The zombie hack-and-slash game Dead Island 2 has an overly enigmatic backstory. After being launched at E3 in 2014 with a Wizard of Oz-style bombast, Dead Island 2 was hidden from the public for nine years as part of a hot potato game. Its predecessor, Dead Island, established the franchise as a bloody trough of B-movie sensibility.
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This week’s game, which will be released on April 21, is neither the one you’ll get in 2014 nor is it the amazing result of nine years of laborious programming. The game underwent “basically a complete restart” until it was ultimately turned over to developer Dambuster Studios, according to Dan Evans-Lawes, technical director at publisher Deep Silver. However, I can overlook the wait. The gorefest Dead Island 2 is exciting. and it only ever slips when it tries to be more than that.
I go through it all as Dani, one of the six innately talented playable Slayers you choose early on in the game (I go with Dani since she heals after killing zombies quickly). She stares at her hands closely after learning that zombie bites don’t instantly transform her into a maggoty murdering machine as I lead her in first person through the game’s sunny but bleeding portrayal of contemporary Los Angeles.
Unleash the beast
She is only an ordinary murdering machine. I keep her moving by adding skill cards I find lying around the city and from killed foes to my editable deck, which is set up in a half-pyramid shape four cards tall. The regular Abilities card type occupies the first five spaces of the pyramid, followed by protective Survivor cards with four slots, and so on down the pyramid.
It may not seem like there is much room to customize your Slayer, but I find it simple to work with. There are a ton of cards to find and then select from, each of which affects a different part of your Slayer’s offensive, defensive, or autophagic capabilities. The latter are strong powers that cause you to become more of a zombie at the expense of other players of your health.
But I frequently don’t consider all of my alternatives. I enjoy playing defense, so I keep early Slayer and Abilities cards like The Limb Reaper and Dodge, which stun adversaries when you dodge their attacks, around for the duration of the game.
While certain foes are immune to specific attacks—a zombie wearing protective firefighter gear, for instance, doesn’t care much for fire-based attacks—skill cards fundamentally alter how you heal, strike, and kick.
Increase the power of your sliding attack, press R3 to make your jump kick stronger, and similar stuff. Additionally, testing cards always seem low risks because you can always change or add to your deck, unlike a skill tree or other form of leveling-up system that forces you to use non-refundable points.
Dead Island 2 is a game that obviously wants you to kill zombies but doesn’t usually care how, so taking a hands-off approach makes sense.
As a result, I don’t think twice to whack swarms of wandering zombies with my flaming meat cleaver no matter where I am in the game’s highly explorable (but not open-world) map of Los Angeles, whether I’m jogging through the soft sand of the Santa Monica Pier, on the crumbling asphalt around abandoned hot dog carts in Venice Beach, or anywhere else.
Or, more frequently, my burning meat cleaver, although I always have a weapon nearby. As I go through the game, I find more uncommon weapons, and I modify them by using the few slots available by gathering metal components, cutting tools, and other crafting supplies from the cracked city. I also outfit my guns with absurd modifications using found blueprints and mutant body parts in an effort to uncover the most lethal upgrade combos components, such as Leaky Implants and Infected Flesh, both of which enable the skin-melting, corrosive ooze that shotgun rounds and wakizashi blades shine with.
I rapidly become used to the game’s most popular goal, “Kill ’em all!” while building up my skill card deck and playing with weaponry, and I am grateful that I don’t get sick from video game violence.
According to me, video game carnage is a thrilling haven for horror enthusiasts who can’t bear obscene shock locations and Cronenberg skin-ripping. Dead Island 2 is for me like entering air conditioning during a particularly oppressive summer because I cannot tolerate such things, and I find comfortable joy in making successive hits and watching zombies unveil their meat, muscle, and bones. Dead Island 2 never makes me feel scared; instead, it makes me sadistically amused, with the exception of a few yelps I have to suppress when an adversary charges at me as soon as I unlock a closed door.
apart from while I’m angry. And I’m annoyed by pretty much every boss battle in Dead Island 2, which, in contrast to its unrestrained, wild zombie encounters,
always chooses some obnoxious gimmick that I have to put up with. They’re challenging, but unlike the rest of the game, in an unpleasant way. I have to utilize questionable amounts of luck and technique in place of my usual, brute force.
The Fury Mode from the earlier games is back, allowing Dani to tear adversaries apart with her bare hands once I’ve filled the meter up with battles and energy drinks.
In one boss battle, it’s suggested that I utilize a variety of button-controlled fireworks to succeed, but the flames only have an impact on the boss when it’s in the exact correct spot at the exact right moment. I’m even more irritated by the Butcho clown fight that journalists detailed in-game previews from the previous season.
Attacks cannot harm Butcho’s body in half. Because additional zombies steadily enter the arena as you kill them, Butcho has an endless supply of food to recover with. This allows him to continually regenerate health. As fighting Butcho one restless night, I begin to weep. I’ll be the first to say that my fear of clowns and the irritating carnival tune that plays as we fight aren’t helping, but I can’t stop it The distinction between “get good” and unjust keeps coming to me.
Die, zombie, die!
Butcho is finally defeated by me thanks to what seems like a fluke—a few seconds during which his body writhes and sustains extra harm for no apparent reason.
The pace of Dead Island 2 suffers in my opinion because of these more intense role-playing game-style battles, and the game’s difficulty level makes it feel obnoxiously more multiplayer-focused in key areas. Due to the fact that I am the only player (the game is still in development), I am appreciative of my victories since they allow me to continue playing along the drama- and blood-filled West Coast of the game.
What I want from Dead Island 2 is drama and guts. However, the butchery in the game is genuine enough that I finally start to wonder why it gives me such a rush to kill so many fictitious people. But it’s difficult to not feel content when the game continues giving me rewards.
I gain experience points (XP) toward leveling up when I finish the game’s 24 major chapters, some of the 33 side tasks it offers, locate missing people, and earn challenge accomplishments. Dani’s life bar, damage done, and defense gradually rise as I level up, enabling me to complete the main narrative tasks, reach adversaries behind gates (one particularly difficult enemy has a skull hovering over its head), and “match” weapons to specific targets
raising standards to new, horrific heights at my level. In addition, when Dani becomes stronger, my previously locked skill card slots automatically unlock.
To continue doing all of this, I munch on health-restoring snack bars that fallen opponents have left behind. In addition, as my Dani keeps killing, my knowledge of zombies expands to the size of a medieval bestiary in a collectibles tab that lists the different types I’ve encountered, such as common Walkers who lose limbs like the leaves of a dried rose, bulging Slobbers who eject caustic slime, meathead Crushes who resemble the Liver King, and so forth.
Butchers, Incendiary Walkers, who carry gasoline canisters on their backs, enabling me to cause enormous explosions when I strike them with one of my “curveball” missiles.
which have arms resembling constricted bone spurs and deflect nearly all attacks), yet the variety creates engaging, fluid fighting in a game that is overly focused on it.
But the game’s narrative, which is gradually revealed through notes I find and conversations with the game’s numerous characters—people like a drunk, failed rock star, and a chef trapped in zombie hell wearing his apron—recognize my internal conflict regarding finding pleasure in power and violence’s unpleasant reality.
For instance, when it leaves fast food packaging on a table or preschool art taped to a refrigerator in a random, vacant apartment. These specifics, along with many of the deftly pieced-together tales in the game, show that this city was once secure and populated just a few days prior. You are causing deaths. You have been made to behave brutally by a terrible reality.
Therefore, while settings appear lovely, it is in this unsettling way that all of a sudden feels accurate
Zombies have taken over. The game features varied blood textures, such as congealed and polished when dried to a wall, matte and extended when submerged into patio furniture, and ambling beach monsters shadowed by lowering peachy sunsets. It’s perplexing. Dani is frequently perplexed by the degradation all around her, or, alternatively, she is fiercely indignant at the real power brokers—the governments and the billionaires—who seem content to let death rule.
I adore how this game provides a variety of semi-pure enjoyment; if you want it to be, it can be a story with a lesson, or it can just be zombie mayhem. Only when a boss fights in Dead Island 2 transforms from what I’ve been programmed to think it to be—a dopamine feed—do I ever feel dissatisfied with cycling conflict and payoff.
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