Dead Island 2 Review

Player(s): 1 (single player), 2-3 (online co-op)
Extra Features: Online co-op play

Dead Island 2 is an action role-playing game developed by Dambuster Studios and published by Deep Silver. If you’ve been following this game since it started development, then you’ll no doubt know that this game has been a long time coming. It’s had an over 10+ year development cycle which got me kind of worried as to finally playing it. I’m a big Dead Island fan, so I’ve definitely been waiting. I’m proud to say that Dambuster really delivered with the finished product! Dead Island 2 is a fantastic sequel to the original two Dead Island games.

Let’s start with the story setup. It’s been about 10 years since the events of the original Dead Island game, and California is now a hot zone for a new stronger virus. The US military is putting the state under full quarantine. As the quarantine takes place, six individuals board a last evacuation flight out of the city. These “slayers” are all unknowingly immune to the virus. An infected person manages to get on board the plane and the military shoots it down. All the slayers manage to survive the crash and they each get bitten (whichever one you play) and so their story starts as they seek help and help a BUNCH of others along the way.


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The overall visuals in this game are truly next gen. The environments are absolutely gorgeous. Lighting effects look great and all the textures are solid. The character models look just as good. Facial expressions look very realistic and animations are smooth. The high-grade character models make the zombies look way better than previous Dead Islands or Dying Light. As usual, zombies show damage to their bodies when they receive hits. In this game, you can see eyeballs hanging from sockets and jaws hanging from the side of the faces as you batter down zombies. This really shows off whenever a zombie grabs you and their jaw is dangling to the side. Just like previous Dead Islands, you can cut off limbs and heads with some weapons. You can also break zombie arms and legs. Zombies also show burn damage and actually get their flesh melted from some attacks. You can literally tear zombies up and paint hallways red in this game. The gore factor is top notch!

The game breaks into slow motion a bunch as you deliver the final blow to a zombie. Each weapon seems to have its own finishing move that delivers a super heavy blow that either kills or takes major damage from a zombie. Depending on what all you have equipped, your character can block or dodge zombie attacks. If you dodge or block at just the right time (perfect guard) you can stun the zombie and set them up for a deathblow attack. Rage mode also returns from previous Dead Islands. This time rage mode turns you into a zombie and you can do certain attacks and special moves depending on what all you have equipped.

The overall gameplay is around the same as previous Dead Island games. It’s all very similar to a Borderlands game where you are constantly looting enemies and the environment in order to gain new weapons and items that will help you create new upgraded weapons. Just like in previous games, you get access to a workbench which allows you to upgrade and repair weapons. Depending on the blueprints you have found, you can upgrade your weapons to have various elemental effects, such as shocking or burning zombies, or you can add other effects, such as giving the weapon more impact or making them sharper. This game has a good variety of weapons. It has machetes, combat knives, rakes, meat cleavers and many other melee weapons from previous Dead Islands. Melee weapons feel like they have more impact in Dead Island 2, this is especially noticeable for bigger weapons when you hit a zombie with a heavy hit. There are also some gun weapons. The guns in this game have much better overall aiming and firing compared to previous Dead Island games.


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You can also make use of the environment to kill zombies. Water can be electrified and fuel can be set on fire to damage zombies. You can use cans of water and fuel to make puddles and lead zombies into them then kill zombies with as single strike from your weapon to electrify them or burn them. Characters also get access to secondary throwing weapons that you can switch between. You can toss hand grenades, water bombs, throwing stars and other projectiles at zombies. These extra weapons have unlimited ammo, but they all have cooldowns. It’s pretty nice to be able to toss a water bomb to stun a group of zombies and then rush forward and electrify them with an electric sword.

Your character receives experience and can gain levels which boost your overall stats. Each character has their own different sets of stats that they are the best at. While upgrading your character, you will also receive cards that can be equipped to your character for certain effects shown on the card. Some cards grant new abilities and some increase certain stats. Later cards that you’ll get in the game give your character a bonus in exchange for a little bit of a negative. There are some cards we won’t discuss because of spoiler reasons.

The game has a total of six characters to choose from. There are six slots for saving, so you can easily play as all characters on different playthroughs and level each of them up. Each character gets access to nearly the same amount of cards. Some cards are exclusive to only two characters and there are some “built-in” cards that are character exclusive. Really, aside from stats and certain exclusive cards, I don’t see much difference in characters. There are no extra exclusive character moves that I saw in other Dead Islands.


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Unlike previous Dead Islands and the Dying Light games, Dead Island 2 has smaller areas to explore. It is still an open world game, but it is on a much smaller scale, especially when compared to Dying Light. You’ll eventually reach a door that will lead to a new area that you can explore. There are quite a number of open world areas. I actually favor this setup if it allows for a better-looking game. There are also fewer side quests in this game compared to the other games. I see this as a plus as well since other games often got too bogged down into simple fetch quests. This game’s side quests are often more drawn out and almost always lead to zombie fights rather than simply retrieving an item. Aside from your standard side quests, there are many hidden chests that need to be unlocked by finding and defeating a certain zombie. There are also tons of collectibles (files) to find. The game overall runs at a smooth framerate (has to be around 60 fps on Xbox Series X). I did come across a few areas where slowdown occurred – it appears to be from the environment since there was never tons of action on the screen when the framerate dipped.

The zombies in the game are basically the same types that you’ll see in other Dead Islands and Dying Light games. You have your standard Walker and Shambler along with the bigger brute enemies and zombies that can shoot projectiles. The game has a few more powerful mid-boss enemies and many variations of others (explosive zombies, zombies with grenades on them, burning zombies, electric zombies, etc). Sometimes, there are actual mid-bosses in game progression and sometimes there are mid-bosses that hold a key item that can be used to unlock a certain area or item chest.

Previous Dead Island games seemed to be serious with sudden dialogue bombs of comedy thrown in to make you laugh. Dead Island 2 fully embraces its comedy. The overall story is serious, but it has a lot of comedy parts thrown in. This makes some of the more ridiculous side quests feel not as awkward as they were in previous Dead Islands and especially Dying Light. The voice acting in this game is really good. All characters have their own unique attitudes. The story seems the same no matter which character you pick. It seems like all dialogue is the same but the thing that changes is how your character responds to it (based on who you choose). Your character is often very talkative throughout the whole campaign, both in and out of cutscenes. This is a nice change from the usual silent protagonist or protagonist of few words that we get in most games like this one.


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Just like previous Dead Island games, Dead Island 2 is just as fun whether played solo or co-op. The game has drop-in/drop-out co-op where up to three players can band together to go through the campaign. Since the game is composed of smaller areas, all players must agree to move on to the next area before the group gets to go there. Having more players does make some enemies easier – mainly bosses – but there are often higher-level enemies that can easily take down a whole team if you’re not careful. The online seemed smooth overall, but I did get some random teleporting and glitchiness due to lag from time to time. With a good connection, it seems to flow well however.

For a game that had such a long development cycle, this game feels like it made use of all that time. Dambuster really knocked it out of the park with this sequel. If you’re a fan of Dead Island, you’ll easily enjoy what this game has to offer. It may have not have the parkour that Dying Light has in it, but it definitely beats Dying Light in its zombie-slaying gameplay. I had a great time with this game and I’m still looking forward to playing through the game with other characters. Dead Island 2 truly delivers!

The Good:
+ The visuals are absolutely fantastic
+ Zombie slaying gameplay is the best it’s ever been
+ The story flow is more engaging than previous games
+ An overall good sequel to Dead Island

The Bad:
- Aside from differences in stats and exclusive cards, all characters feel basically the same

Final Rating: 80% - Dead Island 2 was worth the wait!

 

Note: A review code for this game was provided by the publisher.