Dead Island 2 was Worth the Wait
Updated: Apr 27
Thanks to the devs for the code*
The best moments of dead island 2, elements often missing from titles like dying light 2 were the moments when exploration turned to breathtaking danger. Moments amplified in fear when a dark room or amateurishly sprinted around the corner turned into a surprise party for 1, and where the presents were just dead ends in a dark hall with enemies everywhere like reverse candles on the cake removing a bit of light everywhere, they were found.
Many zombie games exist, but dead island 2, more so than its own originator and the titles that share developer linage, has offered so much fun and horror mixed with surprise moments
But is that enough?
Dead Island 2 plays out like what Lost would have been like if it had been on HBO, with people eating one another instead of arm wrestling over boysenberries all day.
Where a couple of people can group up for a bit but where you never know who you can trust and for how long. They built temporary friendships to further their chances of escape.
In this timeframe of games with huge PowerPoint, Twitter presentations about how big they are and how they can offer 200 hours of gameplay, ignoring the lack of an adjective describing the enjoyment during that timeframe.
Dead Island 2 is there saying, hey, we are going to try to offer you 25 to 30 hours of fun gameplay
Dead Island 2 is fundamentally changed from and factually similar in many ways to the original game.
Here the game opens with the infection taking people out and an airplane crash with you picking one of a number of survivors and then learning the ropes as you help the few people who made it through the initial fireball of an airline wreck. Emerging from one fire into a firestorm of the world's end.
Each survivor has their own perks and an overall gameplay style with nothing overtly surprising as the archetypes of tank, dps, and others leak through even if that's not actually used as language throughout the game.
If you are familiar with Dead Island, much of 2 feels the same way. If you are not, Dead Island is a solo or 3 player coop PVE game with you trying to work through the story properly, all the while killing, crafting and coming to grips with item puzzles throughout a post-apocalyptic theme-park of a world. If that theme-parks visitors decided to gnaw on each other for sport and seemed to remember a bit about their past lives occasionally. Or electric each other, or cut off limbs or light each other on fire.
But fire and all the other elements aren't a problem it's a tool in dead island 2 where here the continued crafting and manufacturing of items stands right alongside the original games with its manufacturing tables laced out like mini manufacturing facilities updated as you find new recipes and discover new connections, a mealtime Mcguiver, replacing bubblegum with battery acid then slathering it on a sword.
Putting together all sorts of elemental and strange combinations together for weapons, each augmenting them visually and changing their damage types helps you do more damage, take out more enemies and explore.
But the island itself, here la, is a good deal different from the original title sojourns into the ganja out areas of the tropical islands(check this). And the small areas you could drive in, in the original, aren't here but instead a travel system with each of the locations much more like hubs with shortcuts, traps, enemy encounters, people to help, and missions to attain and complete.
Usually titles, especially as memory and system platforms, have grown in complexity. You see the titles blossom out. here dead island has tightened down and whether that reflects its troubled development, I don't know. But it feels like a familiar shoe that you can trust versus a brand-new set that looks nice but might be questionable after a couple of miles. That means you're not climbing towers, or finding every single herb in a block, or always facing the same map mess of open-world games.
In exchange for clarity, the hubs aren't huge, but most have a couple of set-pieces, and many spread out in surprising ways, even if they are contained areas makes it feel less sandboxing which is where dying light 2 went, and is instead more focused, even if it's just a small amount, on very interesting locations.
The combat, which is a bit more cumbersome at times than the original game, turns around and nails it when you get a trap just right in some surf shop but gone are the original game's long skill lists and masteries in trade of a-card system that feels more rewarding at first but then less complex and unique as you go deep into.
But just like the original Dead Island 2 has the over-the-top slashing, hacking, hitting, and splitting of enemies' heads all the way through it. Each weapon hits in unique ways, with the blades ones slicing bits of flesh off the larger clubs breaking bones and the even bigger ones throwing enemies around the location like rag dolls. Combat feels weighty enough with some weapons swiping through an enemy; then you sprint to drop kick a riot gear-wearing zombie, then run down a ramp and bash 2 down some stairs.
However, in the busier times, it's hard not to feel that the game needs some tightening up, ,especially because of its use of light attacks which are response, and the games heavy attacks which while hitting harder also seem to have an odd delay to them, to the point that at times you may have to hit the button twice.
The gore system replicates and simulates internals, so smashing someone to death with an old rusty wrench sees skin fly off and innards questionably aged shake and jiggle like separate parts inside of bare spare rip cages.
Once you pick up guns the game changes to both a long and midrange game with you changing out quick up close weapons, throwing out makeshift grenades, and then laying enemies out afar with machine guns. There are also other skills you get later in the game that I won't spoil here though and while guns add in that long-range I can't say I loved them. They feel much like the original game, as a good get-out-of-jail-free card but ultimately not as fleshed out or even focused on as the up close weapons and I am fine with that.
There is an almost childlike freedom in Dead Island 2 whether you perfectly stack your skills to build on one another with perfect blocks resulting in stamina building or adding moves that let you jump kick, or flying jump kick into enemies, or you ignore that and do what I did which was to run around in circles slashing and kicking and laughing each time one of the zombies teetered over from the hits. Combine that with excellent exploration, shortcuts, environmental traps, and some awesome side quests or environmental storytelling that just adds flavor, and you get a game where the resulting output is that both work in varying degrees and both result in a game that doesn't make you feel hampered if you went another way.
Level design on the other hand, is surprisingly good. As the devs have made clear for a long time Dead Island 2 is more of an open hub with many of the locations being a bit more liner and puzzle or trap-based, opening doors, moving through areas, and unlocking shortcuts. It's a totally different feel than dying light and like it or not it's got its own vibe.5. You get abilities like jump kicking and others more story based that are awesome but one thing the game basically doesn't have is climb anything like some other titles. This isn't dying light, it's not zombie parkour at all. Its characters who are, locked mostly to the streets and locations themselves, are more likely to use the stairs than somehow sprout old ninja climbing claws you could buy in a magazine in the 90s. Meaning that movement around the levels is both more nuanced as you have to travel like a normal person but at the same time more restricted to what you would expect random people could do.
Late in the game, you unlock fast travel, so if slogging through enemies or go back to locations to find the game's secret weapons and hidden locations you can do that later on. though quests do push you toward new spots.
Lastly, sneaking and stealth are a mixed bag. Regardless if you are knelt down with your flashlight off. The systems seem to be more based on if it makes a situation tense or not then it just ignores what you are doing and they can hear you. Admittedly after I realized this I didn't use it that much anyway and it does sometimes. work, but like many things in dead island 2 it's give and take which in my opinion isn't the way mechanics should be.
And chopping up zombies hasn't looked this good in a long time. It's not perfect animation for example, double leg kicking looks like legs stab out from your chest to hit the enemy but hanging out near a trap and then kicking a zombie into it to watch their legs get blown off, and then they roll into a pool of water that you had thrown a battery into and it begins shocking them is awesome. Lighting and the gore system utilize this creepy and ultimately disturbing partnership consistently delivering the burned-out look of sun and heat-cracked sidewalks with dudes in surfer shorts whose the biggest problem is that something unnerving is inside them and apparently wants out. Each design of enemies from the massive roid raging weight lifters on the beach set to the crusty thespians at the coffee shops is just one Starbucks espresso from making it big with their novel about the ends times, which has unfortunately now made them the main character, are handled well. That gore system lets you chop, smash, chuck, burn, electric, smash burn, and dissolve the enemies down to their specific parts in battles
On the PlayStation 5 it runs at a steady clip, usually hitting 60 fps, though it did take a couple of stutter steps especially when a large number of enemies were on screen and I was in last resort mode tossing explosives into groups of enemies while I groped for an exit.
The game on consoles doesn't have a performance mode but it does have an FOV slider. I messed around with this from lowest to fisheye camera highest and honestly, the FPS difference in most places seemed negligible. However, the FOV without being raised is so damned tight on consoles it might as well be called a half-person game. Not sure why it's even an option.
Speaking of options.
The PC version runs surprisingly well. In this timeframe of games that seem to consistently chug on PC the way this runs is much closer to what I expected. getting some frame rate drops when huge numbers of enemies appear on screen with the 2080 with most settings on high makes sense for what you are seeing, and while there are a couple of exceptions, Dead Island 2 on the PC is technically at least, a far more solid version than some other recent titles on pc that have been pipped out on day one. Be aware crossplay isn't in, but cross-gen is. However, those with the older 2 base platforms can't host
Dead Island 2 especially when outside is a great environmental play out and the games use of 3d audio can help you identify where enemies are in some of the more cranked locations. However, in the interiors, I found the sounds and especially their processing to be very artificial sounding regardless of any setting I used on the play-station through headphones or through the speaker systems. Especially in rooms where for all intents and purposes it was a closet, but many had an echo closer to something like a huge garage or basement. It was odd and it crops up, again and again, going through it like the processing is turned up to 11 or someone found the auditorium setting for their audio cards reverb panel and left it on. I did hear that in the preview a couple of people had noticed that and it continues a bit here so be aware of that. It's not exactly great sounding in those spots.
But sound and direction work mostly in combination with the game's stealth and health system> When you are low on health, watching out for enemies isn't just a visual thing you can use the sound to verify if enemies are nearby or waiting to attack you, which can be the difference between life and death
opening with a scattered and plucky version of almost desperadoes-styled music theme. The games' choice of atmospheric background tracks as well as a couple more heady and cultivated pieces during particular cuteness are great. Choice of music for boss and mini-boss-styled thematic tunes I wasn't a huge fan of but the commercial-sounding tracking during those moments do fit. They just aren't my jam.
Not bad, and that guitar strumming off-kilter theme during the pause screens is awesome and has an almost cowboy horror sound to it.
How is the music used? To offer tension to add to the atmospheric layering of suspense and horror when the game visuals aren't enough or when it wants to pick up the action.
This is a great deal like the first game, though, aside from a few very over-the-top characters, a lot of the characters you meet have less punch than the original games, which also feeds back into the situation from the first game and just where you were, including accents and location-specific slangs and language.
The story delivery is 3 parts over the top 1 part solid moments, telling of anarchy after the dead of the world rise up and interesting characters you meet as you explore. Some of them are sad, others just creepy, and a few surprisingly interesting to the point where I found myself feeling like they were apt enough to have small side DLC themselves in the future.
The voices in the game elevate the characters, and the extra work, even for characters that are insufferable to add to that. Not every character will be liked, and dead island 2's voice work lets the player hate the character but not hate the voice work itself.
Dead Island is an odd game, a game that at times feels so out of place it has an almost 360 feel to its gameplay but then also had systems running to simulate flesh and gore that are far beyond that. It's a couple of trick horses that can overstay its welcome and just when you are a tiny bit bored or have faced someone you don't think you can get past without possibly having to call in a friend you do figure it out. the gameplay look is an epoxy that keeps the different parts mostly together and while it is uneven at times, it is also pleasantly comfortable in what it offers if even a bit too much repetition.
You are going to have to have an iron will to face down the center for a few hours without at least once thinking that the developers have a fetish for circuit breakers and have never heard of alternative puzzle planning. There is a ton of fun here.
The tightening down of the locations genuinely feels more engaging than the original game which I loved, and the gameplay even though you still have up to 3 player combat and exploration is excellent. Unless you are expecting a true open world which you are not going to get, Dead Island, for better or worse is not at all going for that.
But I have to admit it works. Even if its longevity isn't artificially extended by waypoints, research bunkers to track down, or some tower to climb it does have occasional side missions that require extra thinking and rewarded with more game information for your work.
However, one of the biggest problems that rear its head in dead island 2i is the difficulty spikes. This seems to be a reflection of a game that's got started and stopped more times than a downtown city Uber and there are sections that are ruthless from one huge event to the other with almost no time to explore or get money and enemies are getting harder and harder boss battle after boss battle until you realize a solid 2 and a half hours have been almost force funneling you through mission events.
Gammas have an obligation to reward investment with entertainment, and each game's calculation of that final equity, has to be, at the very least recognizable despite differences. Dead Island 2 delivers just that a game with its own equation and, without a doubt, its way of solving. But it's worth the effort and worth getting now.
If you need every game to be open-world sandbox, don't apply to this one, if you want balanced perfection and a seamless series of perfectly balanced encounters, this isn't for you.
But it was for me.
Funfactor wins out.
Not an amazing game but a great time and well worth buying day one.
My video review https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BIi79lW_9I