I want to kick this off by stating that I’ve never played the original Dead Island so I’m coming into the series fresh. So if you’ve heard the Saints Row episode of the Single Player Experience podcast then you know that I have a problem. For you new listeners my problem is that “I’m nosy when it comes to big AAA single-player games.
Even the ones that I hear are bad. I always have to urge to see how bad they actually are.” The same is true about games that are bestowed the title of mid. The latest game to be declared middle of the road is Dead Island 2. A zombie action-adventure game that’s been in development for what seemed to be a decade finally came out on April 21st, 2023 for the Xbox One, Xbox Series S and X, Ps4, Ps5, and PC. I played the Ps5 version of the game. So is Dead Island 2 worth your time and money?
Let’s dive into it.
In Dead Island 2, You play as one of the survivors of a plane crash during the initial LA zombie outbreak. You attempt to rally survivors around you to ultimately escape HelLa. It’s a story that is simple, easy to follow, and full of clich e zombie tropes. By the way, you don’t need to have played the first game to understand what is going on in Dead Island 2.
Here is a problem that I had with the narrative, the game does introduce a slew of characters, but the problem lies with the fact that none of them are memorable. Instead, the characters come across as over-the-top tropes. There is a joke in the game where a character mixes up the names of two other survivors. The survivors have two different names and appearances, but both are so bland that I couldn’t blame the NPC for the mixup. This illustrates another problem with the narrative. It is so lackluster that it brings down the voice acting which is actually quite good.
The main story will take you roughly 14 to 16 hours to beat, which honestly feels like 8 hours too long for the story that we are given. As you reach the halfway point about 7 hours in it really feels like you’ve seen all that this game has to offer.
Dead Island 2 plays like most of the 1st person action adventure games that you’ve played in the last 20 years. It features a Melee Combat similar to Skyrim, Dishonored, and Dying Light, but unfortunately, it can feel a bit imprecise and clunky at times. That said there is fun to be had bashing and slicing through a horde of zombies.
Dead Island 2 mixes things up throughout the game, by introducing elemental zombies, shrieking zombies, Armored zombies, and Hulk-like zombies. You can fuse your weapons with different elements like acid, fire water, and electricity or use the items around you to simulate the elements to combat zombies more efficiently. The combat in the game is addicting and slightly challenging. You will more often than not meet an ugly end and there isn’t a way to turn down the difficulty.
The zombies progressively get harder throughout the game, so it’s vital that you level up and equip the best weapons and skill cards.
That brings me to the leveling-up system. Instead of the traditional skill points, Dead Island 2 uses skills cards as a means of allowing you to gain power. Each skill card grants you new buffs and abilities. You only get a certain amount of cards to equip so you have to be strategic. Some examples of the skill cards include Corpse Bomb, which causes the zombies to explode when you kill them, Stability, which knocks the zombies back and off-balance when a medkit is used, and The Limb Reaper which gives you a health boost for everything you Maim a zombie.
The sound design and effects in the game are solid. You can hear the sickening crunch when you bludgeon the skull of an undead walker and the chilling sound of the zombies as they creep behind you. There were many times when I was caught unawares and legit, jumped when I heard a zombie that I didn’t realize was behind me.
I have to shout out the game’s visuals. While the open world and the humans won’t really impress you, the zombies are a different story. The developers Dambuster Studios did an amazing job with the presentation of the zombies. You’ll see undead with detailed body parts, or gaping holes in parts of their bodies. You’ll see some with their mouths barely attached and missing limbs. Some zombies have exposed and mangled flesh. The zombies are the main stars of the game and it shows. It’s a pity that more love wasn’t shown to other visual aspects of the game though.
To be honest the game doesn’t have a lot of substance outside of killing zombies in one place and then killing zombies in another place. The repetitive nature of the gameplay and quests might wear down some gamers. Another negative is that the side quest is repetitive as well. Most consist of you defending an area while hordes of zombies come your way. Occasionally you’ll run into a side quest where you have to kill a certain amount of zombies using a certain method like maiming them or burning them but these are few and far between.
Another aspect that might turn gamers off of the game is its terrible soundtrack. Often you’ll hear the same generic sound over and over again. Some go with the action that is occurring while others feel like it belongs in an entirely different game.
One of the worst flaws in the game is traversing the open world. Most of the time you are exploring the open world “Forest Gump” style and walking and running around LA gets old quickly. There isn’t any parkouring like Dying Light 2 or any fun vehicles like there are in the Dead Rising series. Instead, you are running knees to chest from one section to the next while avoiding and killing zombies. The game does have fast travel but it is introduced way later in the game than it should be.
Overall/Should You Play Dead Island 2:
That depends on who you are as a gamer. For example, if you like games like Dying Light and Dead Rising then you’ll probably enjoy this one as well. If you are looking for a premium AAA 1st person game experience then this one is probably going to disappoint you. Dead Island 2 feels like a game from the early days of the Xbox One and Ps4. Sure load time-wise and visually speaking Dead Island 2 is a modern game, but the repetitive gameplay loop, narrative, and side quest feel like a game from generations ago. I was speaking with a friend recently and describing this game and he said “Oh so it’s like the video game version of a popcorn flick.” That quote pretty much sums this game up. If you are looking for a fun time killing zombies without worrying about anything else then you should check this game out. For everyone else Dead Island 2 is a middle-of-the-road experience that you might want to avoid.
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