Nine years ago, Dead Island 2 entered the public zeitgeist with a vibrant and funny reveal trailer. It teased a new, colourful setting in L.A. whilst doubling down on that irreverent tone of the original game. However, as the years passed on, the rumour mill began to churn out tales of internal struggles, with the project switching development hands and being delayed time and time again. When the review code eventually landed in our inbox — a mere eight years after its proposed 2015 release window — we couldn't help but feel sceptical. Thankfully, our pessimism was met with utter surprise, as Dead Island 2 isn't just a cohesive zombie-slayer — it's a pretty good one.
Dead Island 2 is an open-levelled RPG, set within the zombie-infested streets of Los Angeles, and right away we're touching on one of our favourite aspects of this sequel. 'Hell-A', as it's coined, isn't an enormous open world filled with an overwhelming number of icons. It's actually made up of 10 carefully curated open levels, ranging from the millionaire mansions of Bel-Air to the labyrinthine sound stages of Monarch Studios. It's totally refreshing to be given manageable spaces to explore that feel purposeful and unique in their own ways. There aren't repetitive areas, we aren't left running for miles on end to get to our destination, and even the levels themselves range in both size and linearity. There are still side-quests and other content to work your way through, but these serve more as ways to study the environment a little closer, give you cooler weapons, and ultimately make you feel like a badass as you slay countless undead opponents.
It all means that each time we reached a new area, we were rubbing our hands together, looking forward to uncovering new world details offered up by its environment. And each new zone has its own flavour too, like the blood-soaked undead bridesmaids in the Halperin Hotel, or the bevy of muscly giants brought to their untimely demise at the Venice Beach strongman competition. The levels don't just influence where you're slaying zombies, but what kinds of zombies you're slaying, and it keeps you on your toes as you explore. Truthfully, we were completely won over by Dead Island 2's setting. It feels like a 2010 game in its scale, carefully and densely curated with all the graphical and mechanical prowess of a 2023 release — and we mean that in the best kind of way.
But what's a great zompocalypse — the game's term, not ours — without some fun zombie-slaying gameplay? Dead Island 2 thankfully moves on from the stilted game feel of its predecessor to deliver something fast-paced, dynamic, and horrifically gory. The game's 'FLESH' system really does make this some of the most satisfying zombie-killing put to the medium. With each slash, bash, and swing, skin and bones are torn, snapped, amputated, and mutilated before your very eyes. Bones jut out of removed legs as you swipe at them with katanas, eyes pop out of sockets as you bash skulls with hammers, and skin will burn away in real time as you wield some deadly acidic knuckle dusters. On the odd occasion, we felt the game could have done with more zombies on-screen at once, but if that was the cost of having highly detailed gore, we think it was well worth the price.
That's because the FLESH mechanic feeds into the weapons systems. It isn't anything groundbreaking, or even new to the franchise, as you fiddle with weapon classes, perks, and damage types. However, the chaos you can cause with said weapons becomes a case of morbid curiosity. What would a sledgehammer with an impact mod do to a zombie's skull? How easily could you slice off limbs with an acid-tinged sword? It's a fun form of bloody experimentation that entices you into its weapons modification in a way that most games fail to do.
That being said, it's guilty of the video game sin of filling your inventory with too many pointless things. You'll spend nearly every waking moment of your exploration of L.A collecting various doodads as you loot suitcases, drawers, cupboards, car boots, shelves, safes, chests, trucks, and even the zombies themselves. All of these knick-knacks are used to craft up the deadliest of weapons, but we'd be lying if we said the rigmarole of looting didn't get old after a while. The influx of bigger and better weapons means you're constantly having to decide between ditching the weapons you like for something with higher stats and a different tier.
Then there's the card system, which works through the game's six playable characters, a mechanic that feels like a scaled back version of something originally intended for more. At the beginning of your campaign, you'll choose your own protagonist, each with their own personality, skills, and traits. We chose the foul-mouthed Irishwoman, Dani, who prioritises stamina but still packs a punch with her Thunderstruck explosion ability. We were relatively surprised by the personality on show during the game's cutscenes, but it all began to feel a bit pointless. Dialogue for all the NPCs was generic as to fit each of the six protagonists, and since you couldn't switch characters during the game's campaign, nor is there any difference to the campaign based on who you play, there was really no reason to replay it all just to try out a different character type. And really, the less we say about the game's run-of-the-mill storyline, the better.
Of course, the bigger feature here are the cards themselves, which will apply a bunch of passive and unique abilities to your character. There is certainly a depth to the kind of builds you can craft as you unlock and discover more cards across the campaign. For Dani, we used the likes of an impact amplifier for our drop kick, and you can mix up your ultimate-styled Fury Mode ability to rampage through hordes of zombies. However, outside one or two key skills and the odd boss fight, we really weren't compelled to dive deep into the card system, especially when just slashing and smashing away would be just as fun and effective.
In the end, though, Dead Island 2 is a refreshing surprise amid the 2023 release roster. It's a fun and simple zombie-slasher experience that may be let down by its uninspiring RPG elements and boring loot-cycle, but more than makes up for it with its killer setting, brutal melee combat, and stunning graphics. While we suspect some will be disappointed by the game's size after all these years, we found it utterly revitalising to find a AAA experience that respects your time, and more importantly doesn't overstay its welcome. In the day and age of 300-hour RPGs, it's nice to know that some games are here for a fun time, not a long time.
"Looks incredible and runs like a dream"
I didn't see that coming.
This being even halfway competent is shocking to me.
Nice. The (first three) cons are actually not that bad. Happy to see it turned out well.
@naruball They are mindless fun. Would be a solid PS+ game down the road.
I've been waiting for this game for so long and it seems to be exactly what I wanted from it.
Nice, can't wait to get stuck in
"Run of the mill story" Color me surprised... lol
Will wait for it to reach Extra.
Awesome! Looks like a fun time 😁 on me purchase list for sure (it's a long list).
Dying light 2 got a ton of 7s and I was left very underwhelmed by it all when completed its campaign. Just hoping DI2 ends up a much more satisfying 7 when get round to it. It does look more fun and much more colorful in comparison to DL2s brown muddy crap everywhere
I think this is going to fill the zombie shaped hole in my life that Dying Light 2 failed to do. Can’t wait.
Reviews all coming in around the same mark.
Sounds like a buy it on sale game to me. There are far too many better games to be putting down £60 on this.
And with that I have completely flip flopped from not buying, to buying, to being happy to wait for a deep sale in 24 hours!
Well this is a nice surprise. Its nice to see a game thats been in development hell actually come out good. Could have easily been another duke nukem forever. Il get this down the line tho, too close to jedi survivor unfortunately
Even with a 7 this is shaping up to be just as amazing as I'd hoped. I just want it to give me the feels that Dying Light did.
Cool. Will grab it on saleeeeeeeeeeahhhhhh!
Another average game.
Guess I’m spoilt with PS5 and Switch exclusives.
DualSense..? At the beginning every review had some information about the controller but lately it‘s never mentioned
Jedi survivor gets my money , ill get this in a sale.
Gonna wait for a sale unfortunately..
The game is really pretty and I know this is going to be petty.. but at 4:18 in the review video the protagonist walks in front of a mirror and you literally see nothing.. not even a blur.. next gen? Nah..
Still looks like stupid fun though.. hopefully it comes to Plus before a sale happens but I doubt it
Cool. A 7 is a good score.dead Island 2 is a good game.word up son
I was expecting to be mid.
If DF gives it a good mark for how it runs then I'll definitely grab it once it goes on sale.
“The game's 'FLESH' system really does make this some of the most satisfying zombie-killing put to the medium. With each slash, bash, and swing, skin and bones are torn, snapped, amputated, and mutilated before your very eyes. Bones jut out of removed legs as you swipe at them with katanas, eyes pop out of sockets as you bash skulls with hammers, and skin will burn away in real time as you wield some deadly acidic knuckle dusters. On the odd occasion, we felt the game could have done with more zombies on-screen at once, but if that was the cost of having highly detailed gore, we think it was well worth the price.”
Sometimes I wonder if people unfamiliar with games would read a paragraph like that and think we were all psychos.😳 Not a criticism in any way, just a funny thought I had.😄
Seven years ago I was interested. Now? Hmm…maybe. Probably wait for a sale. At $20, I’d pull the trigger. So, in about 2 years it’ll be in my collection.
@WolfyTn yeah that mirror thing is a bit weird actually. Almost looks like an oversight.
Deal breaker alert. No character reflection in bathroom mirror at 4:20. What's the deal with that?
Seriously all I need now is a good PS4 PRO review. Maybe mirror relections will be patched in.
@Beerheadgamer82 yeah dying light 2, the first few hours are great then it got very monotonous ,this looks like the type of game you'll come back to again and again, I can see myself imagining the zombies are work colleagues, after a stressful day with a workplace full of nobheads 😁
@WolfyTn no it isn't petty ,things like this do my head in,im still pissed off at days gone ,deacons invisible torch,especially since npcs have them.
@NoCode23 From the tech video reviews I have seen PS4 Pro runs pretty well. It is 1440p at 30fps rather than around 1800p 60ps on PS5. Also randomly the trees and vegetation are static in the PS4 versions but overall looks good!
I wonder if you can remove that immersion-breaking label over every zombie's head
I'll likely pick it up on sale in the future.
This is truly one of the video games of all time!
Honestly this is a perfect ps plus title or wait until it's well under $20 usd title. I'll pick it up when it is such.
Good, dumb fun.
@AaronBayne What is the length of this campaign? Is there different difficult settings? Is there any replay value (for trophies maybe)? What about the use of dual sense?
Can't wait!!!! Me and my brother are huge fans of the first so we can't wait to get into this and now with crossplay and discord we'll be able to game together. Really looking forward to it 😊
@tallythwack ha that's one way of looking at it I suppose. Games have been known at times to be a good stress relief, like taking the frustrations out on sledgehammering some zombies to smithereens. Games like Powerwash Simulator and Flower can also be good for the mind in a different kinda ways
It sounds like a lot of fun to play, I'll take well designed levels over an open world any day for games like this and being able to ignore the card system only adds to the attraction. All I need is some fun ways to kill zombies
Does this mean we'll get the 1st game as a Plus game or on a sale?
This is about what I expected! Looking forward to picking Dead island 2 up for $20 New or free with PS+ in a few years.
@gamer_since_83 It's 25 Hours according to How Long To Beat
Somehow refreshing ..12yr on it has no right to be blame Dying light for using the template and taking it back a peg
My time on this planet is too brief to be playing 7/10’s.
Releasing a PS4 game in 2023? Yikes!!
@Yoop I remember 7 years ago people wishing PSVR support for games, 7 years later and nothings changed.
Unfortunately PSVR2 was DOA nice Sony revealed the price.
A game that respects the player’s time - that’s a big selling point. The industry needs to move away from the notion that we all want 100+ hour epics and players should accept that it’s not an entitlement. Some recent, shorter games have been accused of being too expensive - this never happened twenty years ago - why now?
The run-of-the-mill storyline is an all-too-familiar commentary. Click on any posting for a narrative designer/writer role in the games industry and the vast majority require years of experience from the applicant. Why do we not see this experience translate to the screen? Why does the story design not match the quality of the gameplay design? Too many games nowadays have lacklustre writing that players simply gloss over.
The card system always sounds like a turn-off. Perhaps it’s just personal opinion, but it’s such an immersion breaking concept and has no place outside the most hardcore of roleplaying games.
I strongly recommend going into the settings and disable damage numbers. Most zombies are easily killed and without the big numbers flashing on the screen with every hit, it lets you better see all that glorious gore and (in my opinion) makes for a more enjoyable experience.
Tap here to load 47 comments
Leave A Comment
Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...