Dead Island 2 is DISGUSTING And We Love It! – Review
I wasn’t very interested in Dead Island 2. The first Dead Island from 2011 was underwhelming, leaving me with memories of an incredible trailer that was followed up by a mediocre open world game with lots of bugs and problems.
But then I got my hands on Dead Island 2… cut to a few hours in, and it was probably around the time that I double-foot drop kicked a zombie out of a third story hotel window that I realised that maybe I’d been wrong about Dead Island 2 all along.
Continue below to read the rest of the review, or watch the video review right now instead!
To Hell and Back
Dead Island 2 has been through the type of development hell that most games never recover from, moving through more than 4 studios over the span of 10 years.
So it’s even more of a surprise to discover that Dambuster Studios – the people responsible for the so-so Homefront: The Revolution, have pulled this off.
There are some familiarities to the original Dead Island, but the sequel feels better in pretty much every way. Considering that it’s a game that relies heavily on fun with physics and procedural systems, I also can’t believe how incredibly polished and bug free my experience has been.
Eye Popping Graphics (and Zombies)
The game looks pretty decent when you’re running around outside, but I was absolutely blown away by the photorealistic graphics when in and around buildings.
The lighting is incredible and there’s so much detail – which is impressive because the image quality running on Xbox Series X looks sharp and detailed and I never noticed any slowdown in normal gameplay running on 4KTV with variable refresh rate enabled – and I’ve been told it’s just as silky smooth on the PS5 as well.
Even when testing on a launch Xbox One running on a 720p Sony Bravia [Video below], I experienced consistent performance and great looking visuals running at 30fps considering it was running on a console from nearly 10 years ago. If this game gets a photo mode it’s going to blow people away.
The Last of Ideas
While the story itself isn’t all that interesting, a lot is told through the quirky characters that you meet as well as ongoing bits and bobs from your own character’s mouth.
The premise is that after you get bitten you discover that you’re immune and decide to alert the authorities so that your special blood can possibly help with a vaccine – sound familiar?
So maybe the main story isn’t the games strongest feature.
It’s All About The Ambience
The environmental storytelling however, is just fantastic.
Simply paying attention to your surroundings while wondering around a fancy house in Bel-Air can tell you so much about its occupants and the events that took place there – whether it’s a rockstar unaware of the gravity of the situation, a famous actor doing what they can to survive or the party house of a bunch of YouTube streamers that caught the wrong end of the apocalypse – and there’s a little dose of zombie movie references too.
Apocalypses Build Character
There are slight differences and changes to dialogue depending on the character you select, and their quips are different – and I actually liked my character and his upbeat approach to the so called “zom-pocalpyse” – but I can’t speak for all the rest.
Dead Island 2 smartly doesn’t overdo its humour either and shows some restraint. The characters you meet in the world are mostly completely self-absorbed, and aren’t fully aware that they’re in something this goofy – which actually works for the kind of dark humour the game relies on.
The Game Is On
When it comes to getting down and dirty, Dead Island 2 is all about talking, fighting, looting, questing, upgrading, levelling, and moving to the next location.
Unlike the original game’s full open world, the sequel provides a host of different smallish open but contained areas of LA, including Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, Venice Beach, some and more.
The smaller open world totally works for me. It has the benefits of open world exploration, but with much higher detail and less faffing around – and also gives you some of the focus provided by a linear action game.
You’re also well rewarded for exploring – either finding loot or stumbling on a fantastic easter egg, location or payoff from a comment made earlier in the game.
Something I really appreciated about the gameplay is that you respawn when you die, rather than reload. Allowing for continued attempts at scenarios or enemies, and containers and loot also respawn. The focus is more on fun than pure challenge.
The FLESH Prince of Bel-Air
The combat is incredibly satisfying, with the procedural gore system called F.L.E.S.H, being the star of the show. It’s SO gruesome but SO impressive, with encounter after encounter enriching your life with disgusting new ways to observe how high velocity objects collide with the human body.
The weight and threat of the weapons feels massively satisfying, and mostly using melee weapons only works because they have such a good feeling to them. Thanks to the upgrade and levelling system you can also get a bit creative by reinforcing weapons to hit with more force, or giving them different types of damage through crazy workbench upgrades.
You get to bring your vengeance down upon the zombie hordes with everything from Garden rakes, pipe wrenches, baseball bats, sledge hammers, samurai swords and more.
A range of rifles, nail guns, shotguns and more unlock later on, but it doesn’t just suddenly transform into a shooter – and I appreciated that.
When combined with skill cards and equipment “curveballs” that range from makeshift ninja stars to full on pipe bombs, you’re able to put together a mixture of skills and weapons to suit your ideal style of zombie murder.
You’ll NEED to have your socks pulled up if you’re gonna take on everything that’s thrown at you. There’s a pretty solid variety of enemy types, such slow walkers, nimble runners, military grenadiers that explode, big beefcakes, walking pus balls and more.
Dead Island 2 really is an RPG Lite, with item and skill management and upgrades being deep enough to get into, but shallow enough to not bog down the shallower action experience. The same goes for the environment stuff, which is not too deep, but enough to keep you having fun with what’s around you.
Playtime With Friends
A returning feature is co-op. While it was fun, I did run into a few issues when joining someone else’s game.
I experienced lower performance when joining my co-op buddy, which is a bit of a downer and I had a permanent wifi icon right in the middle of my screen which I couldn’t turn off – was annoying – but might be limited to areas without local servers or sorted out in a patch.
I also had few issues where I was unable to pick up weapons or interact with objects in the world.
Beating up zombies with friends is always a great time, and I quite liked that loot drops were split so that everyone feels like they’re getting some goodies.
However, this time around there’s a maximum of 3 players instead of 4 – which is a trend that I just don’t understand or agree with these days. I’m lucky enough to have two solid 4 player co-op groups that I play with, and everyone’s always bummed when a cool upcoming game ends up being 3 player instead of 4 – but I digest.
What’s more, you can only join players who are a similar level than you, or lower. There’s no auto-balance system or ability to create a temporary character –
And I feel like at this stage, we need easy ways to just drop in with friends and play. Scale us down, let us make a quick guest character! It’s 2023, it needs to be as easy as possible to let people just have some fun together in your game.
Overall, Dead Island 2 is a big surprise.
I first loaded it up expecting a mediocre experience that ticked the boxes enough to get it out the door – but instead, I’ve found myself having a great time slicing, dicing, burning and bashing zombies while meeting strange and interesting characters while exploring houses of the rich and famous, movie lots, apocalyptic beaches and more.
Multiplayer has potential but needs the most work, and it’s not gonna steal any crowns from the big exclusive releases happening this year, but in a year this jam-packed with incredible games – it can hold its head up high, right before I put a blade right though it.