HomeNewsDead Island 2 Review - Better Late Than Never?

    Dead Island 2 Review – Better Late Than Never?

    Developed By: Dambuster Studios

    Published By: Deep Silver

    Platforms: PlayStation 4 & 5 / Xbox One & Xbox Series / PC

    Reviewed On: PlayStation 5

    Review Code Provided By: Plaion

    I remember when the very first reveal trailer for Dead Island premiered back in 2011 at E3, it was a somber, melancholic, and incredibly effective trailer that really piqued my interest as something potentially different in the zombie genre. Like most I imagine, when the game did release it turned out to be a solid experience but really failed to live up to the hype built from the initial reveal trailer. In 2014, when the sequel was announced, it promised a brighter more upbeat experience but unfortunately, the game ended up stuck in a sort of development hell for the past 8-9 years.

    Luckily, Dead Island 2 is finally releasing and thanks to Plaion we were granted an early review code to take to the streets of Hell-A and see if the long wait was worth it. I must admit my expectations were not too high but I kind of enjoyed my experience but not without issues.

    Welcome to Hell-A

    Dead Island 2 doesn’t waste much time setting up the stakes as LA is getting overwhelmed and as everyone is trying to escape off the last flight, a zombie outbreak happens to crash that flight right back down. It is here that players will have to make a choice of their starting character between Jacob, Dani, Ryan, Amy, Carla, and Bruno each with their own stats and playstyles. I chose Bruno due to his high critical stats and set off to escape the plane crash into Bel-Air just to figure out my next move.

    The story in Dead Island 2 is pretty light and at times very funny without ever being cringe (well most of the time anyway). Like most zombie apocalypse stories it is just about the survivors trying to navigate through the world and figuring out their next moves. The pacing of the main narrative thread is also quite brisk in moving the player from point A to B without wasting much time in between. What I really liked was how every supporting character you meet throughout your journey has their own unique personality and this is especially shown in the idle banter you can participate in at the safe houses.

    In each major zone, you can encounter and help these characters who will eventually make their way to the safe house and adds an element of the world population and organic growth that what you do out in the world has significance. The only downside to some of these interactions is how they can happen around you on their own so some of the minor banter can be accidentally unnoticeable in a sense if you are the type who likes to hear everything NPCs are talking about.

    Apart from that the overarching story of figuring out what happened that caused the zombie apocalypse in LA, how some characters are thriving or suffering and the journey itself is just interesting enough to drive the player along without it feeling like a chore. There are collectible journals that further flesh out minor stories populating the world-building that range from funny to tragic but definitely adds to the general vibe as well.

    Hell-A Isn’t Just A Place, It’s A Way Of Life

    Dead Island 2 actually looks surprisingly good on the PS5. The beautiful HDR implementation coupled with the (what I’m assuming to be) ray-traced reflections result in some really nice-looking locations. The image quality looks very sharp and the 60fps implementation as well looks like it holds up well for the most part. During my playthrough, I did not encounter any degradation in either image quality or frame drops so that is something really greatly maintained by the dev team. Now, what might be a point of contention for some players is the lack of graphical selection modes as the game only allows players to set the HDR with no option for Performance or Graphics modes which for me was a non-issue.

    When it comes to sound design this can be a bit of a hit-and-miss (mostly a miss). Slashing and bashing zombies have a good punchy feeling to them but where it really falls short is how dialogue and ambient zombie noises feel so muted due to the sound field mapping. When talking to an NPC and facing them, the dialogue is clear and concise but just turning 180 degrees’ around and their voices just disappear which frankly really pulled me out of it when it happened so often. This is further made worse because of how any zombie that comes up from behind you sound like they are full-blown ninjas sneaking their way to ambush you. There were also issues with some delayed sound effects in some cutscenes which is strange especially when the voices are synced correctly. I know these can be solved with the Day 0 patch and hopefully with other future required patches.

    An aspect where the PS5 version does feel like a missed opportunity is how the haptics and adaptive triggers are very softly included where it feels very negligible. Loading speeds though are quite fast with 10 seconds max when traveling between zones and when reviving after dying is almost instant.

    But I am glad that for the most part, Dead Island 2 feels like a solid experience with a few extra things that will be ironed out in time.

    Flesh On, Flesh Off

    When it comes to the gameplay of Dead Island 2, it is simple but well-fleshed out. Your character will get access to a skill deck which are combat moves and bonuses that appear as skill cards that will slowly unlock through the course of the game or found. This deck is where players can customize how their character plays by tweaking and switching out appropriate cards to suit their best play style. Want a boost of damage, then set the skill card that boosts damage after dropkicking an enemy. The possibilities and combinations are varied enough for experimentation and no doubt players will tinker and experiment for the best possible skill card setup.

    When it comes to weaponry, there are four tiers (common, uncommon, rare & superior) that players will encounter throughout the playthrough. Only the uncommon and above tiers can be customized for additional mods and perks for special abilities like melting, electrocuting, or setting zombies on fire, and also adjusting weapon stats for better durability or more damage by finding or purchasing blueprints and gathering parts. Weapon types are varied as well with tons of melee options (hammers, axes, knives, pickaxes) and ranged options (pistols, assault rifles) each also with a specific inclination. For melee weapons, there is the bulldozer (for large groups of common enemies), maiming (higher chance for critical hits and to maim), frenzy (for fast attacks to build up critical hits), and headhunter (for critical hits to the head). There are more options that players will discover that keep encounters fresh and varied.

    The world in Dead Island 2 is also separated by major zones requiring transitions from one another instead of one big interconnected world. Most zones are fairly sized and interesting with a lot of activities apart from the main quest to keep players engaged and encourage exploration and replayability.

    What I didn’t like though is only at the mid-point of the main quest (6 zones in) where fast travel unlocks and that too requires the player to initiate it at a set location to travel to another zone. That felt very strange to me as there was no reason why fast travel would not be accessible beforehand and made the earlier transitions a bit of a chore to keep running back and forth. When it comes to the loot as well although it is good that there is a ton of it (to sell, scrap for parts) especially since weapons have durability, finding truly unique ones can take time as most of the earlier zone did not have any that truly made it a must get. It feels like it takes too long to get to the good stuff and impatient players might be turned off by this.

    What I Liked

    • Story & Characters – I liked that the story doesn’t take itself too seriously and the NPC characters are fairly entertaining without being too cringe.
    • Graphics – I know it’s probably unfair to say this but it’s a stark contrast from Dying Light 2 where that game looked so ugly and this game at least looks good on new-gen systems.
    • Gameplay – Killing zombies can be fun in a mindless way but after major story beats more zombie variants populate each zones keeping things fresh and engaging. The multitude of combinations of skills, abilities, and weapons also keep things interesting.

    What Can Be Better

    • Pacing – As brisk as the main quest can be I did find myself getting a little worn out by the pacing especially if I decide to do the side activities. The early decision to not give fast travel also was just plain weird especially when there was no justification for it.
    • Weird Quest Design – There was a side quest where I had to track down a pool boy in the Beverly Hills zone, the weird thing about it was that the quest specifically said to look around that zone and yet I was puzzled why the end of that questline was in another zone entirely. It didn’t help that there were no quest markers at all, so it became slightly frustrating with the time wasted.
    • Bugs – I know there are issues that probably can be ironed out with patches but the sound design with dialogues and sounds behind the player just isn’t implemented as well as it should have been.

    When Life Closes A Door It Opens A Window. And Then, Zombies Climb In And Eat You

    I really wasn’t expecting much from Dead Island 2 but my time with it was an interesting one. I did keep fluctuating between enjoying the mindlessness of it all to being bored but I walked away with a very positive feeling. Especially since this game has been a very long time coming, it was nice to see the team succeeding to push out a quality zombie game that was equal parts engaging as it was light-hearted. That being said there was an unshakeable feeling that persisted throughout my playthrough that although it is a good game, it never crossed into being a great one.

    I know I did not mention much of the co-op experience in my review but that’s because I intentionally wanted to experience the game alone, at least for now. That’s because in a co-op experience, most people are just rushing to move on and I’m the type to stop and smell the roses kind of person. Regardless, hopefully when the game is fully released that most people would be able to enjoy this game for what it sets out to do on their own, with or without friends.

    Final Score – 7.5/10

    Jashvir Sandhu
    Jashvir Sandhu
    Proud barbarian to her monk, Wondrous Peashooter to her Sunflower, Blue Yarny who will never let go of his Red Yarny, Loving husband of Cadet Cuddles. Also on PSN known as ZDKilljoy

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