Dead Island 2: Gory fun in sunny Los Angeles
Dead Island 2: Gory fun in sunny Los Angeles
Dead Island 2 is the biggest launch in Deep Silver's history, with over 2 million copies sold. A decade in the making, the game takes players back to a zombie-infested open world, this time centred on Los Angeles. Set about 15 years after the events of Dead Island, the sequel sees Los Angeles being put under quarantine in the wake of yet another zombie outbreak.
Despite the time jump and the new setting, Dead Island 2 feels very similar to its predecessor, except there are of course bigger, meaner zombies and more ways to kill them than ever. Unlike most zombie titles, the Dead Island series has a huge focus on melee combat. There are guns, but ammunition is extremely limited, and you don't find your first assault rifle until you're roughly a third of the way into the game.
Instead, combat largely centres around going for the heads of the walking dead with whatever blunt (or cutting) instrument you have in hand. Far from a mindless hack-and-slash gameplay loop, the game also requires you to familiarise yourself with the move sets of each zombie type in order to time your block or dodge correctly. Getting the timing right will reward you temporary advantages in combat, depending on the character you chose or the skill cards you have equipped.
For instance, the Safety First Survivor card will restore a small amount of health every time you time a dodge or block correctly. Similarly, if you're playing Carla or Ryan, blocking multiple attacks in succession will give you a stacking boost to Toughness and Force when you have the Steadfast card equipped.
And because you have a stamina bar, you'll soon find yourself vulnerable if you run out of patience and begin wildly swinging in the face of a horde.
I played the game both on PlayStation 5 and PC, but because of how you should really be going for the head, I found the targeting and combat on the PS5 rather challenging. As someone who is much more comfortable with a mouse and keyboard, taking down zombies and aiming for critical hits was way easier on PC.
You unlock more card slots and cards as you level up and progress through the game. Many of these imbue you with almost superhuman powers, such as the ability to drive a forceful blow into the ground that drains the stability of nearby zombies. One card even lets you electrify nearby zombies when you scream, which is incredibly fun but also delightfully ridiculous.
That strain of incredulity runs throughout the game. Its blissfully B-grade storyline plods along, but the action often produces moments of gory fun. Not everything makes sense, but that doesn't even matter. Whether you're killing zombies in purposefully creative ways while an influencer stands on her roof and records you for her followers, or battling a literal bridezilla, you can't help but revel in the mayhem of it all.
On top of that, it's difficult to pass up the opportunity to romp through movie sets and the massive homes of celebrities in Bel-Air and Beverly Hills. The game does not miss out on the most iconic locations in the City of Angels, and you get to take a trip to Santa Monica, Hollywood Boulevard, Ocean Avenue, and Venice Beach.
The weapons in the game see everyday items, from a tire iron to a steel rebar, turned into deadly tools that will help you carve through swathes of the living dead. There are some unique gems, such as the Wolverine-esque Slaughtering Claws that will let you shove glistening metal straight into a zombie's skull, but the selection is otherwise rather mundane.
Fortunately, there are a number of inventive ways to tackle the undead. You can lure them into a pool of water and electrify them, melt them with a corrosive substance called Caustic-X, or even drop-kick them off a roof, to name just a few.
Co-op multiplayer takes the difficulty down a notch, particularly when it comes to facing bosses and tougher enemies. Players can take turns kiting enemies, while others deal damage from behind. This post-apocalyptic version of Los Angeles can feel a little lonely after a while, and is really best explored with friends.
That said, Dead Island 2 remains plagued by a host of bugs, not unlike its predecessor. For instance, weapons sometimes disappear after being thrown, which can be a gutting experience if you spent a lot of resources upgrading them. There are some distracting visual glitches as well, which makes the game feel like it could use more polish.
Overall, Dead Island 2 is a fun, if iterative, zombie adventure with a vibrant setting to explore. It's not a game you want to spend too long thinking about, so if storytelling matters to you, you'll probably want to look elsewhere. But if you're just here for a gory, good time, the game delivers in spades.