Dead Island 2 was revealed many years ago, but it suffered years of developmental nightmares and looked like it was never coming out. There were rumors and whispers for years and then one day we finally got another reveal and release date. After that, it was hit with yet another small delay and a new release date. Now the game has finally arrived after close to a decade and is in the hands of Dambuster Studios who have taken on the mantle of Techland’s original cult classic from 2011; who are now focused on the Dying Light franchise.
I gave some initial thoughts on Dead Island 2 and a first look at what to expect in the first hours of the game. In that article I talked about the visuals and overall gameplay I also showed how the game’s new FLESH system works. Since then I’ve gone through the story and side quests and can say those opening impressions changed and varied as the game progressed. My initial thoughts were positive but I had one central question “would the game hold up till the finish?” Let’s take a look at the game as a whole and see if was it worth waiting pretty much a decade to play. The original game was fun as was the stand-alone expansion but we have a new studio at the helm now.
Gameplay mechanics haven’t altered a lot from the 2011 original which is a good and bad thing. The variety of weapons that can be found in the environment and modded is still achingly similar. The FLESH mechanic however is unique to this sequel and it works amazingly well within the world. The weapon and general crafting are well designed and work really well with the trading. The game itself feels much better with a semi-open world and the use of fluidly designed zones. Overall it feels really fluid to play and although it’s no shooter the gunplay is really well-designed and feels almost natural.
In my experience, this is one area the game can really shine although the character models can be hit and miss. Obviously, more attention is given to the main characters which is to be expected that doesn’t mean some look bad they don’t. I would just prefer more consistency and a higher standard in this game we have been waiting nearly a decade for. The zombie models are harder to create realism for but they have done an excellent job blending gross gore and classic looks and feels. The FLESH system is really well designed and makes the game one of the most detailed zombie games in terms of gore.
Another excellent part of the visuals is the textures of the world in Hell-A. We have close-to-real-looking environments with the Dead Island aesthetic and the streets around the city are packed with detail. For example, the Bel Air Region is believable in terms of design and the sewer system stands out with the variety in textures and lighting showing off how good the game looks.
The sound design is another strong point of the game that relies on creating a tense and haunting atmosphere through sound in a sun-soaked paradise. From the sounds of zombies in the distance and the always-on-point music, all of it is used to create a fantastic atmosphere. Some voice acting is strong but I also felt some performances were weaker. If you go to capture a screenshot of for example the audio completely cuts out for a couple of seconds and when you fast travel the audio doesn’t always resume straight away. This does get annoying but I feel like this can be fixed with hot patches or bug fixes further down the road.
The story is not the game’s finest hour unfortunately which again is disappointing for a nearly decade-old game that gamers have been fighting for. It’s a game about surviving a zombie outbreak and also taking down the undead. The story really sets itself up to be as brutal and horrifying as can be but to me, it falls short in many ways. The game was not designed in the same way as the masterpieces like Red Dead Redemption or The Last of Us if you are looking for a powerful story but for what the game is it fits perfectly with being dumb zombie fun that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
To give some credit to the story we have a vast array of side quests that may explain some background or characters and helps introduce new ones. It’s a human touch to what is the beginning of the end in a way.
Is this game worth it? Well considering the troubled history, the developers have done a fantastic job with what they had it still feels like the Techland original. However, at the same time, it feels very much fresh and its own game that could re-open the doors for the franchise. It plays really well and offers a ton of content to keep you going and keep your zombie-killing days filled. On top of that, the game will be getting at least two expansions. The Xbox store states the game “continues with the Expansion Pass. Embark on two brand new chapters of the main story, coming after release, featuring new missions, foes, weapons, abilities and areas of HELL-A to explore”. Even without the need for expansions, the game features a vast selection of side quests and challenges to follow on the campaign. In my humble opinion, this game is proof that a troubled development can be turned into a solid and fun game.
These are my thoughts on the game but I would love to hear yours. I enjoyed the game. Is it perfect? No, but I came into it with an open mind and was not disappointed. I know that’s not everyone’s experience with this game though. Did you enjoy this game and do you think it has been worth the wait? Let me know in the comments below and stay tuned for more from Lv1 Gaming!
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