When it comes to zombie-slaying extravaganzas, you’re spoilt for choice. Whether it’s the excellent storytelling in the Resident Evil 4 remake or some co-op action from Back 4 Blood, there are many options if you’re looking to get your fix of undead action. Following its initial launch in 2011, the Dead Island series seemed to bottle up the magic formula, combining brutal gore with an engaging storyline and limitless ways to stop a zombie in its tracks.
The reception from fans dropping onto the island of Banoi was largely positive thanks to its vibrant environment and engaging characters. With attention quickly turning towards a potential sequel, developmental issues and numerous hurdles made it look like Dead Island 2 would never see the light of day. Thankfully, Dambuster Studios picked up the baton in a bid to bring the series back from the dead.
Having ploughed several hours of my youth exploring all that Banoi had to offer, I headed into the streets of zombie-infested Los Angeles with varied expectations. Fortunately, the same gore-filled action raised the bar alongside a storyline packed with dry humour and all manner of scenarios.
A gory masterpiece
As soon as I encountered my first undead opponent, it was clear to see Dambuster’s significant improvements to the gore. Even with the slightest hit to the head using a plank of wood, a shower of blood covered the nearby area, adding a layer of thin red paint to the ruined streets of Los Angeles.
On top of the sheer amount of blood decorating the entire map, the brutal eliminations were a personal highlight thanks to the debut of the FLESH system. Acronym for the Fully Locational Evisceration System for Humanoids, the system influences how your slices and gunshots impact the corpses trying to maul your head off. As a fan of melee weapons, my pickaxe combined with the new system gave me the ability to dismember my target limb from limb.
It’s not just the melee weapons that benefit from FLESH. The extensive arsenal of guns and the bullets they fire created all kinds of moments where I peeled back from the monitor to admire the latest blood splatter I created from a well-placed shotgun shell to the face.
LA is an excellent zombie battleground
The metropolis of Los Angeles with all of its vibrant colours and multi-million dollar mansions may be the perfect playground for the rich and famous, but it’s also an excellent city to stop the zombie apocalypse. Whether it’s the hills of Bel-Air or Hollywood Boulevard, exploring the bright environments made a welcome break from ducking and diving the swinging arms of nearby Crushers.
Although each area is packed with various details and callbacks to Hollywood b-movies, the actual playspace is surprisingly compact with most of the action taking place down a single avenue or a cluster of nearby buildings. In comparison to other vast open-world expanses, I found the inability to explore Hell-A to its fullest a little disappointing. Instead of the map feeling like a zombie-infested metropolis, there were points where I felt the game was comprised of different areas glued together by a bunch of loading screens.
Thanks to the power of Unreal Engine, the physics and environmental destruction were another highlight of my time in Hell-A. The simple things of cracking open an oil barrel and watching the oil pour out before bursting into a blazing inferno are hugely satisfying, even if it results in my character catching fire before their eventual demise.
Does repetition cause boredom?
Although there are plenty of different zombies with numerous abilities to liven up the action, once I managed to find the most effective way to dodge any incoming attacks, the task of clearing out a group of undead became much less of a challenge.
But, just as I started mastering the art of staying alive, the difficulty quickly went up a notch to restore the challenge once more. It took me several attempts to defeat the final boss and after every death, I found myself applying new tactics to gain the upper hand which was hugely rewarding.
Silky smooth co-op
Having ploughed several hours into the first Dead Island with my fellow squadmates, my attention quickly turned to the game’s cooperative offering. After joining forces with a few other players, all of the memories from Banoi came flooding back. Tackling the main story alongside others was immensely enjoyable and I cannot wait to complete another playthrough with another slayer.
However, the lack of crossplay is a little disappointing, especially when the vast majority of games that feature an online co-op option allow you to play with friends regardless of their platform. Hopefully, Dambuster Studios plans on adding it in the future so you can have a bloody good time in Hell-A.
Plenty of sequel potential
After several attempts at defeating the final mission, I felt somewhat satisfied with Dead Island 2’s conclusion. The story features a few subtle callbacks to the original game thanks to the presence of the straight-talking Sam B and I’d have been happy with the Dead Island 2 story ending the way it did. But, the foundations are there for Dambuster Studios to create Dead Island 3. I could see another game to complete the trilogy and wrap up the remainder of the story but how many times can you reinvent caving in the head of a zombie?
The final verdict
Dead Island 2 is an excellent take on the zombie-survival genre. Its arcadey feel combined with excellent graphical prowess provides plenty of ways to slay any undead opposition standing in the way.
Despite its somewhat linear storyline, the game is thoroughly enjoyable and kept me coming back for more.
For more articles like this, take a look at our Reviews and Dead Island 2 page.