It has taken years for Dead Island 2 actually to come to fruition. Now that it is here, is this game worth its $70 price tag? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for in this game.
When you look up the term “development hell,” chances are high that you will see a picture of Dead Island 2. Many developers’ hands touched the sequel to 2011’s somewhat well-received Dead Island until it achieved its final form, which is coming in just days.
The game was first announced at E3 2014 with Dying Light 1 and 2’s developer Techland initially tasked with bringing the sequel to home consoles. That did not pan out because Techland was already working on something quite similar in Dying Light and left development on the game to focus on their new game, an intelligent decision on their part.
Publisher Deep Silver had to move fast to find another developer leading to Spec Ops: The Line creators Yager Development taking on the job. They worked on Dead Island 2 for a couple of years, bringing it to some conventions, but Deep Silver dropped Yager for whatever reason.
Dead Island 2 looked as lifeless as a corpse at the time, with Deep Silver shopping the sequel around again. Eventually, Hood: Outlaws & Legends studio Sumo Digital took over development in March 2016. Sumo didn’t stay too long and also bounced from development.
The game would change hands again with Homefront: The Revolution creator Dambuster Studios finally bringing the game across the finish line.
Now with all of that, is this the game we have been waiting for years to play?
This Aint The First Dead Island Game
Fans of Dead Island will immediately notice that this is not the game Techland developed in 2011 in numerous ways, and we will touch on that. Dead Island 2 does share similarities with the previous game. Before you embark on your adventure to get out of Los Angeles, aka “HELL-A,” you must choose from six “Slayers,” who are also the survivors of a plane crash that was initially taking them to safety.
Each of the Slayers has specific strengths, weaknesses, and reasoning for trying to get out of HELL-A. They all share one quality: they are immune to the virus turning Los Angeles residents into mindless zombies and somehow want to help find a cure for the zombie plague.
For my run, I played the game with Jacob. Once you make your selection, you stick with your choice through your entire playthrough.
Also gone is the ability to drive vehicles like in the first game, but that’s by design because the map is not as expansive as the first Dead Island game, where you must travel great distances where walking by foot is not optimal.
The map is broken up into different sections to which players can quickly travel, either by walking or using fast travel when that option becomes available.
Also introduced is a new card system broken up into four main categories of skills–Abilities, Survivor, Slayer, and Numen. You earn cards by defeating zombies or completing sidequests and missions.
Where This Game Wins
Dead Island 2 nails the fun part. I enjoyed traveling across HELL-A and mindlessly destroying zombies across the map.
What was also appreciated is how much smaller each location is. Traveling doesn’t feel like a chore in this game, like in Dead Island. Even driving across that map felt annoying at times.
The first location you arrive at is Bel-Air as you search for a movie star hunkering down in her mansion with her celebrity-obsessed assistant and an older woman. Fans of Dead Island will be happy to see that Sam B, a character from the first game, shows up.
The mansion serves as your base of operations and where some of the survivors you encounter will go after you complete their sidequests.
You will eventually find yourself on Hollywood film lot, Venice Beach, Ocean Ave, and other popular LA locations where the dead now rule completing different missions trying to uncover what in the world is going on and finding new powerful weapons to use.
No One Way To Kill A Zombie
Dead Island 2 keeps the game simple by delivering mindless, fun zombie-killing action. The card system also ups the ante by allowing you to build your Slayer how you want.
Weapons come in two forms, melee and ranged. You get throwables that can be used sparingly. Weapons still degrade if you use them too much and will break. While it can be annoying, it forces players to try out new weapons and make special ones by adding different perks via the workbench.
Once you get your hands on guns, things dramatically shift in your favor, but some walkers still pose a challenge to even firearms.
Your zombie bite also gifts you zombie-like abilities. Eventually, you can activate a fury meter turning you into a zombie-destroying machine and allowing you to dish out damage with your bare hands.
The gore in the game is absolutely delicious. Seeing the zombies lose limbs, eyeballs hang out their heads, or melt never gets old and is always rewarding. You can also use the environment around you as a weapon,
Each location has different hazards, like flammable tanks, electrified water, or pools of acid to dispose of hordes of the undead.
There are also different types of zombies you will encounter throughout your playthrough. You will either face meddling or Apex walkers with different abilities.
Some require a strategy to kill; for example, you must hit muscle-bound zombies called Crushers in the arms and legs to inflict severe damage.
Dead Island 2 isn’t blowing away other games graphics-wise, but the character models look good, and the peeling/damage system is impressive.
Dead Island 2 feels like a game that has taken years to be made and does feel dated at times. If it came out years ago, this game would be fantastic in its current state, but right now, it feels like they just wanted to get the game out finally.
But that is not a bad thing. The game is fun to play. If you don’t care about a story from a 1980s B-horror movie, then this game is worth your time.
Now, is it worth $70? That all depends on how you feel after you complete the game. The game’s “final boss” doesn’t feel like it should have been the end-all, be-all. While I was not happy with the final battle, I felt like Dambuster Studios wants to leave players with the impression that the ending is more “to be continued” with hopes of keeping things going with story DLC or an expansion like Dead Island: Riptide.
I also didn’t get a chance to experience playing with friends, so that might add another element to the game. So I am strongly considering returning when the game launches because I enjoyed my time with Dead Island 2.
Dead Island 2 isn’t a classic, nor will it be in the discussion for Game of The Year, but it’s one of those cases where you get an enjoyable video game, but the price could have been just a tad bit lower.
Still, it’s a vast improvement over the first game addressing many of the issues plaguing 2011’s Dead Island, so yes, you should give Dead Island 2 a chance or wait for a sale.
Photo: Dambuster Studios / Plaion Games / Deep Silver / Dead Island 2
*Dead Island 2 review key for PS5 provided by Deep Silver*
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