Release Date : April 21, 2023
Developer(s) : Dambuster Studios
Publisher(s) : Deep Silver
Platforms : PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC
One of the longest-running stories in video games is coming to an end. Nearly 10 years after its announcement, the zombie invasion “Dead Island 2” by Dambuster Studios and Deep Silver has arrived on PC and consoles. Is this survival game a pleasant surprise for 2023 or, on the contrary, a terrible disappointment? The apocalypse is under the sun.
Zombie Apocalypse Club
Dead Island 2 tells the story of a few survivors trying to survive an invasion of zombies from unknown origins in Los Angeles, which has fallen into the hands of the undead. In just a few days, all civilization has vanished and the metropolis of California has fallen to rubble. In the midst of this hellish situation, 6 heroic men and women have a unique trait that could change the outcome… they’re all immune. This is the main plot of this brutal journey down the streets of Hell-A, a city properly renamed by its last “real” residents.
The scriptwriters created an entertaining catch-all story that, unfortunately, rarely manages to break away from the clichés of a genre that has been (over) coded and rewritten to excess. However, the roughly twenty hours spent on the main campaign, to which you must add an equivalent amount of time to complete the multiple side quests, proves pleasant despite being repetitive at the end of the course. More on this later.
Full of good intentions and inspired by the 7th Art, the classic and therefore effective staging is completely uncluttered. Virtually no tricks are used to slow down the zombie invasion imagined by Dambuster Studios, ensuring a steady pace while sacrificing the epic. The fact remains that Dead Island 2 knows how to take care of its effects when necessary, and that’s all we can ask of it. Last but not least, fans of director George Romero will be delighted to discover all the nods and references to the creator of the modern undead. This intention certainly deserves praise.
Under the Sun of Hell-A
The Dead Island saga leaves the territorial waters of Oceania for another kind of archipelago, this time an urban one. The famous city of Los Angeles is the setting for Deep Silver’s FPS (First Person Shooter). This decision, taken several years ago, has given Dead Island 2 a very special touch, striking the right balance between the sunny seaside town and the concrete metropolis stretching as far as the eye can see. Wandering under the sun is pleasant beyond belief, especially since the developers have deliberately avoided the open-world trap.
Dead Island 2 is not an open-world, but a succession of semi-open zones. There are 10 of them, covering the city’s most iconic locations in the state of California – from Bel-Air to Beverly Hills, passing through Venice Beach and Hollywood – on a truly deadly journey. Exploration is the key to this surprisingly linear adventure, but in the right sense of the word, with a focus on fun and a constant sense of discovery. However, getting back and forth between L.A.’s neighborhoods is made easier by a Quick Trip mechanic unlocked after around ten hours.
Artistic direction has always been one of the franchise’s strong points, with visuals hovering dangerously between the heavenly and the apocalyptic. This new episode honors its elders… with the excessive development of Los Angeles. The absence of a true open world allows Dead Island 2 to display stunning graphics and special effects worthy of ninth-generation consoles and high-end PCs. Technically speaking, this FPS delivers remarkable mastery and flawless fluidity, even in the face of relentless hordes of zombies. Special mention must go to the degradation of the zombies and the damage caused by the multiple blows inflicted on these walking corpses. Limbs come off… skins rip off… skulls shatter… all to the pleasure of the “slayers”.
What about the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions?
We were able to test Dead Island 2 on different platforms, both new and old-generation, and the results were clear. Even on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the FPS developed by Dambuster Studios delivers the essentials. The experience is as fluid as possible, and the visuals are neat, although comparing it with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S testifies to the technical limitations of the previous devices developed by Sony and Microsoft. The downside is that loading between zones takes time, sometimes too much time. This is the price you have to pay to survive Dead Island 2 on PS4 and Xbox One.
A History of Violence
Dead Island 2 gameplay is based on the qualities, not the playful errors, of the franchise’s previous opuses, starting with bitter, violent combat where the slightest mistake often turns into an early death. The experience created by Dambuster Studios isn’t difficult in itself, but simply requires players to observe each situation, and then approach it in the best possible way using the tools at their disposal. One of the title’s strengths lies in the simple but exhilarating pleasure of facing a bestiary regularly renewed with new types of zombies, and smashing them to bits with joy and horror. Unfortunately, the boss battles are far less inspired. What a shame!
Managing your arsenal is essential if you want to survive deep inside Hell-A. In this area in particular, the developers have gone to great lengths to delight survivors of the ongoing apocalypse. Weapons, both melee and ranged, are numerous, and each has its own characteristics that make them indispensable (or not) depending on your gameplay style. Better still, survivors can upgrade these weapons to give them various enhancements and increase their destructive power, An approach that’s both simple and effective.
The RPG dimension doesn’t stop there. It all begins with the selection of your hero from among the six presented in the introduction, heroes with very distinct characteristics that will determine your gameplay style. Beware: you can’t change your hero during the course of the adventure. As the game progresses, slayers gain experience, unlock active and/or passive skills as cards, and become powerful machines for crushing the damned. Dambuster Studios even manages to erase one of the main flaws of the first games, the parallel rise in enemy and hero power, regularly rendering their arsenal outdated.
Moreover, the developers have done their best to spice up the adventure. Several additions enrich the gameplay as the story progresses, with new features (Fury, Autophage, etc.) bringing a breath of fresh air to an (overly) standardized epic. But, because there’s always a but… Dead Island 2 remains ultimately linear (by choice) and above all repetitive after around ten hours of play. However, this flaw is counterbalanced by the possibility of sharing this post-apocalyptic experience with two other players in cooperative mode, to form a trio of survivors. Note that this cooperative mode does not allow cross-play.
Dead Island 2 doesn’t revolutionize the saga or survival games, but it does the essentials. Dambuster Studios offers fans of zombie survival a bloody, sunny journey through the red-painted City of Angels. Dismembering the zombies has never been so brutal, and the pleasure so pure. This FPS isn’t perfect, far from it, and suffers from a certain repetition that it attempts to erase with undeniable generosity. The Dead Island franchise is back, and back with a bang!