Dead Island 2 Is Creating the Perfect Zombie Killing Power Fantasy (Hands-on Preview)
California is pretty much braindead already anyhow.
The time has finally arrived. Almost a decade after its original announcement at E3 2014, Dead Island 2 is finally coming out, with its official release date set for about two months from now.
But the question is: after waiting all this time, can this sequel to a cult classic live up to the hype? Thankfully, after about six hours with the game, it is safe to say that Dead Island 2 has taken everything that was fun with its predecessor and cranked up the voltage.
Storywise, the plot is your typical zombie-trope adventure, as you have to survive amidst an outbreak in the California quarantine zone. It’s important to note, though, that this is not The Last of Us. Dead Island 2 goes full Sam Raimi when it comes to its campy horror approach to the zombie apocalypse.
Regardless of which of the six main characters you pick, the dialogue is going to be like 90 percent banter. There will be some moments of seriousness here and there, but for the most part, the game doesn’t take itself too seriously – there’s even a side mission where you livestream killing zombies for an influencer.
Just because they are all jokesters, picking between the survivors, known as Slayers, is still important. Each member boasts their own unique dialogue, abilities, and skills cards that let you play the game a certain way.
For example, Dani, a punk rock roller derby player, likes to get up close and personal, using skills like Thunderous and Bloodlust to deal serious melee damage. On the other hand, Amy, an athletic LA native, is all about speed and agility, using skills like Relief Pitcher and Divide and Conquer to deal critical damage while avoiding getting hit.
As with most attribute systems, whoever you pick for one strength will also come with a glaring weakness, too. While Dani is no slouch in terms of speed, she can also be sluggish; though Amy is fast, she’s not very tough. Luckily, there’s plenty of skill cards that can be picked up throughout the game that will allow you to improve stats to make up for these pitfalls.
Cards can be found by completing side missions, objectives, or just scattered about the environment. The nice part is you can unlock more slots and swap them out based on your situation as well. Need a damage-heavy card instead of one focused on speed? Simply shuffle the one that is active in the skill card menu, allowing for a nice balance gameplay-wise.
I decided to go with Jacob, as the allure of his sultry British quips and his history as a stunt double was too hard to resist. It also helps that his character’s stats were very balanced, with a high focus on health, as I am very bad at video games.
After about 30 minutes or so, the combat really started clicking. In the early stages of Dead Island 2, there’s a large focus on melee weapons, as you’ll pick up a variety of degradable items, like rebar and crowbars, that are lying about the environment.
In fact, I didn’t actually touch a gun the entire time I played the preview build. Now, if you’d told me that before playing, I might have been a little concerned, as I’ve always been more of a gun guy than a melee-focused player.
Thanks to Dead Island 2’s focus on weapon customization and environmental effects, though, I ended up having so much fun with combat that I didn’t even notice I hadn’t used a gun by the end. Using the resources and items that can be picked up throughout the environment, I was able to mod all sorts of crazy weapons for Jacob to wield.
Whether it was my electric machete or my burning hammer, it was a boatload of fun creating all sorts of different weapons, especially since, like skill cards, some were more useful than other depending on the situation. As much as I loved my hammer, it made no sense to use it when fighting the jacked reanimated bridezilla boss I had to fight in the hotel.
Instead, the electric machete made much more sense, as the environment was surrounded by water, making the shock damage that much more intensified. Dead Island 2 takes full advantage of its environments in that way, and it makes for some really satisfying scenarios.
If you’ve got a burning runner chasing you down and see a fire hydrant, pop that thing open and get the zombie to run through it. Not only will this prevent you from getting burn damage when attacked, but it’ll also weaken the enemy’s health.
All in all, if you’re someone who loves a good, tropey zombie flick, then you’ll likely love getting to live out your fantasy of surviving an undead apocalypse (from the comfort of your own home) in Dead Island 2. Be sure to find out for yourself when it is released on April 21, 2023, for PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.
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