicking zombies off a ledge are just some of the many ways players can take out the trash. And when two friends join the fray in online co-op, it gets even more entertaining. Not only does the mayhem look great on PC, but it also runs without hardly any hiccups throughout the 20-hour story campaign. Even though the narrative isn’t the most captivating aspect by a long shot, it does contain some wacky, yet serious scenes for viewers to enjoy. Ultimately, Dead Island 2 has arrived with a vengeance and will undoubtedly be loved by fans and newcomers alike—it’s time to escape HELL-A!
By Anthony Culinas – Reviewed on PC
Dead Island 2 is the dumbest, yet most awesome entertainment I’ve had in a long time. It won’t take long before players are grinning from ear-to-ear with the level of wild carnage they can supply, as this sequel has brought in several quality of life enhancements and plenty of different build options for players to try out. While some may be disappointed that Dead Island 2 contains a semi-open world structure with loading gates in between, it honestly isn’t even a problem. Each area looks fantastic and brings its own unique set of environmental hazards for mass destruction. Even if the story isn’t the game’s most memorable aspect, Dead Island 2 is still a gloriously gory good time.
This game was reviewed using a download code provided by PLAION. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.