Getting caught in growth hell usually doesn’t bode nicely for video games. For each Final Fantasy VII Remake or The Last Guardian, there’s an Aliens: Colonial Marines or Duke Nukem Forever. Often, the ultimate releases lack a compelling design id, chasing traits that popped up over time and feeling like a mishmash of a number of builders’ concepts of what the sport needs to be. My greatest concern going into my hands-on demo with a near-final construct of the oft-delayed Dead Island 2 was that it’d really feel devoid of a lot creativity or lack a transparent imaginative and prescient; fortunately, I used to be lifeless incorrect.
It’s well-known at this level that Dead Island 2 had an especially troubled growth cycle, struggling many launch date delays and developer shifts. Despite that, Dambuster Studios’ last model of Dead Island 2 options some artistic gameplay concepts, just like the gory F.L.E.S.H. dismemberment system and environmental interactions, in addition to creative set items that lean exhausting into its comedic bougie apocalypse in Los Angeles premise. These moments may outline Dead Island 2, reclaiming its troubled narrative come launch day.
Dead Island 2 begins with the participant surviving a aircraft crash after a wealthy individual on a flight out of LA turned out to be contaminated and attacked everybody on board. After selecting a personality and navigating via the wreckage, I discovered a wealthy actress Emma Jaunt and her supervisor. They finally abandon the participant as they attempt to assist others however inform them to come back to Jaunt’s home in Bel-Air in the event that they survive.
It’s right here the place gamers get the grasp of Dead Island 2’s melee fight and degradable weapons as they fend off hordes of zombies. While I did ultimately succeed, my character was bitten by one of many folks they had been attempting to save lots of. It seems the participant’s character is immune, in order that they ultimately regroup with Emma Jaunt and her “friends” at her luxurious Bel-Air residence and value with them to flee LA. The first step is for the participant to contact the federal government to tell them that they’re immune.
Dead Island 2’s vibrant phrase design began to stay out as I trekked via Bel-Air to get to the Hallerpin Hotel, the place the navy had staged itself and requested survivors to come back to. Houses in Bel-Air had been overly extravagant, with massive infinity swimming pools and room for personal occasions. Still, none of it was really sensible sufficient to guard these folks as they had been overrun with zombies. Dead Island 2 coloration palate is shiny and vibrant, properly contrasting with the horrific zombies and excessive gore I noticed all through the journey.
I turned much more impressed after I took a shortcut via one other Bel-Air home, solely to open a door and see a large whiteboard with a video script written on it. “I’m alone in the house, it’s 1 a.m., and I just wanted to say sorry to all of my fans that I’ve disappointed but most importantly my sponsors — I’ll do better next time,” it learn. “[CRY HERE FOR SYMPATHY] This isn’t scripted, this is from the heart. Please take the evacuation seriously, it was a mistake. I shouldn’t have joked about it — love you all.”
Oh god, I’m in an unbearable TikTok House, and somebody right here was making an apology video for joking concerning the zombie apocalypse.
Upon additional inspection, I found that this place was known as the “GOAT Pen” and was residence to a number of influencers, solely one in all whom survived. I scavenged for provides all through this residence, seeing units constructed for every kind of content material creators, bongs and beer bottles strewn about in all places, and even a large recreation room with a bowling alley and arcade cupboards referencing Timesplitters and Homefront: The Revolution.
On high of being fairly humorous, stumbling upon the GOAT Pen strengthened simply how vapid LA tradition was, even earlier than the apocalypse. It additionally demonstrates a deeper effort on the developer’s half to make every place gamers discover distinct and never only a bunch of copy-and-pasted buildings. There’s an actual spark of creativity right here in Dead Island 2, and that was solely affirmed as I skilled among the essential story’s set items.
Beyond the fundamentals
Arriving on the Hallerpin Hotel, it was clear that one thing was off. Humans are nowhere to be seen, solely physique luggage, zombies, and a pool stuffed with a lethal chemical. It rapidly turned obvious that anybody who got here right here was killed by the navy or changed into a zombie. While this degree’s premise may’ve stopped there, there was one other twist: the navy interrupted a marriage once they confirmed up on the lodge.
The overtly optimistic vibes and decor of a marriage ceremony and reception added an sudden spin to this mission. I needed to combat a zombified groom and greatest man on the altar, and after contacting a physician over a radio left behind right here, I needed to combat a large zombified bride within the lodge’s ballroom to the music that was in all probability imagined to be her first dance along with her husband. It’s a online game boss combat that I’ll keep in mind for fairly some time.
After that, I returned to Emma Jaunt’s home, solely to be taught that her assistant had gone rogue to get provides and show his value to Emma. I ultimately arrived at Monarch Studios, filled with complicated units stuffed with zombies as a substitute of actors and crew. While looking for Emma’s assistant, I needed to combat via numerous movie and TV present units. Standouts for me had been preventing hordes of enemies within the multicam set of a sitcom known as Friends Without Benefits and exploring the faux marshes of Rise of the God-Spider, the place I fought zombies in costumes of questionable cultural sensitivity.
The Monarch Studios set items emphasised a few of Dead Island 2’s visible and gameplay strengths. It sports activities a formidable quantity of selection in zombie designs, which I seen greater than earlier than as I moved from set to set on this film studio, and the appears of the zombies modified accordingly. Meanwhile, these units had been of environmental interactions that allowed me to electrocute zombies, set them on hearth, or slowly kill them with acid. These elemental results, weapon customization, and an in depth melee fight system that chips off pores and skin and flesh relying on the place you hit an enemy add rather more participant company than anticipated to gameplay.
This all got here to a head within the Monarch Studios boss combat. It was towards a bloated zombie that might spit acid — not a brand new idea on this style — however a large mechanical God-Spider loomed over the world, and I may work together with numerous management panels to trigger completely different elemental results on the world to chip away injury on the boss and different common zombies that spawned. Once once more, the builders turned what may’ve been a boring boss combat right into a memorable setpiece tailor-made particularly to Dead Island 2’s distinctive gameplay programs.
These novel concepts all assist Dead Island 2 stand out from the numerous zombie video games and AAA open-world titles I’ve performed. By going past primary degree concepts and including numerous character to most of the recreation’s set items, the Dambuster Studios group that introduced Dead Island 2 to the end line is asserting itself as artistic and passionate. It may have been a lackluster and uninspired recreation, and I actually would’ve understood and accepted that, given its powerful growth cycle.
Instead, this primary chunk of the sport I went hands-on with has satisfied me to play extra when it launches so I can see what different wacky concepts it has in retailer. Even if the ultimate model of the sport isn’t wonderful, the truth that Dambuster Studios managed to present the launched model of Dead Island 2 such a distinctly polished and cohesive id needs to be appreciated.
Dead Island 2 launches on April 21 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.