Dead Island 2 is something that I’d assumed was vaporware after all this time. Years of delays and multiple developer changes are never a good look, and I wasn’t sure the game would ever see the light of day. Against all odds, developer Dambuster Studios is nearing the finish line, and the game releases next month. I got to take an early peek at the game and, I have to say, it felt pretty good to be back on Dead Island. Although the game is set in Los Angeles, which isn’t an island. I guess you can’t just rename the franchise, huh?
Dead Island 2 begins with you picking from a selection of over-the-top main characters with different stats and gameplay focuses. I picked Carla, a tough-talking Latina, but there’s a whole range to choose from. Regardless of who you go with, the plane the protagonist is riding crashes due to zombies getting onboard. Shortly afterward, our hero meets up with a celebrity and her posse and then attempts to aid a couple of injured survivors. The celeb and her group soon bail when a ton of undead crash the party, but not before inviting the protag to her mansion.
Your hero ends up getting bitten before making a beeline for the celeb’s mansion. As luck would have it, they’re immune, and they’re able to get to the mansion before the game sends you off to find the authorities to escape from LA. I was curious to see how Dead Island 2 would work, as most of the DNA of the other games ended up in Techland’s Dying Light series. Suffice to say, LA isn’t an open world. Just like the original games, it’s set in zones that you have to traverse while doing main quests, side quests, and dealing with zombies. It’s a surprising choice, but it definitely ends up feeling much more like a Dead Island game than Dying Light.
What’s in your head?
As always, it’s up to you to scavenge melee items which can be upgraded. You’ll use these to combat the undead in vicious fashion. To put it mildly, Dead Island 2 is probably the most gruesome zombie game I’ve ever played. The amount of detail in the gore is really something else. Damn near every part of a zombie’s body can be realistically destroyed: legs get sliced off; faces take a dizzying amount of damage. After hitting a zombie in the face repeatedly, you can see it break into multiple tiny “wiggling zones” (it’s hard to describe, to be honest). Or maybe their jaws will fall off or swing from their skulls.
The melee combat is more impactful and disgusting than probably even Dying Light offers. As always, you have your default weapon swings or heavy swings. You can also block attacks as Carla, although other playable characters have a dodge. If you time your blocks well (which is quite easy as the system is lenient), you’ll launch into a counter-attack animation that will often kill an enemy outright. As Carla, at least, I was taking advantage of this to wipe up zombies.
Weapon types have varying finishers, although the one that sticks in my mind the most is the bare-handed one where you put your entire fist through a zombie’s face. It’s nasty. You can also take advantage of environmental effects such as fire, electricity, and water. Grab a car battery and throw it in the pool for an easy zombie fry. And you’ll naturally be healing up by grabbing all sorts of snacks and energy drinks as you explore.
I was doubtful, but I had a blast playing the early part of Dead Island 2 and I want to get back to the wanton carnage. Although I don’t know how many times I can take seeing those broken faces.