Dead Island 2 is everything its predecessor shined at and much, much more. This zombie shooter from Deep Silver brings us Los Angeles like we've never seen it before, full of beautiful landscapes, celebrities to rescue, and zombies to slay.
What you need to know
- What is it? A first-person zombie shooter set in a world of infected Los Angeles.
- Reviewed on: PlayStation 5
- Publisher: Deep Silver
- Developer: Dambuster Studios
- Release date: April 21, 2023
- Available on: PC , PlayStation 4 , PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S
Dead Island 2 review copy provided by the publisher.
Regardless of your preference for zombie shooters, if you consider yourself a gamer, you must have at least heard about the famous Dead Island, the shooter with a strong emphasis on melee combat that was released in 2011 and served as the model for many zombie shooters that came after.
Encouraged by the success and popularity of the first part, the developers of Dead Island, Deep Silver , decide, after three years, to announce the sequel to the popular game, and this is where the saga called Dead Island 2 begins. Nine years of production, several studios' involvement, and numerous delays resulted in the release of Dead Island's worthy successor, if a little overweighted by the huge expectations from fans of the series and common gamers alike.
In previous years, we saw a lot of games with zombie-killing gameplay mechanics, but not many of them had a memorable story. These games typically place an emphasis on the fantastic gameplay mechanics and tons of fun that can be had by eradicating the hordes of zombies in the most creative ways possible. Considering the type of game Dead Island 2 is, its story is more than decent, to say the least.
Everything starts when a plane carrying celebrities out of quarantined Los Angeles crashes unexpectedly, and our hero or heroine—depending on whom we choose to play with—and a group of other survivors decide to find an alternate way out of the living hell Los Angeles has become during the last couple of hours.
So, at first, everything smells like a giant story cliché we've heard a hundred times, but as the story unfolds, it becomes more and more intriguing, enigmatic, and mysterious, and to be honest, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the narrative as well as the manner in which it is told.
The entire story is told through 24 main quests, 33 side quests, and numerous documents you will come across while playing the game. Those documents are not mandatory and will only deepen some side aspects of the story, so if you miss some of them, you will generally miss very little.
The characters in Dead Island 2—whether they are the main or supporting characters—and everything associated with them in general, including their voice acting, facial expressions, and other aspects, deserve special appreciation. You can select from a female character named Amy or a male character named Jacob in the single-player mode. I pick Jacob, and let me just say that he is one of the most charismatic characters I have ever played with in my whole gaming career—and trust me, that career has been rather long.
Maybe his forced British accent or the cheesy jokes he tells throughout the game will bother some people, but in my opinion, everything about Jacob is so perfectly done that, for the roughly thirty hours it took me to complete the campaign with a few side quests and other content, I really enjoyed spending time with him.
The story's hurried conclusion and a surprising cliffhanger at the end of the campaign are two things I might quibble with, and I think most gamers will agree with me. It's clear to me that the people who were in charge of writing the story wanted to leave room for a sequel, which will more than obviously happen after the story of Dead Island 2. However, the ending itself will leave a sour taste in your mouth; you'll see what I'm talking about when you complete the main campaign.
I believe that for the majority of players, this will be the decisive aspect of whether they will buy Dead Island 2 or not, because, let's be honest, games like Dead Island 2 are bought for the frenetic pounding of tons of zombies of all kinds, not for the intellectual tale that will address some philosophical problems the mankind is craving for. So, if you are one of those players, I have some good news for you: Everything that was good and fun in the original Dead Island is here too, only this time it's doubled, if not tripled.
While playing the game, you will come across a large range of all sorts of melee weapons, such as axes, swords, bats, simple planks, hammers, sledgehammers, police bats, knives, and many, many more. All those weapons will be customizable on the workbenches scattered throughout the game. Also, you will be able to purchase new weapons and weapon modifications from the traders you will often encounter in the safe areas of each level.
Each melee weapon behaves differently, so for example, when using swords and knives, your attacks will be fast and will easily decapitate or mutilate a zombie, but will do less damage. Hammers or maces, on the other hand, are slow but will do more damage and almost certainly knock a zombie to the ground.
Apart from melee weapons that are the backbone of Dead Island 2's gameplay, various firearms will be available too. So you will be able to use shotguns, assault rifles, hunting rifles, sniper rifles, pistols, revolvers, SMGs, nailguns, and more, accompanied with a lot of throwables such as shurikens, pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails, acid bombs, and many more fit to spice up the combat in a vast variety of ways.
Every weapon can also be modified, making it behave completely differently in combat. For example, if you add a fire or acid mod to your assault rifle, it will do increased damage to most of the zombies by setting them on fire or melting them with acid. However, the zombies that are on fire or spitting acid will be immune to this kind of damage, so you will have to be creative and always keep in your inventory several weapons with several different modes.
Dead Island 2 is a semi-open-world game with ten different levels, each with a unique map, items to collect, and zombies to kill. These levels are the game's recreation of well-known places in Los Angeles, such as Malibu, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and more, including some popular landmarks within them. Travelling between levels is possible only from a few dedicated locations, and from the fast travel maps you will discover little later in the game.
Dead Island 2 really shines in terms of the design and variety of zombies. There are about 20 different types of zombies, and each one requires a different strategy to overcome. The interesting developers' choice is also not to include the difficulty levels within the game, only leveling, so if you want the gameplay to be a little more challenging, do the missions before reaching the recommended level. I believe in this way the developers are trying to encourage players to do more side missions and other side content.
Although the side missions are really intriguing, there is simply not enough side content to support them. It feels like a lost opportunity not to include additional collectibles in Dead Island 2, given that the game has a lot of open regions. The only in-game collectibles will be the blueprints for weapon mods and ammo that will be locked within safes and other locked items, with the key typically guarded by one of the most dangerous zombies in the vicinity. The idea is almost always the same. The other place you will be able to find those blueprints will be hidden behind locked areas with missing fuses that can be bought from every vendor for $1500.
When initially engaged, the combat may appear overly basic, but it is far more intricate than it first appears. Given that the combat is strongly emphasized on melee weapons, each blow landed on a different zombie part will have a different effect. So, if you keep hitting the zombie in its legs, they will fall off, making it stumble and crawl; if you keep hitting his arms, you will cut them off, and the zombie will attack you with its head.
Let's not forget to mention that Dead Island 2 has a co-op mode that can support up to four players. However, because there weren't many people playing the review copy of the game, I never had the chance to play in co-op, so I can't comment on it.
GRAPHICS AND SOUNDS
It's impossible for me to choose between the gameplay and graphics of Dead Island 2 as the component that most impresses me. Simply put, Dead Island 2 is a gorgeous game. You will fall in love with the graphical presentation of the game from the very first scene. I can say with certainty that no other video game I've played has ever used the kind of amazing fire effects or particle effects like this one does. You will frequently think you are watching a movie rather than playing a video game since the colors are so crisp and vibrant and the effects of lightning, poison clouds, fire, and smoke are so lifelike.
Indoor and outdoor game design is equally impressive. On one hand, the devs managed to depict the real beauty of the glamorous and shiny life of Los Angeles, while on the other hand, this entire glamour is falling apart under the unforgiving infestation of the undead army, making it look like a real paradise turned to hell overnight.
You will visit various levels at different times of day while playing the campaign, and once the game is finished, you can fast travel and choose what time of day you wish to visit a certain level. During various times of the day, each level appears and feels radically different, as if you were visiting two completely different locations. The difference is purely visual, though, so don't anticipate the zombies to behave differently during the day or night, as in some other titles, but the visual shift adds to the diversity and gives the impression that we actually have twenty game levels instead of just ten.
The zombie design is also very good and very impressive. I've already mentioned that there are a lot of different types of zombies, and all zombies are designed to look beautiful and scary at the same time. Try to imagine all the games that include zombies you have ever played and each zombie you encountered playing those games. Put them all together, and you will receive a pretty picture of what Dead Island 2 looks like.
The effects of killing and mutilating zombies are disgustingly mindblowing. If you manage to execute a perfect parry or block, you will be prompted to execute a counterattack, which will bring you close to a zombie's face. At that moment, you can see how the developers really paid attention to detail in designing zombies in Dead Island 2. For example, if you hit the zombie's head with a blunt weapon hard enough, it might cause its eyeballs to pop out, and while these effects can be really disgusting, design perfection is something that must be praised.
Although the game doesn't enable ray tracing effects, which is somewhat strange given that this option is practically mandatory for contemporary games like Dead Island 2, some other effects, such as modern reflections and improved lighting, are also available and extremely well handled. Although there isn't a fidelity or performance mode on the PlayStation 5 where I played the game, perhaps the developers will add it in later patches.
Regarding performance on PlayStation 5, Dead Island 2 runs perfectly at a stable 60 frames per second with no technical difficulties at all.
Dead Island 2's sounds are, shall we say, neither the best nor the worst. Certainly, the music enhances the ambience, but I can't say that any one song or musical theme stood out to me throughout the entire game. The sounds of the weapons, however, are something I must compliment; they sound incredibly real, unique, and potent, as well as the sounds of zombies and ambience in general.
Dead Island 2 is a sequel to the first Dead Island that took everything that was good about the first game and multiplied it. It also added some significant depth to the gameplay, particularly the fighting mechanics, and a story that is surprisingly strong considering how typically mediocre the stories of these types of games are. If we add the beautiful visual presentation, as well as solid voice acting and level design, to the equation, the final result will be an almost perfect zombie shooter with some minor issues that are simply not strong enough to spoil the overall impression of an extremely good video game.