Starting off our review of Dead Island 2, I believe it is fitting to highlight the success of Dead Island. After all, with the success and relative cult following of Dead Island. A sequel was inevitable. The action within the game really stuck out, as the adaptability of the game's combat was really impressive. It came as no surprise that the highly-anticipated sequel would leave quite an impression on fans. Considering how long the game had been in a state of developmental flux. It would come as a surprise to many when Dead Island 2 was announced. This set the stage for Dead Island 2 to wow players old and new with innovations on the classic gameplay loop. Did the developers manage to improve on the formula from yesteryear? Well, to find out, without further ado, let us begin our review of Dead Island 2.
Dying to Release
Dead Island 2 is a title that took quite some time to leave its state of developmental flux. This game went through a ton of iterations and still managed to surprise everyone with its announcement. The game itself does a fantastic job of building on existing systems. This is mostly reflected in the game's combat, as there have been many improvements to the first game's combat system. These include things such as smoother animation, less clunkiness overall, and many other factors.
However, that isn't to say that this title doesn't make any mistakes. It absolutely does, but if you enjoyed Dead Island's primary gameplay loop, then you could very well enjoy this one. In addition, the animations for the attacks, as well as the visual effects, such as gore effects and the like, have all been improved substantially. This makes the game feel more visceral, which overall makes the player want to continue playing. Simply stated, the combat in this title is not without its flaws, but it still feels very kinetic and satisfying to participate in.
Dead Island Deadpan
One aspect of this title, which I, for one, feel there could be some improvement on, is the character writing in the game. Now while story and narrative are by no means the strength of the Dead Island series, I feel that even in the previous title, there was more narrative intrigue, and a lot of the more self-referential jokes landed. However, in Dead Island 2, there are so many seemingly pointless references, and while I do understand that the setting is Hollywood and the game is supposed to be mocking that in a way. Unfortunately, that doesn't make the experience any more enjoyable for me personally. It was a blessing that the gameplay was so addicting. Otherwise, I definitely could see someone putting this game down after its initial moments. And with the type of side content this game has, it has to grab players early.
Some of the characters feel so carbon copy in the way that they are portrayed. Unfortunately, this doesn't help push the player forward due to them wanting to know more. Basically, it feels as though the story for this title was an afterthought, and that pretty much leaves the gameplay to carry the experience. We will begin to get more into those issues later. For now, though, the comedy in this game simply doesn't land and typically lands in one of two categories. These categories are the painlessly obvious references to pop culture in the game or the self-referential comedy that is present everywhere, from the dialogue to the quest design. In the next section of our Dead Island review, we will go over the game's approach to questing and mission variety.
If you were a fan of early-2000s video game questing, then Dead Island 2 will appeal to you. There are a multitude of fetch quests in the game, and many of the mission layouts are really reminiscent of these older games. That being said, the game does try and vary the player's experience within some side missions, but the majority of the main content is very box standard, defeating new types of enemies and learning how to better deal with them. So on and so forth. This gives the game a really repetitive feel that is only aided by the fighting animations. However, even they are not without their faults.
There is a multitude of quest types within Dead Island 2. Unfortunately, however many of the quests boil down to essentially the same things. While there is some variety in the way you can build your various characters, the gameplay variety only exists in service of weapon experimentation. It is this experimentation that drives the player to play around with this deathly digital playground. Killing zombies in the game feels very nice, so you want to do so with more powerful weapons or weapons that simply feel cooler to use.
This is a section of gameplay that the game absolutely nails. Even if you don't necessarily care for the gameplay, you can find yourself swinging away. The attention to detail, as well as animations and gore effects, are simply stellar. And they do really entice the player to continue playing. Additionally, the game has a spawn system that makes it feel like there is truly a zombie horde at every turn. However, this can be a bit of a blessing and curse situation, as many times, when tracking down quests, you will have to contend with mobs of zombies that have the potential to respawn.
This is an experience that, for some, will prove to be very rewarding and satisfying. However, some other players may view it as hollow. After all, the majority of the reason for playing this title is its gameplay. The gore animations and how they interact with the game's weapon system are really interesting. This allows players to dismember zombies in almost any way they wish. Unfortunately, however, this system doesn't always work that well either. Many times throughout the game, the player will find themselves having to contend with a QTE or Quick Time Event. And soon find that they lose their last bit of health to a separate attacking enemy. This type of death doesn't feel deserved and honestly pads out the runtime of the game quite a bit, as when you feel you are ready for the next section, sometimes a player can get sideswiped.
Dawn of the Dull
Now, I want to preface this part of the Dead Island 2 review with the statement that the characters and storylines within Dead Island 2 are serviceable. However, this is about all that can be said of this game's characters. Even when using the reused characters from the first game, there are few times a player will ever feel themselves caring about what is going on. This isn't a sentiment that is aided by the fetch quests in the game. Many times, what should feel like a desperate moment to transport supplies, only turns out to be an annoyance. In addition, several of the game's various forms of side content have to be completed in a certain order. This means players will have to play to a point after the game to get access to these quests.
While there is nothing inherently wrong about this, that doesn't make up for the fact that this makes the gameplay, the shining element of the game, become mundane and boring after a while. And while there are sparks of inspired moments and a sense of imagination in regard to the versatility of the weapons, a lot of their mechanics aren't even explained to the player. There are weapons types in the game in which all the weapons fall into. This already kind of trivializes weapons into playing very similarly to one another. And if the game's main draw is going to be combat, then combat variety is key. While the game does attempt to share things with changing environments and the like, it does little to alleviate the problem.
The Horrors of Hell-A
A game set within the world of Hollywood or LA, in general, is nothing new. In fact, there are quite a few interesting titles that share the setting of this game. However, Dead Island 2 does a horrible job with its overall environmental design. This land feels very bland, and even the game's attempts to liven things up, for the most part, fall flat. Now a trip through movie studios and a pier are definitely serviceable for a game like this, but more visual intrigue would have been appreciated.
Added to this is the fact that the enemy types quickly grow stale. And considering most of your time in the game will be spent contesting with these enemies. Therefore, it is very important that it remains fun and intuitive. To close out this review, while Dead Island 2 may be a technically proficient game. It does little to improve upon its predecessor and ultimately serves as a sometimes entertaining but ultimately vapid outing. And while this title is lackluster to mediocre at best. The gameplay within it may very well provide the distraction that players need.
Dead Island 2 Review (PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S)
Dead Island 2: Dead and Dull
While initially being really excited about Dead Island 2, it is plain to see that this title simply doesn’t innovate enough. If players want to have a fun time, then this title is certainly serviceable, but for the steep price tag, and repetitive gameplay, it can be hard to argue that players get their money’s worth. While this game does have its shining moments, they too often are too far and few between.