Dead Island 2 Review – HELL-A Takes a Bite Out of You 

Developed by Dambusters Studios

Published by Deep Silver

Available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S

MSRP: $59.99

Where to start with Dead Island 2? It has had such a troubled development. Changing teams multiple times since its original (and excellent) reveal trailer in 2014. Having been scrapped completely numerous times, it was presumed dead for a long time. Until it was re-revealed at Gamescom in 2022. Keeping its beachy LA setting but ditching everything else. So how does Dead Island 2 hold up after finally getting our hands on it almost ten years after it was first announced? Well, that answer is complicated, so let’s get into it.

 The story of Dead Island 2 takes place in a zombie appoclofied version of Los Angeles, therefore referred to as HELL-A. I chose Ryan, our survivor, of which there are six to choose from. A male stripper with a penchant for toughness and health regeneration looking to go back home to his brother. 

 After a plane crash, our survivor helps save Emma Jaunt, a star in HELL-A and becomes infected during his attempt to save another passenger from the accident. After a survivor from the past games, Sam B (artist of the infamous Who Do You Voodoo), gets introduced, we learn that the other games in the series we not erased from lore, but on the surface level, this is the one and only time Banoi is referenced. There are hints and nods for the more eagle-eyed players and fans of the series that hint towards more connectivity to the series. 

But as our survivor learns he is immune, this begins his adventure to let the CDC know that he is immune. While there are twists and turns along the way, this is the general arc of the game. You will come across other survivor groups and help them with their issues. What stands out in Dead Island 2 is that we see little in the way of humanity getting pushed front and center. The infected are always the main threat. Usually, in typical zombie fashion, humans are always the greatest enemy. Whether it is raiders scavenging humanity or some secret level of the government trying to destroy the world. But you won’t see that here. There is a human element to it, but they never landed as the main threat. Even when a group makes themselves known, they disappear for hours after. To the point where I forgot about them because Dead Island 2 pits you against a ton of zombies and a great variety of them, and it knows that its action is its selling point. From big bruiser types to screamers and ones that spit acid at you. There are more that I don’t want to spoil, a specifically late-game one. There is one that was the first time I felt was a genuine threat. And within those, they have offshoot variants powered up by the elements like electricity, fire, and acid. 

 With the variety of enemies being very on point, it feels only suitable to talk about weapons. Of which there are many. You will find them scattered through the world but also given to you as rewards from quests and locked behind these doors that require fuses to open, which can be bought from traders in all survivor camps. So while you will find your standard knives, axes, and crowbars, you will also come across more out there weapons like rakes, paddles, and wolverine-like claws. All of these can be upgraded with mods that increase durability, push back, also known as force damage and speed.

Additionally, you can repair weapons at workbenches and level-match them to your level. This drastically changed the game, as I found a purple weapon around halfway through the game that I could keep with me until the very end. Although this did end up costing me lots of money. But like crafting materials for the mods, money is strewn about the landscape, so you won’t be short of cash anytime.

Dead Island 2‘s most significant selling point has to be its absolutely stellar and, at times, stomach-churning gore system. As each zombie takes damage, depending on the weapon type, their flesh, and bones will start to deform and reflect the damage done. Trying to run from a running zombie? Why not break its legs so it can’t run anymore? Or keep attacking a zombie’s face and watch its jaw get disgustingly unhinged. 

 It’s a game changer in the zombie apocalypse genre of games. I hope other games of the same ilk take notice and step it up regarding damaging zombies in future games.

 Now the not-so-fun part. Something in Dead Island 2 makes it feel highly dated and falls behind other games in the same genre. The world. Mostly how you travel around the world. Instead of an open world allowing you to view something cool off in the distance and physically walk or run there, each area is walled off almost as levels. When you are up against other more significant zombie titles like Dying Light 2, Days Gone, or even Dead Rising. It makes it feel disjointed, and when there isn’t much stuff to do in each location, it feels exceptionally empty. 

 Overall, Dead Island 2 is a good mixed bag. With outstanding action, gore, and variety really sells it. However, it makes the sore spots stick out even more. The story is not landing for me, and the cut-up world makes the world of HELL-A feel highly empty. But one this is for sure, Dead Island 2 looks gorgeous. Even though I’m on the fence about how I think about it, I’m excited to see what Dambuster Studios does next because they brought a lot of passion to this, and there are times when it really shines through. 

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