One of the biggest announcements to come out of Gamescom 2022 (despite early leaks) was that of Dead Island 2, a game that many thought was dead and buried after so many issues dogging development. However, just like a good zombie, the game has risen from the grave, and with the opportunity to get some hands-on time, we were obviously chomping at the bit to tear into the monsters.
Suffice to say, the long wait might be worth it after all, with Dambuster Studios doing its best to deliver what could be the definitive zombie killing experience ever. Taking players to Los Angeles, or Hell-A as it is affectionately called, the new adventure will pen a new page for the franchise by embracing its core pillars of a pulp adventure, visceral melee combat, co-op goodness, and the most advanced dismemberment system in games.
While the reveal trailer focused on the survivor known as Jacob, our demo saw us take control of Amy and tasked with retrieving a drive of important information. All six of the playable characters, or Slayers, are somehow bitten and infected, but immune to the virus. Furthermore, they have learned to harness the tainted powers running through their veins, perfect for taking down the hordes and other immune malefactors swarming the streets of Dead Island 2.
This means in addition to the staggering arsenal of modifiable melee weapons like bats, swords, axes, metal claws, and more, survivors like Amy can dodge speedily, unleash a ground pound for crowd control, and be the ultimate zombie slayer. However, the undead is not going to make it easy.
Dozens of distinct enemy types roam the land, each with their own mutations and tricks up their non-existent sleeves, ready to take a chunk out of the weak. Combat in Dead Island 2 is more than mindless swinging; it pays to be smart about how you approach enemies or hordes. Even with your enhancements, it doesn’t take much carelessness to fall in battle. Pick your spots, fight smartly, and you might just come out on top.
That is the case for the rank and file, but there are also special enemies in Dead Island 2 that function as bosses of sorts, such as the terrifying clown with claws that stood in the way of our objective. It is likely there will be more instances of such prolonged and testing battles awaiting players, requiring patience and mastery to overcome. When all things fail, a good molotov cocktail might just be the equaliser you need.
There is also the brand new skill system powering each of the Slayers, creating the flexibility to build all kinds of builds to deal with all situations. Being able to re-spec instantly is great, and as you unlock more Slayer abilities, the potential for experimentation only grows.
Dead Island 2 is promising a romp through the most iconic locations of the City of Angels, and it will be fun to see just how these places are transformed with a healthy splash of infected blood. The dark and brooding pier in the demo definitely ramp things up a notch when it came to the horror, and it never felt truly safe in all that darkness.
And that’s likely going to keep players coming back for more; even with power, Dead Island 2 still manages to instil a level of fear and apprehension in players, which makes it even harder to ignore. Just like being bitten by a zombie, we are now on board the train for 3 February 2023, when Dead Island 2 launches on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC.