Dead Island 2 – Preview

Title   Dead Island 2
Developer  Yager Development
Publisher  Deep Silver
Platform  Windows PC, Xbox One, PS4
Genre  Survival horror, action RPG
Release Date  Spring 2015
Official Site

Wot, no images? Have some llamas.

Confession time, ladies and gentlemen: I didn’t enjoy Dead Island. It was slow-paced and, for the most part, pretty boring, not withstanding the fact that it was horribly buggy and generally a bit piss. It was a massively unimpressive version of Borderlands, but with zombies. So, it was with some trepidation that I took a look at Dead Island 2 to see whether Yager Development are likely to give it a better crack of the undead whip than Techland. Yager Development are responsible for the rather excellent Spec Ops: The Line, and therefore you could consider that the series will be given a fresh lease of life.  Based on what I’ve seen thus far, however, I’m not entirely convinced, but I remain optimistic considering Techland, who made the piss-poor first game, are now making the rather excellent-looking Dying Light.

Dead Island 2 is set months after the initial outbreak on the fictional island of Banoi from the first game – an outbreak which has now spread to California and infected its residents. In response to this, the government has quarantined California in an effort to stop the disease from spreading further. As you’ve probably already guessed, you’ll play one of the humans left inside the infected zone attempting to survive. Yager Development are billing this as a dynamic, open-world title that will cover plenty of spots you’ll recognise, such as Los Angeles beaches and the Hollywood Hills. Players will have the option of moving around the environments either by foot or in vehicles which, of course, can also be used to run over zombies.

If we were to follow the lead from others and simply take screen grabs from an announcement video which is in no way representative of the game itself, we may as well just zombify some llamas.

In the same vein as its predecessor, the new game will feature classes, namely the Hunter, Berserker, Speeder and Bishop, all of which are people who, in an interesting twist on the zombie theme, perceive the impending zombie apocalypse as a second chance at life. No bills, no jobs, just zombie killing and having a laugh. It’s certainly a break from the natural assumption that everyone would view the end of the world as a bad thing. Each class will no doubt have signature moves and abilities, meaning that you and you friends can fight over trying to keep the co-op play balanced.

If Dead Island was good at any stage, it was during the co-op play and, thankfully, this returns for the sequel, except they’ve doubled the amount of people who can get involved. Up to eight players can join in online co-op, which is handy as you’ll likely need someone’s help at some stage, especially because if Dead Island 2 is boasting anything over the first it’s the sheer number of zombies on screen at any time (Yager Development boast that no two zombies will look the same). Much like Techlands’ Dying Light, the decision to fight isn’t always the right one, and instead players should consider beating a hasty retreat. Much like Dead Rising, though, this is a game more about having fun with the source material than focusing on the grim reality that has set in.

Take the announcement trailer for example: tongue-in-cheek, bright colours and generally doing its best to draw a picture of a fun place to visit, even if it is overrun by the undead.  The game itself is incredibly colourful and, thanks to the confirmation that there will be thousands of different weapons with plenty of modifications to be made, the tongue-in-cheek vibe continues in combat. Players can also duel-wield weapons, and they don’t even have to match in terms of type – I’ll take a electrified machete and a double-barrelled shotgun please.

As per usual, zombies won’t be the only thing trying to kill you in the quarantine zone, although again Yager Development are perhaps thinking outside the box a little more in terms of what would be going on if this happened in real life. Some of the examples shown included escsaped inmates from local prisons and soldiers who had abandoned the army in order to ensure their own survival. Whether you’ll be able to barter with these groups or wether they will be purely aggressive remains to be seen. They can, for the most part, be an ally without realising it if you need them to be, because they will fight with zombies if they manage to attract their attention. During the demo, a barricade holding back a large swarm was destroyed by the player and a car alarm set off by some gunfire, forcing the two groups into fighting each other, and allowing the player to slip away unnoticed.

As the demo drew to a close, the player entered a large stately home that had been hosting a wedding just as the outbreak hit. Everyone was wearing their finest suits and the bride and groom looked simply stunning… aside from their blood-drenched faces and exposed innards. It’s these sorts of moments that will make Dead Island 2 stand-out from the crowd of zombie games – little pockets of life occurring in a massive zombie playground. This house could have easily been filled with a couple of zombies and loot, but instead the developers chose to tell a story within the story. What happened here? Did anyone survive? Shall I just forget about it and hit the newly-weds with my fire hammer? All these questions and such little time.

Am I sold on the concept of Dead Island 2? No, not by a long margin. It’s currently far too similar to the original in terms of overall feel and combat. The more comical take on the game means it’s trying something different in tone, which should be commended, but I already feel like Dead Rising has that particular area of zombie killing covered. That being said, the co-op will no doubt aid the cause and I have no doubt that Yager Development have the skills to make a decent product. The question remains if it will have an identity separate to that of the first in order to really make its mark in a very, very crowded genre.

Last five articles by Chris


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