Who do you voodoo, bitch? You’re about to find out in our Dead Island 2 review.
It’s been a long time coming folks, but after 9 years of development hell, Dead Island 2 is finally here! It has had a rocky road going through 3 different companies to develop the game. But is it worth the wait? That’s what we’re here to discuss today. So grab your bat and load some rounds as we dive head first into our Dead Island 2 review.
Dead Island 2 Review – Out of Development Hell
Like I said before, DI2 went through Development Hell over the 9 years since it was announced in 2014 during the Sony press conference at E3. I still remember watching the original teaser trailer and having it stuck in my head weeks later. But as the years went on, I honestly forgot about the game even being a thing until a new trailer was dropped in 2022 at Gamescom.
Maybe they died waiting for the game to finally release?
The developers of the original Dead Island, Techland, were originally slated to make the sequel but they decided to focus on the critically acclaimed Dying Light instead. Deep Silver were then approached by Yager Development in 2012, who pitched their idea for the game and got the deal. Theirs was actually the trailer we saw back in 2014.
Yep, that trailer. How could you forget it?
In 2015 though, Yager was removed from the project and instead Sumo Digital were given the reins in 2016. History repeated itself however and after Sumo were removed, Dambuster Studios took over in 2019 and were the ones who finally brought the game back from the dead. Literally.
Dead Island 2 Review – Story
It’s been 15 years since the initial outbreak of the zombie plague (you’d think they’d be able to put all the walking corpses in the ground by now), the virus has spread far off Banoi and we now find ourselves in the heart of L.A where a newer and larger outbreak has started.
Stay and slay in Hell-A!
We take the role 1 of 6 “Slayers” and our task is to rip, tear and shoot our way through “Hell-A” to find survivors, a way out and potentially a cure to all of this. But what sets these 6 bozos apart from the rest of society? Well, they’re immune. After being bitten early in the game we find our “heroes” waking up alive and well, but are they all their usual selves?
Dead Island 2 Review – Gameplay
If you played the first Dead Island you know what you’re in for: a first-person zombie slayfest. As you explore the world, you’ll find a multitude of different weapons. Most of the weapons you’ll find are a variety of melee weapons which also come under their own categories.
Maiming weapons specialise in dealing extra damage to limbs, allowing you to break and slice them off much easier. Frenzy weapons are your lightweight, fast striking weapons. They won’t deal much damage initially but as you continue to hit a zombie, crits will start to build up and easily take them down. Headhunter weapons are for those who want a precision strike against the heads of the undead, helping to deal far more damage and typically also have longer reach.
Sometimes your own body is the best melee weapon of all.
Finally, for your melee weapons are the bulldozer weapons. Bulldozer weapons are your slow but hard hitting weapons, for example your clubs and sledgehammers. Dealing increased damage and knockback, there are few things more enjoyable than winding up a heavy attack and sending a brain eater flying. Though, being able to drop kick a zombie through a window is up there. Honestly the best thing about the weapons themselves is, especially the maiming and bulldozer weapons, they actually feel like they have some weight behind them when you swing.
As you progress through the story, you’ll eventually be able to find your first guns. Nothing really special to say about these damage dealers, only that they’re perfect for keeping zombies at a good distance. Though be prepared to try finding plenty of ammo and crafting materials. The final way to deal damage won’t come until halfway through the game when you unlock Fury Mode. Tapping into your inner zombie, you go feral and claw and hit everything in your path.
This talk show is getting heated.
Though I also found the combat to not even be that difficult. I mostly found that I died more to environmental hazards than getting bitten or hit by zombies. Dying didn’t even give much of a penalty. You kept all your items and just respawned nearby, if I lost money I didn’t even notice. The combat is easy to pick up for beginners, but it also feels a little hand-holdy at times.
Perks, Skills, and Crafting
As with every other self-respecting action adventure game nowadays, DI2 has a perk system but with a twist! Unlike the usual perk tree, DI2 wants you to play a card game by building your own deck with skill cards. These fall into 4 categories: Abilities, Survivor, Slayer and Numen.
Abilities are exactly what they say on the tin; these give your slayer unique attack options that will be unlocked as you play through the story. Survivor skills are primarily your skills that will heal you and keep you in the fight. On the flip side of that coin we have the slayer cards which improve your offensive capabilities. Finally you have the Numen cards which do… well… that’s a secret I’ll let you all experience for yourselves.
Door? What door?
You’ll gain more skill cards as you progress through the story but you’ll even be able to find some just out in the world. Along with the collectible skill cards, each slayer also has their own innate skill cards that they will start the game with. These are only unique to these characters, so choose wisely.
Crafting is back in DI2 and it’s a bit more in-depth then it’s predecessor. The mods and blueprints can be unlocked by completing quests or can be found in the world. These will give your weapons unique skills from dealing extra limb damage to causing an explosion when you kill a zombie with it. Just be prepared to face the ground for most of the game as you constantly pick up crafting materials.
The group that slays together, stays together. Co-op returns in DI2 but with one notable difference. Unlike the previous instalment, DI2 will only allow for a maximum of 3 players in one session. While this isn’t a terrible choice, it seems more odd than anything. Though while it’s always better to play with friends, I didn’t find it any more challenging.
Hell-A is a hell of a hell hole.
Typically a game that offers co-op will rack up the difficulty to make it more challenging for a group, but DI2 doesn’t seem to do that. I didn’t find the zombies to be any more difficult than normal, which just made the game a breeze.
Dead Island 2 Review – Visuals
Choosing LA for the setting was always going to lead to some very beautiful locations. From the suburban areas of Bel-Air and Beverly Hills, to the sun-kissed sands of Venice Beach, most of the locations look stunning. That being said, two places that aren’t stunning are the sewers and the metro. I never expected them to be gorgeous or anything, but they are atmospheric.
Despite there being both a day and night setting for each area, nowhere is more creepy than the sewers and metro. I constantly found myself making sure I didn’t get jumped around each corner, which was only amplified by the eerie darkness.
To bring it back to ground level just quickly, I did like how the zombies all had different attire for where you find them. You can find zombies in suits on Ocean Avenue while you’ll find others in bikinis and other swimwear on Venice Beach. Though I feel it was a missed opportunity that they didn’t have a single zombie on roller-skates.
The gore system is really gonna blow your balls off. In a good way.
Finally, I want to talk about the gore system. Oh the gore system, truly second to none. I’ve never seen a game that had such a detailed system for damage. You slice a zombie across the chest and its reflected with a gaping wound. You hit them over the head and you can expect to see some eyeballs dangling from sockets. You disembowel them and you can bet you’ll see some guts leak out. Basically what I’m trying to say is, it’s awesome.
Dead Island 2 Review – Sound Design
For the most part, there’s nothing that really stands out for the sound that’s fantastic. Sure, the ambient music is great for setting the tone, it’s not really something that I took notice of. However, one thing I definitely took notice of was the sound design for when you’re fighting in the metro and sewers. Each movement, grunt and just any sound effect in general just sounds weird.
An example of the strange audio effect that you’ll encounter.
You can tell the developers were trying to go for an echo effect, but instead it sounds like some sort of cross between an echo and the fish bowl effect, you know the muffled sound that’s used when a character is typically underwater or in a vacuum. While it isn’t 100% immersion breaking, it’s definitely jarring because once you notice it, you can’t unnotice it.
Dead Island 2 Review – Shortcomings
I just want to say that while I did very much enjoy this game, it’s not exactly perfect. First off: the story. Now I’m not going to go into much detail here as I know some people still don’t know what happens at the end. But by the time you have reached the final few missions, the story seems to have gone off the rails, in a bad way. I like me a good cliché storyline, it’s the good old go-to when you don’t want to break the mould and subvert expectations.
It’s like they were reading the story straight from a script.
That being said, this story stopped being a cliché halfway through the game when we find out there’s something more as to why we aren’t turning. Then once you’ve reached the end it feels like the writers couldn’t make up their mind so they picked something and rushed it out the door. It just feels like a bit of a flop. The ending is also open ended with the writers teasing a sequel storyline or even DLC to tie it up. The storyline was also fairly short. If I hadn’t taken the time to play through side missions and challenges, I could have knocked it out in a day if not a few hours.
Choosing your character has very little impact on how you play. While the character’s initial stats and skill cards may have some bearing on how your character functions, I want to just remind everyone about how the first 4 Slayers played in the original Dead Island. Each of the 4 had a weapon type they were proficient in and were given skills and bonuses based on that.
Even better were their Fury skills. Sam B raged out and hit things harder, Xian Mei took put a knife and cut zombies down with a frenzy of stabs and slashes, Logan took out throwing knives and used them to either severally damage if not outright kill the walkers and finally Purna had a revolver with infinite ammo. Whereas, with our new group, it’s all the same.
Yass girl, slaaay!
Yes, you can augment your Fury with skill cards but for the most part everyone just slashes and claws. Some may argue that because these characters are more well rounded than the original Slayers, they don’t need a unique Fury. But at the same time it takes away the individuality of the characters. Despite the fact there’s 6 playable characters, two more than the original game, I didn’t feel the need to load up a different Slayer knowing they played pretty much the same as the last one.
While I did sing the praises on how the game looks earlier, I will say the areas are too big. That is to say the zombies are scattered and you can easily run through with little combat or at best you may come across a group of 5 zombies at most unless the mission is scripted for you to fight a horde.
If only I could just conveniently walk around them…
While I also spoke at length about the great gore system visuals, there was one visual I was definitely not impressed with: the lack of reflections. Not once can you look in the many mirrors of Hell-A and see yourself staring back. But at the same time, they also put in enough detail to your character’s shadow that you can see the intricate parts of a gun reload. It was just disappointing that they decided to skip over this detail. Maybe the characters are just vampires instead of zombies?
Something I didn’t mention earlier but when you kill a zombie you will sometimes get a sweet slow-mo shot. Now while this is cool, it did become overdone quite quickly as you could get the slow-mo shots even randomly from a zombie dying somewhere nearby from some environmental hazards.
Slo-mo can get old quickly.
Finally, and this is more of a nitpick, but too many lockboxes. Throughout each map there are a bunch of locked containers the you need to find the key for. The key will be located on a nearby named zombie but this wont happen until a set point has been reached on the story. This is all well and good, but where it further falls short is the moment you find the key you need to try and find the container again. While the containers are marked on the map, there’s no label. Meaning you could be running around the map for a while just to find the right container.
Dead Island 2 is an extremely fun game that doesn’t mess with the dumb gameplay of bashing around zombies. However, not every game is perfect. Between the rushed ending and the audio problems, it feels like they wanted to ship this game out ASAP. It’s always a little worrying when a game is set to come out of Development Hell, the vast majority of the time it’s either a glitchy piece of garbage or just boring.
Dead Island 2 is definitely far better than most other games that have been through Development Hell, but I wish they had taken a little extra time to polish it up before shipping it out. Plus while it wad fun to play as Dani, I don’t see myself going out of my way to start up a playthrough with any of the other 5 Slayers. Also, we’re not even on an island now! Should have called it Dead… City?
So, why should you play Dead Island 2?
- You love a good mindless zombie slayfest
- You like some variety in your weapons and zombies
- You enjoy exploring a map to find secrets
But why shouldn’t you play Dead Island 2?
- You want a storyline with a better pay-off
- Not a fan of the zombie genre
- You want your game to come with a bit more polish for your money.
- You prefer your games to be a bit more of a challenge in combat
A review code on Xbox Series X was kindly provided by the publisher for our Dead Island 2 review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out more of our reviews here and jump on the Qualbert Discord to chat with us about all the latest and upcoming games!