Dead Island 2 review — A zombie slaying paradise

Dead Island 2 is Dambuster Studios’ highly anticipated, long-awaited title that we’ve been waiting for ever since its reveal at E3 all the way back in 2014. Since then, it’s been through development hell, gone through several delays and developers, with many fans convinced it will never see the light of day. Many fans except me, however, because as a longtime fan of the Dead Island series, I held on to hope for many years. Now, after having finally played it, I can happily say that the game has surpassed all my expectations, but it’s also yet to leave me completely satisfied. 

DEAD ISLAND 2: Ultimate Co-op Gameplay Experience! 🧟‍♂️🔥

For those unfamiliar with Dead Island, the series follows several playable survivors in different settings as they find a way to survive and deal with a zombie apocalypse. Dead Island 2 takes place in LA, now amusingly referred to as “HELL-A,” and follows a group of six survivors who, while the pandemic is still fresh, make it onto a plane heading out of the city filled with the last remaining zombie-free elite in LA. Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned as the airplane unsurprisingly gets breached with infected passengers leading to a big crash. The game then prompts players to pick their desired character out of the six to leave the crash site. Soon after, you realize you’re immune to the pathogen, and with your abilities, you decide to find a way to escape the city by any means necessary.

Despite not being grand, eloquent, or narratively rich, Dead Island 2’s story succeeded in amusing and entertaining me with its several goofy moments, cringy references, and bizarre scenes. The game certainly doesn’t take itself seriously, and neither did I. It’s also worth noting that the game only has about 24 story missions, so players who don’t like them can quickly blaze through them or just flat-out skip them to play the shorter side missions which have their own funny little narratives and cool moments. This ranges from dealing with an eccentric TikToker to helping an old movie star who’s stuck in his apartment.

However, while I enjoyed the stories Dead Island 2 provides, it’s worth noting that there really isn’t much else to do in the game outside of these missions. While the lack of extra activities doesn’t hinder the experience, it is still pretty noticeable, especially after completing the story and side missions, which will only take 10-15 hours if you’re playing consistently. As a result, the game doesn’t have great replayability, which may rub some players the wrong way. Additionally, unlike the first game, Dead Island 2 does not feature an open world and instead utilizes several disjointed areas which players can travel between freely. The problem with this system is that while it simplifies things for players, it also makes the game feel highly linear and makes traversal a hassle, as players will have to go to specific areas in the map in order to move to whatever parts of the city they need to get to.

Aside from that, Dead Island 2 features incredibly entertaining gameplay. Players can choose one of six characters to play as, each with their own skills, advantages, and disadvantages. For example, Jacob, the character I chose, has great health and decent agility and stamina, but has poor resilience and health recovery. He can also dodge enemies instead of blocking from the start. On the other hand, a character like Carla has poor critical damage and agility, but is quite tough, very resilient, and blocks attacks instead of dodging them from the start. However, while characters cannot be changed once chosen, players can acquire and swap out skill cards, which they get from zombies or around levels as they progress through the game. These range from the standard block and dodge skills to more advanced ones like gaining stamina or toughness when health is low, and attack skills like Ground Stomp and ever-so-satisfying drop kick.

Aside from skills, players will also have access to a slew of weapons in the game. You start out with your typical melee weapons, like a baseball bat, club, knives, machetes, and staffs, but as you progress, you acquire more unique weapons like swords, cool wolverine claws, giant katanas, and of course, loads of guns, including semi-auto and assault rifles. What makes the weapon system especially fun is the vast selection of upgrades players can put on their weapons. These range from base damage upgrades to elemental/stat type upgrades, adding new damage types to your weapons like electricity, fire, and toxic. It’s also worth noting that weapons will break but can be repaired at workbenches, where players can apply upgrades and craft tools like medkits, zombie bait, and bombs once they’ve acquired their blueprints. But wait, there is more, as halfway through the game, players will also unlock zombie powers which serve as a Fury mode players can enter for more damage once the bar is filled.

Overall, while its gameplay may seem pretty standard at first, Dead Island 2 provides players with lots of tools that they can fine-tune to fit any playstyle they choose. With these tools, players will fight hordes of zombies, which come in various types. This starts with the standard walkers and runners and quickly evolves to big zombies that stomp on the ground, screamers that slow your attacks and alert other zombies, big fat toxic-spewing zombies, exploding zombies, and more. While some are incredibly annoying to deal with, they all provide their own challenge to the game and make gameplay engaging.

Visually, Dead Island is quite impressive. The game sports fantastically detailed character and exterior models, vibrant environments, and well-designed zombies. The gore system is also quite remarkable, as every blood splatter and severed limb will not go unnoticed. Performance-wise, the game ran smoothly on the PS5, and I didn’t encounter any frame rate dips, lagging, or glitches, though I did get stuck in a door on one occasion. However, I wish the game made more use of the DualSense functionality outside the adaptive triggers for shooting. Lastly, we also tested co-op, and I’m happy to report it works well. The only issue that may annoy some players is that lower leveled players cannot join sessions of higher-leveled players even if the level difference is only 3. This is likely because players cannot pick up weapons above their levels, but it’s worth mentioning regardless. 

All in all, while having questionable mechanics and a story that might not be for everyone, Dead Island 2 has managed to beat the odds to provide a highly enjoyable experience with its several engaging gameplay elements that’s especially valuable to Dead Island and zombie game fans. 

Abdul Saad is an avid gamer and computer scientist. He's been writing for four years on news, reviews, previews, and more on multiple gaming sites. When he isn't writing or playing the latest JRPG, he can be found coding games of his own or tinkering with something electrical.



Dead Island 2

Review Guidelines

Though not without its flaws Dead Island 2 has succeeded in providing a fun and unique zombie slaying experience that will leave players highly satisfied.

Abdul Saad

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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