Following almost a decade in development hell, Deep Silver and Dambuster Studio’s first-person, action-packed, gore-fest sequel takes place in Los Angeles, painting the Golden State blood red. Fans of the earlier games can expect to find the skeleton of the franchise remains intact, with updated mechanics, dark humour and of course, gloriously gory graphics, as they take to the streets of HELL-A.
Dead Island 2 is ready to splatter your screens on PlayStation, Xbox and PC through Epic Games from £59.99 ($69.99 USD).
Story – Welcome to HELL-A
The virus has made it to LA, and a failed evacuation sees you taking control of one of six slayers to navigate the living dead world of Dead Island 2. The main story follows the usual zombie apocalypse protocol – survive, find other survivors and survive some more. While not delivering a Hollywood-worthy movie in its Hollywood setting, the story finds charm in its goofy cutscenes and over-the-top characters. I found Dead Island 2‘s environment and collectible journals/audio logs also craft more intimate stories. These inject a personal touch to each scene you explore, leaving you invested in the infected.
Gameplay – Slay and Destroy
Dead Island 2‘s combat is the rotten meat of the game with a variety of murder tools bringing the visceral pleasure of tearing apart viscera with R2. The overhaul of gruesome butchering wouldn’t be possible without the walking corpses. The procedurally generated FLESH system created by the developers makes the slaying of zombies extra satisfying, especially when paired with the Dual Sense’s haptic feedback. Bladed weapons slice through the layers of fatty tissue to the bone, while blunt weapons send chunks of flesh flying.
Modification slots allow you to add perks to each weapon, enhancing stats such as speed, damage, and adding elemental damage. I found these upgrades are necessary as you progress, each variant of the infected having their own weaknesses. There are a wide range of zombie types to be discovered too, all as grisly as each other, and the more of a zombie type you kill, the zompedia updates with hints to quicken the slaughtering. From the slow Shamblers to the poison spewing Slobbers, if you endeavor to kill all you encounter, the easier your stay in HELL-A.
Whenever melee combat begins to lose its edge, the level designs are set up for you to get creative. Observe your environment and use it to your advantage. Use car batteries to create electrifying swimming pools and throwable objects like meat bait to lure in the walking dead. This element of game design is amplified during your play through, with certain areas encouraging you to cause more chaos.
Slayers and Skill Cards
Each slayer has their own personality and quips, as well as traits which affect gameplay. Choosing who to slay as can be a difficult decision, as while the story remains the same, once selected you are locked in for the game. I chose Carla, whose high resilience and toughness attributes worked to my advantage as I clumsily slaughtered zombies (and accidentally electrocuted myself.) If you aren’t satisfied with your killing techniques, then there are multiple save slots for you to test out each slayer’s style.
The original Dead Island skill tree has been uprooted, in its place skill cards to collect through exploration or completing objectives. The ability to swap between cards enables you to create a skill deck which complements your play style, so they can be used to balance any weaknesses. I swapped the Block ability for the Dodge skill when available, this better suiting my flurry of slash attacks approach. Co-op play has also made a return, allowing up to three other slayers to join you in the bloody carnage.
Graphics and Audio – Mind-bashing Design
If you weren’t aware by now, Dead Island 2 prides itself on gore. With the aforementioned FLESH system being the un-beating heart of the game, layers of skin, muscle and bone fall apart with disgusting attention to detail. Despite the gloopy contents of zombies being the center of attention, great care has been taken with the world’s design too. Each setting has hints of the lives who lived there before, and the beautiful, sunny surroundings of LA make an excellent contrast to the dismembering of decaying limbs.
The gruesome graphics would not hit as hard unless matched with juicy audio design. And Dead Island 2’s infected are dripping with it. Literally. Sounds such as the stabbing of a watermelon, snapping frozen celery and crushing walnuts are layered together, exaggerated and synchronised with brutal blows, to make a satisfying squelch on contact. The upbeat music amplifies the tension in high-paced action moments, although avoids becoming too loud to miss the warning gurgles of infected nearby.
Dead Island 2 was reviewed on PS5.