In June 2014 Laverne Cox was celebrated as the first trans woman to appear on the cover of Time Magazine, Game of Thrones was still good and Luis Suarez shocked the world when he took a chunk out of Giorgio Chiellini at the Brazil World Cup. It was also when we saw the first trailer for Dead Island 2, the third entry into the zombie slaying franchise.
Since then Game of Thrones bottled the ending, with multiple spin-offs in the works, and we have had two more World Cups, yet Dead Island 2 still hasn’t been released.
Well, now we are just over a month from Dead Island 2’s release date, and we recently had the privilege of playing the first five hours or so of the game.
Since originally being announced the game has changed hands twice. Now its third developer – Deep Silver Dambuster Studios – looks to revitalise the franchise, with only the setting remaining from the original vision for Dead Island 2.
Dead Island 2 Preview: Characters
The opening cinematic introduces the six (new) playable characters the game has to offer, all of which are making their way to a plane in order to evacuate L.A and escape the zombie apocalypse. It is a great way to quickly introduce you to the zombie slayers, highlighting their unique personalities and differing approach to the same problem.
Once they’re on the plane, it is now your time to choose who you want to play as for the duration of the game. The six slayers are Dani, Jacob, Ryan, Amy, Bruno and Carla. We decided to play as Amy, a Paralympian who specialises in agility and crit damage, but is lacking in toughness.
Each of the characters have their own strengths and weaknesses that will dictate how you approach the game, whilst they also have two unique starting skills for you to consider when choosing. Once you have chosen, it is time to crack on with the story, and see if that plane makes it.
Naturally, the plane doesn’t make it, and the game begins with the player having to defend another survivor from waves of zombies. From the very first moment you gain control, it is hard not to notice the near unprecedented levels of gore on display – blood splatters across every surface, eyes hang from sockets, and the sound of your weapon ripping through flesh is the soundtrack to it all.
After escaping the wreckage, it is time to see L.A, trying to find a way out of the city is the goal. This is where the eclectic cast of side characters is introduced, all wanting to survive but their reaction to this crisis is varied, highlighting both the absurdity of the situation but the people too.
This is something Dead Island 2 does incredibly well, especially when compared to previous iterations, characters feel more real and fleshed out (pardon the pun), yet they still fit with the tone and humour on display. Alongside the side characters, the player you choose also feels unique and interesting.
When we recently spoke to James Worrall (the Creative Director) he explained how the story and events remain the same, but the way the characters react is unique. During the opening hours, this was seamless and if this is successfully pulled off across six characters throughout the whole campaign, then Dead Island 2 will have a great amount of replayability.
Dead Island 2 Preview: Shredding Zombies
The most important part of a zombie slaying game is the zombies, and with Dead Island in particular, it’s about how fun it is to kill the zombies. Luckily, not only is it enjoyable, it’s where Dead Island 2 truly delivers – so long as you don’t have a weak stomach. Killing zombies is enjoyable, and finding a variety of different ways to dispose of them is all part of the fun.
Much like in the original games, the zombies will be milling about the world doing zombie things, they aren’t always going to attack you if you keep your distance, but where is the fun in that. I found whilst playing Dead Island 2, I would live by the words of Roy Kean when he said “I might just smash into somebody, just to make me feel better”, and it was purely because it was fun to do so.
Dead Island 2 has made it a joy to slay zombies, you almost feel bad when you leave a few behind, however don’t get too cocky, because it is still to become overwhelmed when there are too many. There is certainly a challenge here for those who appreciate it, but not so much that you find yourself frustrated or stuck.
Whilst slaying the zombies is the jewel in this crown, the weapon variety helps keep it enjoyable. Weapon degradation is kept in the game, something that feels like a core part of this franchise, so this means you have to change it up from time to time and maybe use a weapon you wouldn’t normally go for.
All the weapons feel unique, and also damage the zombies in different ways too. Where a sword will slice and cut a zombie, a big hammer will mash and crush them, this is where the FLESH (Fully Locational Evisceration System for Humanoids) engine really excels.
The FLESH engine has been custom built for Dead Island 2, it’s a unique gore engine where the zombies flesh reacts to the weapon you’re using in the way you would expect it to. Eyes pop out, limbs fly off, organs spill out and more. It really and truly is grim, but at the same time quite wonderful, you really can’t take your eyes off it. The best way to describe it is if Mortal Kombat had a lovechild with Quentin Tarantino.
Dead Island 2 Preview: The City of L.A
Lastly, the city of L.A, or Hell-a as it is referred to in game, is a site to behold. The city, alongside the weapons, are what I am most looking forward to seeing more of when the game is fully released, this is still the bright and loud L.A we know from the movies. Yet, it’s unlike we have ever seen it.
The zombie outbreak has just begun, so it isn’t completely destroyed yet, but the city feels isolated and void of life. Usually L.A is portrayed as a bustling, vibrant city, full of energy. Here it is still vibrant, but full of the undead instead.
Being set in L.A makes for interesting enemy variety too, there was a particular sequence in the preview where you fight your way through a film set and all the zombies look like extras from Apocalypto. It seems absurd, yet thanks to the setting it makes sense. All of this is working in harmony, to make the zombie slaying experience we have been waiting for and most importantly you can play through it all with a pal, but we are yet to experience this.
Dead Island 2 is set to release on April 21st, after years of anticipation, but the latest entry is not a reinvention, instead it is more of a revitalisation that brings the game into the current gen. From what we have played so far, Dead Island 2 looks to finally deliver on what was promised all those years ago. So grab some energy drinks, strap in and get ready to slay some zombies.
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