Dead Island 2 is a game that’s nearly synonymous with development hell. However, after 9 long years in development, it’s finally out, and we all want to know if it was worth the wait. Thanks to Dambusters Studio, it turns out it was.
Developer: Dambusters Studios
Publisher: Deep Silver
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series (review)
Release Date: April 21st, 2023
Dead Island 2: Escape From HELL.A (Los Angeles)
Dead Island 2 picks up in the midst of an evacuation from Los Angeles, California. The city is victim to a new outbreak of the zombie plague and frequent earthquakes. Our six, playable zombie slayers are seen boarding the plane out of L.A., in various ways right before take off. However, it only takes a few minutes after lift-off for the proverbial fecal matter to hit the fan, and the zombie infection begins to spread on the plane, and the military quickly shoots the plane out of the sky.
After selecting one of the six survivors (Amy, Bruno, Carla, Dani, Jacob, Ryan), you wake up with a piece of debris in your gut but otherwise unscathed. You quickly patch yourself up and make your way out of the wreckage, coming across other survivors in the process. One of the survivors is a pretty well-known actress named Emma Jaunt, who quickly flees the scene, leaving you behind to help others. However, your charitable nature gets you bitten, and as you meet back up with Emma, you discover that you’re one of the extremely rare few that are immune to the zombie virus. With that in mind, you set out to look for a way out of L. A for you and your new friends.
The story in Dead Island 2 is pretty basic. You’re immune, a zombie-infested L.A. has been locked down by the government, and you need a way out. Hoping to leverage your newfound immunity, you want to make a deal for your friends and yourself. There’s not much to it. However, there is a twist about halfway through the game that I did quite enjoy.
Surviving HELL.A is All in the Cards.
One of the first things you’re going to notice is that there’s a statistical difference between each survivor. For my playthrough, I chose Dani, the spunky roller derby player. Dani has a high amount of Stamina and Peak Health but the weakest health recovery. She also hits hard, and killing zombies in quick succession earns her some health regen to offset her low recovery.
As you progress through the game, you’ll level up and earn new abilities. These abilities are equipped through the use of the game’s skill card system. For instance, if you don’t like your character’s dropkick, you can swap it out for an upgraded kick. Other cards may offer perks, like a damage boost for dodging enemy attacks or a shockwave that’s activated by using medkits.
Dead Island 2’s skill card system feels unique in that you’re limited in the way you choose to build your character. It’s completely up to you, with the only exception being that certain slayers have exclusive cards. Dani and Jacob, for instance, get access to a card that boosts their damage output temporarily when killing zombies. Otherwise, it’s a fun mechanic that encourages experimenting with different builds.
Dead Island 2 is a-GORE-able!
As far as zombie-slaying action games go, Dead Island 2 doesn’t exactly push the genre forward. You’ll kill zombies, scavenge for supplies, and craft wacky-looking weaponry. It is a solid game, and running around L.A. is genuinely a blast. The star of the show, however, is the gore system Dambusters put together.
If you thought the limb system in EA’s Dead Space Remake was impressive, then the gore system in Dead Island 2 is going to blow your mind. As you battle zombies, you’re going to leave behind visual damage. Slash at one with a knife, and you’re going to see precise cuts. Hit a zombie with a hammer, you’ll leave behind gashes. I remember hitting a zombie with a charged attack, bringing a golf club straight down on a zombie’s head. This crushed the top of their head and made their eyes pop out of their sockets.
Of course, this also provides a gameplay advantage as well. Maiming zombies is a good way to slow a zombie down or make it a little less lethal. Players can also use elements to their advantage, like electricity, fire, and caustic. Combining these elements with curveballs, reusable items with short cooldowns, is a good way to effectively stop zombies in their tracks. Dead Island 2 may not bring a lot to the table as far as zombie games go, but it is a cool evolution of Dead Island’s formula.
L.A. Without the Traffic.
One of the complaints I’ve heard about Dead Island 2 concerned a lack of variety in its environments. I cannot say that I agree with this complaint, yet as I quite enjoyed the various locals the game takes you through. You go from high-class, celebrity mansions, to the quaint neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, a vibrant Venice beach, and more.
What I did notice was a lack of population. Sure, there was a mass exodus from the city, but being one of the largest cities in the United States, with a massive population, you’d expect there to be more undead roaming around. The zombies aren’t ever too far apart, but there are times when the streets just feel too empty. Thankfully, the gore system is so cool it helps alleviate that issue.
The game does sport a pretty great soundtrack as well. The song “Drown” by Karen O and Danger Mouse is reason enough to keep the game sitting on the main menu for a few rounds. As far as the voice acting is concerned, it’s going to be a love-it-or-hate-it situation. The Slayers talk a lot, and I, for one, enjoyed Dani’s silly, light-hearted banter.
We’re Going Back to Cali.
Dead Island 2 is a game I approached with a lot of trepidation. It had a tumultuous development cycle and bounced between too many studios to encourage better expectations. However, I was wrong. Very, very, wrong. Dambusters Studio put out a very solid and entertaining zombie game that could help put Dead Island onto a successful path. Despite the fact, it doesn’t go too big or take risks, lopping off zombie’s arms and crushing skulls with the game’s fabulous gore system never gets old.
Review Disclosure Statement: A copy of Dead Island 2 was provided to us for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
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Dead Island 2 Review
Turns out not all games with rocky development cycles are disasters. Dead Island 2 by Dambusters Studio is a fantastic zombie slaying action game that simply avoids taking risks.
- The Gore System makes for fun encounters.
- Performs excellently.
- Skill card system encourages experimentation.
- The six Slayers are fun.
- Forgettable, generic story.
- Zombie population feels low.
- Dead Island 2 Review