Dead Island 2 – Game Review


Dead Island 2

Back in the seventh console generation (PS3, Xbox 360 & Nintendo Wii), there were three major trends in gaming: FPS’s, blood and gore, and zombies. In that generation we had an overabundance of zombie games, from sequels in series that are known for the monsters like Resident Evil 5 & 6, original games like Dead Rising and The Last of Us, even spin-offs and extra modes like Yakuza: Dead Souls or Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare. One of these games being Dead Island, which received mixed to positive reviews when it first released and had reportedly sold around 5,000,000 copies by 2013, so of course a sequel would eventually enter development. Dead Island 2 for the longest while felt like a game that would never get released – similar to other games like Beyond Good and Evil 2 or Skull and Bones – as it was at e3 in 2014 with no new news for the longest time. That is until we got a trailer out of nowhere in 2022 with a release date of February 2023, which then got further delayed till 21st April the same year. 

Story & Dialog

Welcome to Hell-A, a city filled with beaches, celebrities (well the ones that aren’t dead anyway) and over the top gore and kills. You play as one of six colourful characters (I went with Jacob), who just survived a plane crash after an evacuation flight ended up having an infected passenger on board. You make your way out of the debris and encounter a few survivors, including actress Emma Jaunt. You find yourself in an altercation with a hoard of zombies where you end up bitten but later discover that you are immune to the infection. You make your way back to Jaunt’s mansion and meet an array of colourful characters, including Sam B from the first game, and from that point on it’s your goal to explore the city and find yourself and your new compadres a way to get the hell out of Hell-A. This story is a lot of fun, while it does have serious and even tense moments, it never takes itself too seriously and always has a small amount of cynicism that never gets distracting or takes over a scene. Most of this game’s comedy does revolve around quips and the odd cynical comment, but thankfully it’s not in a bad way. It might be because of how excruciating the “humour” in Forspoken was but I actually liked the quips that the main character spouts, the lines in this game always felt like characters making light of a horrible situation rather than an attempt to imitate Marvel as is getting more common these days. It’s more humorous and actually funny, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless. 

Presentation

Graphically the game looks very good. The colours and lighting especially heighten this, making the streets and beaches really pop and helps you feel as if you’re traversing through one of America’s most colourful cities. The gore especially stands out, everywhere you look you’ll find the occasional smear of red or decaying mound of offal, and when fighting zombies you’ll see a small shred of skin get sheared off with every hit, you’ll even get more unpleasant details like limbs being held on by only a scrap of flesh or eyeballs getting pop out of their heads and left dangling from the sockets. It’s very gnarly and if you’re a gore loving freak like I am you’ll find it awesome. The voice cast really nail their roles, doing a great job at portraying the characters assigned and how they would sound in any given situation. I especially love Okezie Morro as Jacob for smashing that uncaring and here to have a good time attitude and a special shout out to Becca Stewart as Amanda Styles for getting the obnoxious and annoying tones of a content creator obsessed with getting views and who really needs to get their head out of their ass. The soundtrack is pretty good as well, most of it is licensed music (so not very good for streamers, sorry guys) but it’s all very upbeat and matches the game’s tone, though there’s not that much variety so while a lot of people will be vibing with these songs, there are gonna be a fair few who won’t enjoy it quite as much. 

World Design 

Dead Island 2 is a semi open world split into ten regions for you to explore. Some of these areas will consist of a single building or a series of tunnels, while others will be much wider with more sections for you to search. Some of these areas are somewhat difficult to navigate, Bel-Air for example, as a lot of the buildings look the same and it can be difficult to differentiate where you’ve been and where you haven’t, though you do luckily have a map to help you, unluckily however the maps aren’t that good. While they do look good, mimicking maps for tourist attractions or sewer blueprints, some of them aren’t the easiest to navigate as they won’t always tell you which ways are blocked off or even the names of certain buildings. While aesthetically pleasing I would have much preferred it if we got a map that made the regions make sense when exploring rather than one that looked nice. Honestly these work for picking out markers to go to and not much else. 

Combat and Enemy Design

The game primarily focuses on melee combat though there are ranged options as well. Weapons you use will consist of items you find spread throughout the world, from as basic as expected like Pipes and Hammers, to some unlikely finds like Swords or Maces, hell even Katars are an option. Each weapon comes in their own subcategories which dictates their speed, likelihood of severing limbs, ability to stun an enemy and so on, each one working better in different situations and against different zombies. Personally, if I had to choose, I found myself favouring faster weapons that can cut off limbs, though I did find myself swapping weapons frequently. 

Your tools will degrade with each hit and will eventually break, though you can repair your favourites for a price and you’ll find an overabundance of the things spread throughout the game, scrapping those that are no longer fit for your arsenal. You’ll even get some for completing certain sidequests, though some of these can’t be scrapped meaning that when they’ve outlived their usefulness they’ll likely be sent to storage for the rest of the playthrough. If you ask me weapons can be found a bit too frequently, it’s like you can’t go a single minute without running into something suitable for bashing in zombie heads so I never felt like I was at risk of running into an encounter poorly equipped. I would have much preferred it if weapons were spread out more and were found much less commonly. 

One feature that I really like is your ability to have a weapon imbued with Mods. Some of these Mods can be already equipped to a weapon when you find it, though most will require you to craft the mod. Some will add elemental damage to a weapon while others will simply boost a damage type as well as enhance other attributes. I especially love the elemental Mods as you’ll have the opportunity to use them on the environment to deal some extra damage, such as using the Cremator Mod to ignite some spilled oil or the Electrocutor Mod to shock enemies trudging through water. The danger with this however is that these Mods are a double-edged sword, as the environmental damage you cause can be harmful to you, so best be careful when using them. 

It’s not just weapons at your disposal, as your infection gives you access to Fury Mode. Fury Mode acts as your infection taking control, causing you to go berserk, clawing and maiming all zombies in your way. Your Fury Mode will build up the more zombies you kill and once activated you’ll drop you’ll use your hands to rip the zombies apart, healing a significant portion of health with each hit. 

One thing I was not expecting was the vast variety of undead that you would encounter. There are the ones you would expect like the Walkers, Runners, Crushers as your more buff foes, but there are some very creative ones that I really like, even if they can be an absolute pain. Some will have an extra elemental effect thus making them immune to those kinds of weapons, some can be taken advantage of to deal heavy damage to other zombies like the Grenadier Walkers, and others have properties that will just ruin your day. Probably my favourite has to be the Screamers, zombies that emit a loud scream that will shove you away and will summon its friends to aid it, add that some of them can electrocute you with their cries and we’re in for a world of pain. 

Side Quests 

Dead Island 2 has a pretty sizable amount of side content. For starters, I have to give praise to the game for not just hiding these quests for players to discover as it will tell you on the map how many side quests are in a certain region and will even point you to where the quest is. I know that some of you would prefer to explore and discover the quests yourself, but personally I much prefer this. These missions will revolve around you helping out a fellow survivor, usually a celebrity of some kind, with whatever predicament they’ve gotten themselves into. Mostly it will involve you searching for a person, people or item, or hunting down a particularly powerful zombie and slaying it. Though there are some that simply require you to kill zombies in particular ways, some of those are especially a pain (looking at you Amanda). Completing these will always net you some XP, and will sometimes reward you with some cash, a new mod or one of those unique weapons I briefly mentioned. 

On top of those, we have the Lost and Found quests. These are essentially treasure hunts that will lead you to a missing individual or weapon. These quests will require a bit more detective work as they aren’t marked on the map and are triggered by you finding a scrap of writing that will give you hints on the person’s whereabouts. These quests are the main reason why having a map that’s so barren of information really doesn’t help, as sometimes these writings will mention house numbers and not knowing what house it is leaves these missions somewhat of a chore. The missing person missions will just reward you with some XP, the weapon quests on the other hand are absolutely worth it as, at the point where they’re available, they are some of the most powerful weapons you can obtain and are already equipped with Mods, so while they can be a chore (unless you’re a nasty cheat and use a guide… like I did) they are very worth it. 

Levelling and Crafting

Yes, this is yet another game with RPG mechanics and crafting, but this game actually uses these quite well. First of all, levelling up doesn’t mean that previous areas will get any easier, while there are some unique enemies whose levels will remain the same, most enemies levels will scale with yours, so don’t think that just because you’re stronger than before it means that the zombies are gonna get any less overwhelming. 

So what does levelling up get you if it doesn’t make the game easier? Outside of a health increase and allowing you to use stronger weapons, your biggest reward is Skill Cards. Skill Cards aren’t just limited to offensive and defensive buff, they also get you new powerful combat abilities. Each card is split into five different subcategories and you are given slots to insert the cards into and can swap them around and experiment to see what play style fits you. This is one of the factors where the character you selected matters as there are some cards that are exclusive to each character and each one starts off the game with their own set of cards. I really like this system, it’s much better than a basic skill tree and gives you more room to really create the kind of character you want to play as. 

As mentioned, crafting is also an element in this game, but it’s not really that bad. Crafting is focused more on maintaining your arsenal rather than creating new weapons. As mentioned you can upgrade weapons with powerful Mods though you can also equip perks to each weapon to add a couple extra traits. Both of these require cash and materials which I’m not really a fan of, personally I would have preferred it if you, for example, used materials for upgrades and crafting non weapon items – gun rounds and med kits mostly – and cash for repairing, combining the two means that I’m inevitably just gonna run out of cash quickly which is just an annoyance. 

Flaws

There are unfortunately a few glitches that you will likely encounter. There were a few times where I ended up dying despite still having some health left and I even fell through the world and respawned under the map at one point; luckily it was fixed by just restarting the game. Another is that a lot of the deaths I ended up getting felt somewhat cheap, for example getting hit by electrified water simply by being near it was a common occurrence that I really didn’t enjoy. Finally, you’re unable to do certain things, such as access a workbench or talk to people, while there are zombies in the vicinity. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but the zombies respawn – not that they respawn after you leave the area, the constantly respawn, as in if you kill one another will quickly take its place. There was one time where I spent twenty minutes killing zombies because I wanted to use a nearby workbench but couldn’t as more were continuously appearing to take a bite out of me – the ironic part was that I wanted use the workbench to repair a weapon, and so I ended up going from one weapon needing to be fixed to multiple. 

Conclusion

Was this game worth the eight year wait, filled with development hell and speculations of cancellation? Well no, no game’s worth that much wait. Though that doesn’t mean that this game wasn’t a surprising amount of fun. I went into this game expecting it to be kind of bland but I found myself actually really enjoying it despite its flaws. So yeah, I recommend this game, especially if you’re someone who wants to feel nostalgic about the PS3… good god saying that makes me feel old. 

8.2/10

Elliot Chapman
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant

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The Next Axia6th March 2024
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