The original 2011 Dead Island and its 2013 sequel Riptide have a special place — if “special” is the right word — in the stale, wringing hearts of game journalists above a certain age. His design and promotion captured an era in gaming that hasn’t completely passed. On the one hand, there was Dead Island’s brute-force teardrop of a CGI trailer, depicting a little girl’s final moments in reverse — a piece of cinematic magic and a bid for the blockbuster’s eternal iconic status that made me feel something. On the other hand, Riptide’s curvaceous zombie bikini model is a pre-order collectible.
Put those two things together and you have vintage triple-A culture in a nutshell: arty aspirations and smirking sleaze, prestige melodrama meets splatterhouse guts and cleavage, all in a trivia about punching zombies for random weapons. Enthralling co-op revolves around the Action-RPG. Which, after all, seems like patient zero for schlocks like Bungie’s Destiny.
Dead Island 2, meanwhile, used to be a byword for Vaporware: announced in 2014 with Spec Ops: The Line developer Yeager at the helm, eventually pitched to licensed spin-off powerhouse Sumo Digital, and finally In Dambusters, the developer is reassigned. The atmospheric but forceful Homefront: Revolution. Like a trip to the shelves you hope to leave a clear mark. In practice, Dead Island 2 is a slick and substantial 20+ hour heist that rarely puts a foot wrong, but it never gets your pulse racing, and with its non-casual setting something very intriguing. also struggles to do.
The action has shifted from Papua New Guinea to the posh bits of Los Angeles (the game insists on calling it “Hell-A” – please don’t encourage it) with a new playable cast of blinged-up Roughnecks who play some Offering every last thing you see and do in Signature Class, there’s one-of-a-kind flair and a pinch of wit. You’re here to escape, naturally, but along the way you’ll rescue a ruthless British actress from her Beverly Hills retreat, take the sewers to the beach and eventually become embroiled in various mad science schemes.
The scene is baroque, closer to Homefront: Revolution than Dead Island in its stark splendor of disrepair, with hotel corridors littered with discarded belongings and storm drains clogged with offal and graffiti. The world isn’t open anymore – after all, how can you have an open world LA game without driveable cars? – but also a collection of separate loading districts made up of elaborate routes between NPC safe areas and branches or circular mission areas, such as construction sites and police stations.
The rhythm of the game is roughly the same as it was in 2011, though: tear apart zombies and collect those crafting materials. There’s an equal emphasis on melee — you won’t be holding a gun for more than a few hours, and you’ll rarely have enough ammo to rely on them — and the zombies themselves are a familiar spread: classic Romero-brand Shamblers and speedy 28 Days Later. Strain, plus midbosses like bloated bile-puckers and ogres with cleft torsos, on loan from Left 4 Dead and Resident Evil, respectively.
One of Dead Island 2’s biggest design feats is how smoothly it blends the immediately more-ish act of aforementioned carnage with the helpful RPG system. Zombies have levels, just like you, and a difference of two or more levels can turn any undead extra into a one-hit-killer — helpfully designated by a skull indicator. There are also primarily themed zombies that are scary-quote immune to the kind of damage they deal. But it rarely feels like you’re just crunching the numbers with bodies: regardless of their level, enemies stagger, fall apart, believably fly back, their rotting hulks of skin and bone. are made of gratifying layers that peel away like giftwrap, triggering bursts of slo-mo with key hits. Melee weapons have different cadences, which are managed by a simple recharging stamina system. Attack a walker with a pair of crescent moon flails and grin as it squeakily disintegrates under speeding speedbag combos. Hit one with a razor-wrapped hammer and make a flurry as it goes off like a firework.
To help with crowd control are throwable “curveball” items—timed explosives, shuriken, horde-luring vials of flesh, with enemies mostly appearing in gangs of five or more. There are also countless terrain traps to seize, from essentially exploding oil drums to jerry cans of water you can lob into circuit boxes to create puddles of electricity. But the real thrill is merely bringing the raiders together so that the entire gang can be swung off-screen with a single horizontal swing. It’s mowing the grass in Zelda, but Gristler.
Still, it gets repetitive, not only because the game is more fond of certain enemy types, like ground-pounding bodybuilders, but also because it’s yet another game held together by a progression system. Has gone. It’s not really an exercise to play with the undead like in Capcom’s Dead Rising, where you’ll pop mascot heads on corpses and batter them with parasols for a nice picture. The idea is to optimize a build so as to stay one step ahead of the difficulty arc created by leveling, and while the progression system is designed quite well, that very robustness threatened to put me to sleep.
Customization includes finding mods to plug into weapons of various rarities and equipping passively unlocked skill cards that, for example, replenish stamina and health when you dodge. Weapons essentially vary in damage, speed, reach and how much to push attackers back, with mods implementing status effects such as fire and bleeding. The skill card system is bland to start with – I quickly forgot what I had equipped, with the game periodically prompting me to look for a new card. But it gradually becomes more decisive as you reach the endgame and start thinking about all the side missions you’ve missed (think “save this guy from that already-explored area”). . Afterward, you unlock a chargeable Rage mode for a more adventurous, last-ditch comeback with risk-reward autophase cards that grant you stackable buffs and debuffs. While I haven’t spent much time with three-player co-op, it seems like there’s good opportunity here for building diverse squads – one player firing Electric Uzi rounds to paralyze the crowd, so the other has It’s time to fire their incendiary claymore. ,
It all hangs together quite nicely. But it’s nothing you haven’t seen in other RPG-adjacent games, and there are drawbacks common to any experience based on looting and upgrading. Every side chamber, from the janitor’s closet to the portaloos, turns out scraps in a pinch for the DIY-minded zombie-troublemaker. These resources can inspire exploration, but they also prevent you from seeing the world because you’re too busy harvesting it. Entering a room, you rub the camera along contours as if your character were a Hoover with missing nozzles, spamming the collect button to sponge up raw material lodged in the midst of unblemished, Teflon-sealed detritus . You barely register the differences between specific flavors of crafting materials: as long as you keep forging mindfully, you’ll have enough of what you need for any modified weapon you choose to assemble. Are.
Dead Island 2 is far from the only game that traps itself in this way, but it bothers me more than usual here because the setting deserves better. Tear your eyes away from the resources of all those pieces, and the game’s Los Angeles is both a moderately amusing social study and a playground that at times draws comparisons to the immersive sims of Looking Glass and Arkane. The game’s finest hour comes in the shape of a massive impressive mansion, with its sloping tiers housing ornamental swimming pools, cheesy desert island film sets, underground bowling alleys, neon wine cellars, myriad room-sized couches and vapid, NFT-grade wall art.
It’s a monument to folly that begs to be torn down and looted, but at the same time, has the same storied atmosphere of Prey and Bioshock. For all its air of parody, this is a place to spend real time, soaking up the futile life you once led within these glass walls, and a quietly enjoyable tactical sandbox with a choice of routes between levels. Needless to say, there’s a side mission here that involves livestreaming your own carnage, hacking those zombified influencers, or booting them off the mansion’s roof, as viewers demand.
That touch of Looking Glass is everywhere in Dead Island 2, even as the lumbering player movement keeps Homefront: Revolution at the forefront of your mind (you can pull yourself over to a car to avoid the mob, but you Won’t Park About It as Dead Island’s little sister Dying Light). There’s the inevitable trip to a Hollywood movie studio, where you’ll activate the stage SFX for extra-rotting barbecue in racist B-movie makeup. There are police stations full of tripwire traps to be circled around and destroyed for ammo, and there’s the occasional, CSI-style beat where you learn about door codes or someone’s dropped keys. I tell. There are also some tedious puzzles that involve turning a valve to recalibrate the door mechanism, but they don’t recur often enough to be annoying.
Everything is held together by a familiar but compelling vision of LA as a concentration of extreme wealth and poverty through the sordid prism of the film industry. It’s a fine setting for Arcane-style play, a place of brutality, possibility, and excess. But all that slowly disappears under looting and upgrading. It seems like the developers only wanted it all to go so far: while some weapons of choice are found by poking around cracks, many others are tucked away behind doors, requiring you to buy a fuse in one. is required. The game’s NPC hub spaces. At times like these, the world of Dead Island 2 becomes something to unlock rather than explore.
If you somehow haven’t played an undead-themed action-RPG yet or have an appropriately on-brand mindless appetite for the sub-genre, Dead Island 2 might be worth your time. It’s definitely got the zombie disassembly part down pat. If you’re neither of those things, all the sturdy design and flying limbs in the world can’t hide the lack of lingering excitement here. Dead Island 2 isn’t a bad game, but it feels overdone, which is a sad thing to conclude on a project that’s been in development for nearly a decade. Still, at least they spared us the zombie booby merchandise this time around.
Manage cookie settings