Yeah, Dead Island 2 rules! Stuck in development hell for more than 10 years and after being bounced across 3 different developers, Dead Island 2 is out now and it’s a hell-a of a great time.
I must say that I wasn’t expecting to love or even enjoy the game as much as I did, but after finishing it, I have to say that Dead Island 2 is probably one of the best games to come out in 2023 so far. It’s that good!
Dead Island 2 HAUS expansion is out and we have a review for it that you can check here.
The game is set in Los Angeles or Hell-A as it’s called in the game, but don’t get it wrong, it’s not a fully open-world game where you can freely roam around LA. Instead what the developers have opted-in is a series of fairly large open-world-ish snippets that capture what LA is all about.
So you’ll get to visit a rendition of Beverly Hills, Bel Air, and Venice Beach along with its famous Pier, Ocean Drive boulevard, and some other cool parts of Los Angeles. Each one of these locations is beautifully rendered with impeccable attention to detail. It’s basically the apocalypse where everyone is pretty much dead or, in this case, a living dead, roaming around Hell-A with only a handful of survivors spread out here and there.
You play as one of these survivors. The game starts with a beautiful cinematic where it introduces all of the playable characters and you follow them as they jump on the last plane out of LA. But everything goes wrong and the plane crashes down, you guessed it, in fucking Hell-A. After you select the character you’ll play for the rest of the game, you start your journey.
There are six playable characters, each with their own unique look, voice, backstory, and stats. I went with my boy Ryan, a stripper from LA who faked his way into the plane as he was still in his work attire. Yeah, he was dressed as a sexy firefighter attire, so, you know. I also must say that I played the game just once, with this character, so I don’t know if playing as any of the others might affect the story in any way, which I highly doubt by the way. However, what I guess changes is how the character replies to the other characters and how he reacts to shit that happens around them.
My boy Ryan is dumb, but a lovable badass dude that I would drink a beer with any day of the week. His reactions and dialogue lines felt quite genuine and his quips were more often than not hilarious. I mean, my dude, quotes or paraphrases are probably one of the most iconic lines ever said by John McClane and if you are a Die Hard fan as much as I am, you probably can guess what those lines are.
The story really surprised me too, in a really good way. You are one of the few humans who are kinda immune to the zombie virus. Not only that, but as you progress through the game, you get well, zombie powers, but more on that later. You start your journey in Beverly Hills, interacting with a lot of really interesting characters. It’s Hollywood so you might guess what these characters will be like and how they behave.
Eccentric movie producers, entitled actors, washed-up rockstars, crazy artists, YOLO Gen-Z influencers, and so on. I will go and say that the level of social commentary in this game about everything Hollywood is on par with another great game that also took place in a rendition of LA and that’s GTA V. Yeah, Dead Island 2 treads the same waters and it does a mighty fine job with all of that.
After learning that he’s immune, Ryan wants to do the right thing and contact the authorities so that they can make a vaccine. See, a stripper with a heart of gold, what’s not to love? A doctor gets involved, but there might be more to him than meets the eye. Then a series of other interesting characters get involved and I was fairly surprised by the twists and turns that the story goes into.
The same can also be said with the side-missions of the game, which are mini stories in themselves and see you do different tasks for the other survivors that expand their own backstories. Somehow these stories felt genuine and fit the overall vibe of this world. Of course, you have also missions where you have to kill zombies in different creative ways so an influencer can share that video on the internet for “Likes & Subscribes”. Oh and there's also another one where you have to collect different zombie parts so an artist can create her magnum opus flesh statue, but again, it’s fucking Hollywood.
The gameplay in Dead Island 2 is gory, brutal, and satisfying and offers probably the best killing of virtual monsters ever. Now, Dying Light 2, a fantastic game with some amazing parkour and good melee combat with dismemberment and all that cool stuff. Dead Island 2’s combat is way way better than that, like it’s on a league of its own.
The FLESH system designed by the geniuses at Dambuster Studios is astonishing. We are all familiar with dismemberment in video games, right? You hit a head or a limb with a sharp object enough times and you cut it off. Well, with this new system everywhere you hit, you cause damage and since it’s all simulated in real-time, not pre-calculated, everywhere you hit you obliterate the skin, the muscles, and the skeleton. In Dead Island 2, you can literally beat a zombie to a pulp using only your fists and it’s gory, it’s brutal, it’s fucking glorious.
The weapons in Dead Island 2 just hit differently. You can obliterate a zombie’s body with just your fists. Add in a pair of brass knuckles, you’ll get there faster. Use a sword or any other sharp weapon and cut that flesh off gradually. Use a giant sledgehammer to smash and break arms, legs, head, or the entire body for that matter. Wherever you hit, that’s where the damage is done. Don’t want to go for close melee combat? Throw your weapons toward them. Shoot your pistols, revolvers, shotguns, or assault rifles and see that flesh fly right off their body. Chuck a pipe bomb or grenade and blow them to smithereens. Throw in a molotov or electric grenade, set them on fire, and see their flesh charr. Or throw a caustic/acid grenade and see their flesh melt off their body. Did I mention that combat in this game is fucking glorious already?
You can also use your environment to your advantage too. See a jerrycan or an oil barrel? Use it, pour some oil out, or throw it towards the Zs, hit it and just watch them burn to a crisp. Oh, there’s a water puddle, or are the zombies in a pool? Throw in a car battery and see them fry. The levels are littered with many environmental hazards you can use to your advantage, but be careful as they will cause you as much harm to you too.
Progression is fantastic too. Much like every video game ever, you’ll start weak, but you’ll quickly get better. The more XP you gain, the more you’ll level up and the more abilities you’ll unlock. While it doesn’t have a skill tree progression style, the game features a deck building of sorts for abilities. When you level up you gain new ability cards as well as slots where you can allocate said cards. You can also find cards either by exploring or by defeating boss-level enemies. There are many cards to unlock and they truly affect what your character can do, meaning that it’s not some boring “10% more damage to limbs” or “4% better armor”. It’s more like, when you stomp a zombie's head you’ll get a lot of health back or when you dropkick a zombie there will also be a big explosion. It’s interesting stuff that truly affects gameplay. For example, when my character hulked out and went all zombie mode, when I did damage to enemies it filled my Fury meter and when they died, they exploded which in turn did damage to the enemies which also filled my Fury meter. Long story short, once I activated the sicko mode, I could stay in it as long as I had something to kill.
Crafting is also great too as it allows you to upgrade your weapons with elemental damages and also some interesting perks. By mid-game, you unlock the ability to upgrade the weapons with even crazier “zombie mods” that expand the weapons' capabilities even further. So I made a badass lighting katana that also exploded when I did a critical hit aka. slashed their heads or limbs. Again, fucking glorious! The more you play the better and higher level weapons and perks you unlock. Then there are the legendary weapons, yeah the exotics of Dead Islands which are just *chef’s kiss*. A revolver that shoots grenades? A hammer that explodes? A massive fire axe that sets everything on fire? Sign me up.
Movement is good, but that’s one area where Dying Light 2 is like light years ahead. There’s no parkour at all. In fact, apart from a few mantle-able surfaces, Dead Island 2 offers no verticality at all. You are pretty much grounded at all times, there’s no freedom of movement. I mean even the smallest hedge or fence that appears and should be climbable is not climbable.
Visually speaking the game looks absolutely insane and runs pretty much at a locked 60fps on the PS5. Since it’s not a fully open-world game, but a series of smaller open-world-ish maps, there’s no “lazy” copy-and-paste content. Each and every one of the locations is hand-crafted and filled to the brim with tiny details that make this world come alive even though pretty much everyone is dead. The game doesn’t really have a full day and night cycle, but it does have a day or night version of each of the maps. During the day the lighting is absolutely gorgeous making everything pop while the night is dark and kinda spooky. It’s the best of both worlds. The interiors like the big modern homes, stores, bars, police stations, the metro, etc. are super impressive to see and explore.
The characters look amazing with some great facial animations and the voice work is impeccable. Zombies look impressive too. There are a few different types like the walker, the runner, the bloater, the explodey one, the big brute, etc. Then there are also special elemental variations like zombies that spit fire, explode with electricity, spew caustic venom at you, and so on. Between them, there is a lot of variety in their clothes from blue-collar workers, firefighters, policemen, and soldiers to joggers, and zombies in suits, in dresses, and all sorts of costumes. Hell, there are even food delivery zombies carrying those big backpacks that drop lots of consumables when killed.
Man, I can talk for hours about this game. As I said at the beginning, I wasn’t expecting much from the game before going in, but I ended up just absolutely loving it. Punching, bashing, slicing, dropkicking, and exploding virtual monsters have never looked and felt this beautiful, gory, brutal, and satisfying. Dead Island 2 is truly impressive and I highly recommend you play it. That’s it, I’m going back to Hell-A now to play some co-op cause if slaying zombies solo is so much fun, I can only imagine what it’ll be like with two other friends. Thanks for reading!
The game was reviewed on a PS5 using a promo code provided by Plaion. Dead Island 2 is now available on PC, Playstation and Xbox.