5 Things That Are Great About Dead Island 2 & 5 Things It Could Have Done Better
Think of it like a double-edged sword, dripping in blood.
What’s better than mindlessly bashing zombies on a beautiful, sunny day? How about very mindfully crafting weapons of all shapes and sizes to coat Los Angeles in zombie paste? That’s where Dead Island 2 comes in, and while it has a few flaws, the game is sure to leave you satisfied in more ways than one. Here are 5 great things about Dead Island 2, and 5 things that could have used more work.
The Bloody Great Things
With the wait since the first Dead Island having been almost 12 year prior to the release of Dead Island 2, the game has been a long time coming. Expectations were high, and it can be tough to find a game that really sucks you in without overloading you with features, skills, armor and more. Here’s where Dead Island 2 hit the zombie right on the head.
Dead Island 2 made sure to take the most key component to a zombie game, and they gave it some well-deserved TLC. The first game had thrillingly vicious combat, between the variety of enemies and the variety of weapons, and the sequel does not disappoint. It’s easy to be sparing with weapons and ammo early on, but there are plenty of interesting tools around every corner to play with.
With those different weapons come plenty of new, gruesome zombie-killing animations. The animations used for smashing, slashing and bashing the undead are truly unique, and there are many different ways to pile up stacks of bodies. Luckily, the game has a tremendous amount of weapons and combinations to use, and each one has a different level of violence attached to it.
The options to customize weapons in Dead Island 2 go on and on. Each one has a different damage type, weapon type and weapon profile, all of which can be combined with perks and mods to craft your custom weapons of mass destruction. You can scrap your old or broken weapons for their parts, or if you’re really attached to them you can match them to your own level to keep your tools devastating.
The game does a really good job of challenging you and encouraging you to use these different weapons by throwing zombies at you with different resistances. Say you’ve been getting a little too comfortable with your flaming cleaver, but it won’t work on a zombie that’s already burning. Instead, you’ll have to swap to your shocking machete or something different to get the job done.
The variety of zombies in the game and the mechanics they use do a really good job of keeping gameplay fresh without being too repetitive too quickly. The game balances how many of each different zombie to have in a certain area, so that players don’t get stuck fighting either four Crushers in a small room or one single Shambler out in the streets. There are also a ton of models for zombies in the game, so it isn’t very common to find a zombie that looked like the last one’s twin sibling.
Dead Island 2’s zombies behave much more like what zombies probably would than in some other games, falling over and stumbling amongst themselves as they shamble and crawl their way to your flesh. They can be bashed into a ragdoll and slashed to pieces depending on the weapons that you use, which also changes the gameplay because they attack according to what limbs they still have. The game also cleverly uses the introductions to new zombie types to further the story, which helps the game not feel too cluttered.
The story of Dead Island 2 is funny and lighthearted in the same ways as the first game was, using dark humor to power its way through what would realistically be a traumatizing event. The game takes itself seriously in that the characters want to accomplish their goals and feel as though they can achieve them, but it leans heavily into the satire of stereotypical Los Angeles, California. The occupants of Hell-A are wildly eclectic to say the least, and they make sure to keep your survivor busy doing favors for them and saving their lives.
The game does a really good job of setting up each moment using the world as well as dialogue. Rather than giving you waves and waves of zombies to slaughter before every single boss fight, Dead Island 2 uses the level design to tell half the story and dialogue to do the rest. Say you’re going through a mission and your survivor is chatting with one of the NPCs as you go. The characters won’t just tell you what’s going to be at the end of the tunnel, but the body parts, documents, weapons and enemies along the way will do half the storytelling.
The side missions in Dead Island 2 are also well-balanced in bringing humor and playing into the tone of the game, while still staying true to their purpose: getting you more loot. They play almost like Far Cry side missions, where you can either seek them out or stumble onto them completely by mistake. This also makes players feel like they have more choice as to how much they interact with the world around them.
Ah, gorgeous Hell-A. The sky is blue, the sunshine is hot on your skin that the undead want to gnaw right through. It really does serve as the next best place to witness the zombie apocalypse after only having seen it on remote islands. The people in the game act like they live on vacation, so they have the same Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous that so many stereotypes are based on. It’s plenty of fun just going room-to-room throughout the world reading people’s notes and seeing the bizarre — and sometimes horrid — things they have in their homes.
There is a lot to explore in Dead Island 2. The different places you travel to have nooks and crannies filled with loot like supplies for crafting into mods and cash to spend on more supplies. The map is the perfect balance of open-world and linear, encouraging keen-eyed players to look through each room and see what the developers hid away. Not to mention, some of the rooms tell oftentimes funny micro-stories by having a collectible note that gives context to what was otherwise just a chunky red mess in a bathroom.
As a fan of horror and mature-themed games, I don’t find myself getting shocked very often by some of the things developers lay throughout the world. This was not the case in Dead Island 2. There were multiple times that I found myself turning a corner and looking at a streak of blood thinking, “What happened here?” followed by, “Oh,” as I round the corner resulting in an appalled, “OH.” Deep Silver wanted us to be very aware that zombies eat people, and don’t think much while they do it. What they leave behind is not for the faint of heart.
Things That Could Be Better
With all of the great things about Dead Island 2, there are always a few drawbacks. While nothing felt like it was enough to break the game, here are a few things to be aware of that could have used some more work.
Given the first-person perspective in Dead Island 2, it is understandable that Deep Silver did not include character customization and outfits. Just given some of the different styles and clothing that you can see NPCs wearing, it would be fun to get the option to customize your own look. The first-person perspective makes it easier to forget that you don’t have anything custom going on, and you don’t see your survivor after you pick them, even when you look in a mirror. Regardless, it would have been a lot of fun to get to show off to your friends or match with them while you’re hacking and slashing through the otherwise eccentric world of Hell-A.
Breaking the Mold
While Dead Island 2 does give players a lot to love as far as continuing what was started in 2011, there doesn’t seem to be all that much to really draw in new players who are less familiar with the genre. The game still plays very similar to most other games focusing on brutalizing zombies, albeit with the humorous shine that the first game brought with it a decade prior. Dead Island 2 plays incredibly well for what it tries to be, but it doesn’t feel like there are enough proprietary features to fully set it apart from the rest of the pack.
Repetitive Combat Animations
Although Dead Island 2 has a wide variety of different weapons with various types and attributes, many of the animations do come to be repeated after a time. There comes to be a point in using a cleaver with the same motion over and over where you need to swap weapons just for a change of pace. It’s cool having the different weapons to fall back on, but it would be nice to have a few different ways to swing. After the 500th time, slinging a sledgehammer in-game feels almost as tiring as doing so in real life.
Recycled Level Design
This really might be a nitpick, but there certain level designs that were reused between locations in the game. A house in Bel Air had the exact same floor plan and design as a house in the hills, only without the staircase having been half-destroyed. It feels like it goes against the lifestyles of the characters in game to share home design with their neighbors a town over, but perhaps they hired the same architect for the job.
The multiplayer itself in Dead Island 2 is not the concern, but rather the way that it works to balance out levels between players. You can not join someone’s session without being at the same stage of the game as them, if not farther. While this makes sense with having different features unlocked at certain points, it means that players who play more have to continue replaying sections to bring friends up to where they are. Even with the variety of survivors to choose from, it can get quickly tiring having to replay the same missions again and again, no matter how funny the joke was the first time.
Dead Island 2’s long-awaited release brought with it plenty of features that have been refined and fleshed-out over its time in development, and some things that could use have used some more time in the pressure cooker. Even with its few drawbacks, Dead Island 2 is a fun time for kicking back and drop-kicking hipster zombies off the rooftops of Hell-A.
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