Dead Island 2 Review - so close, yet so far

Wading through mud and zombies

A survivor lighting a cigarette with zombies in the background
(Image: © Deep Silver)

TechRadar Verdict

Dead Island 2 has a clear vision of what it wants to be but sadly loses its way within the countless hordes of zombies.


  • +

    Vibrant setting

  • +

    Fun gore system


  • -

    Mixed bag of characters

  • -

    Poorly scaled boss battles

  • -

    Predictable story

  • -

    Frustrating fights

  • -

    Sometimes, inaccurate prompts

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Review information

Time played: 16 hours 

Platform: Xbox Series X

There’s a lot of potential in Dead Island 2; the creative settings and gory gameplay are truly outlandish and were often the highlight of my time in Hell-A, but unfortunately, no amount of gruesome finishing kills or giant animatronic spiders could make me relish the time I spent in this zombocalypse. 

However, if you’re out of multiplayer games to play with friends then Dead Island 2 may be worth checking out. Sadly, there aren’t many other reasons to jump into this apocalyptic game, not when many better alternatives are available.  

Dead Island 2 price and release date

  • What is it? A sequel to Techland’s 2011 zombie survival game 
  • Release date: April 21, 2023 
  • Price: $69.99 / £59.99 / AUS$109.95 
  • What can I play it on? PC, PS5, Xbox Series X|S 

You brought a knife to a gunfight

Firing a handgun at explosive barrels

(Image credit: Deep Silver)

One of my favorite aspects of the original Dead Island was the focus and dependence on melee. As someone who’s played their fair share of zombie games, it was refreshing to have one title ignore firearms, for the most part. With this in mind, at least initially, Dead Island 2’s customization and upgrade options for its melee weapons filled me with delight.

While the customization was cool, it did nothing more than add a couple of perks and flare to your weapons. In actuality, when you’re fighting through ravenous hordes of zombies, there’s little time to sit down and reflect on which pointy stick you want to use.

The joy of using gory finish moves was overshadowed by frustrating gameplay

Like the weapons, the joy of using gory finish moves was overshadowed by frustrating gameplay. Thankfully, you won’t get hit by bystanding zombies while trying to finish off one of their friends. However, taking the time to combo can put you at a disadvantage as zombies armed with explosives, toxic spew, and a shocking voice surround you. Having to single-handedly fight off seemingly never-ending hordes of aggressive yet stupid zombies quickly lost its appeal as it began to feel like I was swatting annoying horse flies rather than fulfilling my role as the killer protagonist. 

Handling the undead crowds eventually improved after the first firearms were introduced in Dead Island 2; relying on guns isn’t very Dead Island-like. The first few instances of gun use turned this sequel into a literal corridor shooter as I ran through containment corridors and the sewers. Why would I take the time to combo and use my hard-won melee weapons when I could shoot a zombie in the head and call it a day? 

The problem of guns does ease up at points, particularly during boss battles when you’re encouraged to utilize the environment fully. However, these short reliefs don’t compensate for the overwhelming frustration that followed me around Dead Island 2 like a lost puppy. 

Better with friends

Survivor with his hand in a dead zombie's chest

(Image credit: Deep Silver)

My time playing Dead Island 2 was a bit of a chore. However, it definitely gave my neighbours something interesting to listen to as I screamed at my TV. Needless to say, I won’t be rushing back to play singleplayer in my spare time, though, with friends, it could be different. 

While Dead Island 2 is doable, if unspectacular, in singleplayer, it seems like multiplayer is definitely the way to go. Armed with all your modded weapons and a group of trustworthy and endurant friends, this survival zombie game has the potential for some high-octane game nights. Much like the Dead Island 2 preview, taking on hordes of relentless zombies while trying to shimmy a key card off of a buff, dead security guard seems like it would be easier with a coordinated group.  

Falling short

clown zombie with blades for hands

(Image credit: Deep Silver)

Gore is a staple of the zombie genre, so doing it well isn't an achievement, it's an expectation

Despite the frustrating nature of Dead Island 2, there seemed to be potential in the eye-grabbing environments and F.L.E.S.H. dismemberment system. However, gore is a staple of the zombie genre, so doing it well isn't an achievement, it's an expectation. 

This isn’t Dambuster Studio's first failure to revitalize a series. Homefront: The Revolution is another example of great prospects with poor execution. That, too, was a sequel picking up the pieces from another developer, and much like with that game, Dead Island 2 falls short at the final hurdle.

During my time playing Dead Island 2, I was met with the occasional bug that would freeze and then position my character in a slightly different location, which was incredibly disorientating when fighting tons of the undead. I also noticed that some of the directional prompts weren’t accurate. For example, when trapped in a movie studio and waiting for an elevator, I was told to defend myself until it arrived. In actuality, I needed to kill all the zombies before I could escape. While this is a small issue, it drastically changed how I played Dead Island 2; no one likes having to psychoanalyse what the devs actually want you to do.  

All of these smaller aspects took away from the more enjoyable experiences in Dead Island 2; even in parts I enjoyed, I always had a bad taste left in my mouth. But for those who are still curious and have money to spare then by all means, have at it; but please don’t go alone.  

Elie Gould
Features Writer

Elie is a Features Writer for TechRadar Gaming, here to write about anything new or slightly weird. Before writing for TRG, Elie studied for a Masters at Cardiff University JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs or editing the gaming section for their student publications. 

Elie’s first step into gaming was through Pokémon but they've taken the natural next step in the horror genre. Any and every game that would keep you up at night is on their list to play - despite the fact that one of Elie’s biggest fears is being chased.