Dead Island 2 (PS5) Review: An Entertaining But Familiar Adventure
After a gripping introduction, I find myself aboard a plane, alongside an eclectic group of individuals, en route to safety. Los Angeles has succumbed to a zombie apocalypse, referred to as “Hell-A” in this context. I opt to play as Ryan, a male stripper who is depicted as a resilient character in the game. However, I am fully aware that the flight will be anything but peaceful.
As I previously mentioned, it would have been a letdown if the game’s challenging development led to an introductory sequence that led me to safety, thereby ending the game. Unfortunately, the plane crashes soon after takeoff. Luckily, Ryan survives and meets up with a famous Los Angeles resident in Bel-Air, where the game’s adventure commences.
Early on in Dead Island 2, it becomes apparent that Ryan appears to be immune to zombie bites, leading him to believe that he can be helpful in creating a vaccine. This sets off a journey through numerous iconic landmarks of Los Angeles. Actually one standout aspect that deserves praise is the intricate environments. Who would have thought that the apocalypse could be so beautiful? The game is divided into a series of levels set in iconic areas of Los Angeles, such as Beverly Hills, Ocean Avenue, and Santa Monica Pier. The levels are just the right size for exploration on foot, and exploration is rewarded with new weapons, crafting materials (a lot of crafting materials), and miscellaneous items.
As a matter of fact, I would like to mention that the collection of crafting materials is also a major issue in the game. It seems to be more suitable for PC gaming with a mouse and keyboard, rather than the Dual Sense controller that I used for this review. The concept of having multiple items to pick up in every room is unappealing, and collecting raw materials is not enjoyable, with limited variety. Without the precision of a mouse, I often struggle to pick up desired items like metal scraps or electronic junk, which disrupts the game’s pace and rhythm, and requires frequent pauses.
Additionally, the puzzles in the game often involve clicking on objects to obtain necessary items such as batteries, water jugs, keys, etc., and then retrieving them to progress. Occasionally, there are slightly more challenging tasks, such as using water to conduct electricity, but the game provides walkthroughs for all of these, so they never truly pose a significant challenge. Moreover, while searching for items, players also have to regularly deal with zombies that appear along the way.
Fortunately, the combat in the game is much more enjoyable. There are various types of enemies scattered throughout the game, and it’s important to have the right equipment and skills. The developers have boasted about the ability to dismantle enemies in different ways, which actually works surprisingly well. Early in the adventure, I regularly chose to hack off my opponents’ legs, so they would crawl towards me with bone protruding from their stumps instead of quickly attacking in groups. This feature remains clever throughout the game (it never gets boring to almost completely sever a jaw so it dangles and swings), although it becomes a bit more of a gimmick against tougher enemies whose body parts I can’t as easily sever.
The concept of weapons deteriorating during combat is something that I often find detracts more than it adds however. I understand that the developers want to create an additional challenge and prolong the gameplay by requiring me to constantly search for materials to repair my weapons, but the idea of a crowbar becoming useless after smashing a few partially dissolved zombie skulls just feels silly. Moreover, in this game, you obtain so many materials that you never have to discard your favorite items, as they can be repaired an infinite number of times. This makes weapon degradation more of an annoyance than anything else. However, upgrading weapons at the workbenches you find is smooth and enjoyable. The ability to imbue your machete with electric properties is strangely satisfying.
Dead Island 2 presents a believable world that has been abandoned. Everywhere there are traces of people living their ordinary lives before the zombie apocalypse hit. It is exciting to go through people’s homes and in several cases, you can get a sense of what happened. Several objects can also be picked up and contribute to a larger story.
Overall, Dead Island 2 is an entertaining adventure through the whole game, especially if you have someone to play co-op with. It is quite long, and at times really visually appealing. It’s like an unusual Los Angeles vacation if you will. However, it is so faithful to the original that it essentially lacks surprises and feels structurally old. Fortunately, the original was a very good game, and this one is as well, albeit not quite at the same level.
Dead Island 2 is available now on on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. I reviewed the game on Playstation 5 with a code provided by the publisher.