May 30, 2023

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Dead Island 2 review – an unexpected surprise

As history has shown, games that languish in development hell for many years do not have the best ending. Case in point is Duke Nukem Forever, whose fate we all know. Theoretically, the situation with Dead Island 2 is similar, but in practice the end result has absolutely nothing to do with it. I was pleased to find that the zombie title is of high quality and very entertaining. Personally, I consider it among the fun gaming surprises of the year so far.

In case you want a refresher, Dead Island 2 was first introduced in 2014, with development team Yager Development, rather than Techland, initially at the helm of development. After a year, the studio abandoned the project. In 2016, Sumo Digital took the lead in the development of the popular franchise, but they finally gave up the baton soon after, when the game was in the hands of Dambuster Studios in 2019. This is the British development team we met through Homefront: The Revolution formerly known as Free Radical Design and Crytek UK, having worked on series such as Crysis and TimeSplitters.

So, even though development has gone through a thousand waves and changed a lot of hands, Dead Island 2 hasn’t (Focusing on no) seems like a mishmash of muddled and disjointed ideas, as it has a distinct texture and gives the impression that it has been carefully crafted.

But it’s time to delve into the nitty-gritty, starting with the story. Dead Island 2 takes place roughly 10 years after the events of Dead Island and Dead Island: Riptide, and takes place in Los Angeles, which has been isolated due to a zombie infestation. The game follows six immune survivors (called “Slayers”) who attempt to escape the city with the help of the character Sam B from the previous games. Personally, I chose Jacob, a Briton who pursued his dream and came to the United States to become an entrepreneur. He is the character who also graces the cover of the game, and always has a joke or comments for every situation. Surprisingly, that’s not a bad thing!

The game doesn’t try too hard to be great, but instead manages – most of the time at least – to find the tricky balance required to successfully bring its dark humor to fruition. Personally, I’m someone who doesn’t tolerate misplaced humor in games and movies (although for some reason I laugh at cold jokes), and you’ve probably heard me on our podcast on Framerate refer to these failed attempts as confusion. Well, in Dead Island 2, while it could easily fall into a trap, there were a few moments where I felt that way and instead I found a lot of well-placed comedic and satirical elements. For example, there is a side mission with an influencer who is in her world and instead of protecting herself, tries to take videos of zombies to like. On the other hand, in the main story, he will also meet his “gym brother”, who lost his friends because instead of listening to him, they had “leg days” and did not have strong legs to run fast enough when infected with the virus. broke out.

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Of course, since the game takes place in Los Angeles, or Hell-A, as he calls it, the creators did not miss the opportunity to ruthlessly troll the shoplifting actors and the entire visual culture of Hollywood stars who care above all about their image. Of course, despite the successful humor – generally and for my taste – and these satirical elements, the story itself is nothing exciting and something we haven’t seen before. There are some twists and turns that you can see coming from miles away, while the actual developments are few and far between, with plenty of filler interspersed. Overall I can’t say I was underwhelmed, nor that I felt any strong emotion with the narrative, which has many weaknesses. It’s one of those cases where it simply exists to serve the action and that’s enough for me in this case.

Why; Because Dead Island 2’s action is simply great. From the first hit I took on zombies, I enjoyed the combat and especially with how well the developers managed to achieve that feeling. It all starts with the impressive dismemberment system curated by Dambuster Studios. Each weapon is different and affects zombies differently. For example, a sharp object such as a sword or knife could easily cut off their limbs, which meant that they would not be able to attack or fall to the ground. What amazed me was that each stab affected the zombie’s physique, severing his clothes and flesh where the hit occurred. There were scenes where I saw enemies disembowelled and their rotting entrails spilled out and I couldn’t believe my eyes. On the other hand, a different weapon, such as a large sledgehammer, melts their skulls and cracks their bones, driving the legions back.

This system is the core of Dead Island 2 and makes the combat incredibly addictive and rewarding. I don’t think there was a time when slaying zombies felt better in the countless zombie games I’ve played. At the same time, the battle system also has depth, with many different classes of enemies that need different treatment. In fact, until literally the last track, the game introduces new enemies, keeping encounters constantly fresh. The element of electricity and fire in the Dead Island 2 experience is also strong, as they are used in many puzzles and not only. The world is full of barrels, explosives and toxic water that if exploited properly you can make deadly combinations. The first example you will see during gameplay is throwing a car battery into a swimming pool which electrocutes zombies.

These physics elements that obey the laws of nature of the natural world and escape the logic of the games, come to add to the very satisfying feel of the gameplay and I appreciate it in every game. I should mention at this point that the arsenal isn’t as brutal as Dead Rising’s arsenal for example, due to certain types of weapons that can be used and dropped or discovered as rare loot, unlike in a Capcom title where every item serves as a weapon. However, the crafting/upgrading system, which is rather poor, gives more variety. Each weapon can be upgraded for status effects (such as Bleed, electricity, fire, etc.) electrified).

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Unfortunately, the only downsides to combat are that there are some difficulty spikes, while shooting fails to reach extremely high melee levels. Aside from shotguns, the rest of the automatic weapons, shotguns and pistols didn’t have the same satisfactory feel and felt a bit empty. This might be due to the fact that the brawl was so well done that the comparison next to it isn’t flattering, but it’s still something that definitely goes unnoticed. Continuing, I appreciate the creators’ effort to not follow the beaten path with the leveling system. So, instead of a skill tree, there’s a special card system that allows you to activate certain abilities at any time, with very good cards also having negative consequences, making the right balance essential.

At this point, I want to talk about the world of Dead Island 2 which is one of its bright spots. The rendering of Los Angeles is truly flawless and the development team’s choice not to create a chaotic open world, but a series of small, dense semi-open world maps full of secrets and details is about as good as it gets. So, among other things, I passed on the famous Venice Beach, which you’ve seen in countless movies, with its signature outdoor gym, Muscle Beach. Continuing, the action passes from the famous Santa Monica Pier, with its big wheel, carousel and aquarium, from Hollywood Boulevard, the famous boulevard with the stars of the Walk of Fame and the Dolby Theater at the Oscars, from Beverly Hills, a charming neighborhood of glamorous actors, with mansions that Infested with zombies, but it remains a survivor’s dream to get supplies in such cases, from a movie shooting studio and from many other vantage points in Los Angeles.

All of the tracks were nearly perfect representations of the real world, and although the original trademarks weren’t there for obvious reasons, it felt like I was actually exploring a realistic, post-apocalyptic version of it. The work that has been done in this sequel is truly remarkable and the world is full of secrets like lore, loot, and easter eggs that are worth exploring every inch of, without being boring like the chaotic open worlds that make you forget where to stop and set boundaries. In fact, the scenes I saw on my screen were so many and different from each other that I honestly never got bored and always looked forward to seeing what lay ahead for me next. The pace of the main campaign in this regard is well thought out.

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Moving on to the technical side, Dead Island 2 comes at a time of questions smacks From the AAA industry. While Redfall and Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order launched with horrific technical issues, Dambuster Studios delivered a smooth and glitch-free experience. The version I tested was the Xbox Series X version. The game has no modes and instead offers the obvious: it also has a high resolution, with crisp rendering and high performance, with a solid 60 frames per second. It leaves you no choice and offers both, just as next-generation consoles should. And no, that doesn’t mean the graphics are poor. on the contrary. I personally found them to be excellent.

The entire art direction is somewhat focused on cleanliness and this pays off handsomely thanks to the perfect implementation of material rendering. Every surface has its own distinct texture and especially in the first rich homes of Beverly Hills I felt like I was watching a graphics engine tech show. Weapon and enemy models are well rendered and polygon filled, while all environments are loaded with detail. The particle effects are also rich and flashy, filling the screen impressively. Loading screens are few and short in duration, while I did encounter some bugs. Aside from a few blemishes, like a pop-up in some places and some subtle frame rate drops, Dead Island 2 is among the most well-rounded games we’ve seen in a while.

On the audio side, a very good job has been done with the effects of most weapons and items, which manage to stand out and help with the combat and overall feel. I can’t say that the sound blew me away, but they didn’t disappoint me. The actors did a good job without going too far. In general, Dead Island 2 is a calm game that chooses to turn on the music in a few moments, just when you want the excitement to peak. So, I can’t say I have anything left of the soundtrack, apart from the amazing main menu theme which is a real reason to hold off on pressing Start Game for as long as possible!

In conclusion, the game is about 15 hours long if one just wants to tackle the 20 or so central missions, but there are more than 30 side missions, as well as several secrets in the maps that can crank up the counter a bit.

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