Find the card, get the card to the checkpoint, and get through the checkpoint. These words are cycling through my mind as I mercilessly hack through the hordes of zombies with my specially crafted electric blade.
Despite the constant oncoming hordes in Dead Island 2, I’m starting to get into the swing of this; I’ve been smart with my resources, upgraded my equipment, and actually picked skill cards that’ll help me as an individual. The crowds of zombies aren’t even that bad if you go for the knees first. But then I lean down to pick up a rusty pipe one of them had dropped earlier, only to see a pair of menacing shadows loom over me.
I turn around in horror and see two absolute goliaths leaning over me. You are what you eat, and these two lads have clearly been eating bulldozers for breakfast. These guys look like they worked out every day before this apocalypse began.
So now I’m left trying to find the keycard while battling against two goliaths and all their undead little friends; I wish I were an octopus because I don’t have enough hands for this. Whenever I engage one zombie in a fight, more crawl out of the sewers and bushes and immediately jump on my back. As my health depletes and my weapons break, I’ve been backed into a corner or, in this case, on top of a minivan.
If only there were someone to share my pain. Even if I only had one teammate, I could distract all the small minions as my zombie-slaying partner hacked through the decaying gym buddies to find the security card. But no, instead, I’m left here on my lonesome, staring off into the bleak night sky stranded on top of a family-size minivan, with no keycard and even less motivation to try and find it.
What could have been
It’s pretty easy for zombie shooters nowadays to fall into a repetitive structure that consists of mowing down zombies to get to point A and then finding out you need to get to point B and repeat. While there was undoubtedly an element of that in the five-hour Dead Island 2 preview I played, it was clear that Dambuster had made a real effort to prevent this tedious pitfall.
“The first game was loads of fun, but it could get repetitive, so we tried to create situations in the game that forced the player to reconsider their approach,” Dead Island 2’s technical art director Dan Evans-Lawes tells me.
This creativity was primarily thanks to Dambuster introducing “new tools and enemies that interacted with the world and each other,” Evans-Lawes says. With environmental kills possible, elemental zombies, greater weapon customization and the bloody F.L.E.S.H system making it easy to hack and slash the undead with pinpoint accuracy, I always had to think on my feet.
The six playable survivors also helped Dead Island 2 stay relatively interesting. Each character had a standout personality and interacted with the world around them differently; it was enjoyable to see how each took to the apocalypse, with some faring better than others.
The hard truth
However, despite the effort to make Dead Island 2 a creative zombie game, I can’t say the preview blew me out of the water. It has all the grotesque killing and theatrical setting of the original, but the long-awaited sequel failed to stand out from games like Dying Light 2, Back 4 Blood, or even Left 4 Dead 2.
The preview was a strictly solo experience, and in almost every encounter, I found the combat poorly balanced for one player. Overwhelming odds, floods of enemies with no break, and a mass of different elemental damage types to manage for each wave of attackers left me thinking a group of friends would make this undead game 100% more enjoyable and manageable. Though, I can’t say for sure co-op will make Dead Island 2 more enjoyable, I can only say single-player was lacking.
If Dead Island 2 comes to Game Pass and your friendship group is at a loss of what to play and are lovers of gore, it’s worth a look. But even then, there are loads of zombie games that deliver a more entertaining and cohesive look at what a zombie game can be.
I didn’t hate my time in the ruins of L.A. The new models for zombies and their elemental abilities felt like a nice step forward for the Dead Island series, and the encounters were varied enough to keep me guessing, but that wasn’t enough to soothe my frustration.
I spent way too much time on top of minivans or replaying sections just because a zombie had clipped through another one or had interrupted a finishing kill cutscene just to bite my head off. While I may make a return trip with friends who can have my back and utilize the various characters and their abilities, I won’t be vacationing to L.A. by myself any time soon.