Dead Island 2 played: What excites and worries me as a zombie fan

Kevin was able to let off steam in the first few hours of playing Dead Island 2. In the process, he”s come across two things that excite him and two that worry him

I don”t know about you, but I”m ready for the island. Pretty convenient then that on 21 April 2023 the release of Dead Island 2 is coming up. After all, that took long enough after the now nine-year-old announcement and a double studio change. And yes, you are of course right: strictly speaking, sunny Los Angeles is not an island, but I don”t want to be too picky. 

After all, the excessive story of Dead Island 2 s development is finally coming to an end and I am really curious to see what kind of game will come out of it. Shortly before the final launch, I was actually allowed to get a concrete picture of it. The developers at Dambuster Studios invited me to an extensive preview session, in the course of which I was served up a good chunk to play.

I”ve already spent around six to seven hours playing Dead Island 2. In the process, I”ve completed a whole range of main and side missions, beaten up countless zombies, worn out even more weapons in the same breath and really taken my time in the first four game areas. 

What do you get out of it? Well, two things caught my eye that I really like about Dead Island 2 and two things that make me quite sceptical. Now, before you rot in front of my screen, let”s get started.

Two things that excite me about Dead Island 2

The battle system

The fights in Dead Island 2 are amazing At least the close-range fights, because I can”t even get my hands on firearms in the first five to six hours of play – that”s why I can”t make a statement about that. In direct comparison to similar genre representatives such as Dying Light 2 Dead Island 2 is of course much less fast-paced, but similarly hectic.

I prance around my undead adversaries, give them a whack with the club or blade of my choice and (hopefully) don”t get caught by their rotten fingers. Four or even just three zombies at a time can become a real problem, and overconfidence is quickly punished with on-screen death. By the way, you can see real gameplay scenes in the following video:

During the scuffles, I really have a lot of options at my disposal to defend myself against the walking dead. After all, I can not only flail around, but also throw weapons and make use of my surroundings, for example by abusing water, electricity and the nearby combination for my purposes.

I can also drop-kick my opponents in the face, negate all damage with a block and, with the right timing, even make use of powerful counter moves. The hit feedback is extremely comprehensible and correspondingly satisfying. For example, if I massage a zombie”s jaw with my acidic crowbar, it will scrape itself off the nearest wall.

The level of violence is not bad, but it fits the post-apocalyptic setting and the overwrought atmosphere of Dead Island 2.

And even though I found the collectible card system really stupid in the beginning and had longed for a classic skill tree of the old school, I eventually warmed up to it. Dead Island 2”s skill menu has the decisive advantage that I can change and revise my skillset anytime and anywhere – even when the zombies are already gnawing at me. This motivates me surprisingly much to try things out and find my perfect skill deck.

Be warned, though: when playing with mouse and keyboard, even my fingers hurt at some point as a practised shooter player. The melees can be fiddly with the standard key assignment, especially the dynamic dodging can be a test of patience due to the lack of a joystick. However, there is a lot of praise for the generous POV slider, which should actually be a matter of course, but simply isn”t in many current game releases.

(If you flail wildly, you”ll quickly end up as zombie fodder in Dead Island 2. The combat system is simple, but challenging at the same time.)

The game world

No, Dead Island 2 does not offer an open world – quite unlike other genre colleagues such as Dying Light 2. Instead, I fight my way through several small level hubs, which are sometimes more open and convoluted and sometimes more linear and tubular. Of course, this is a matter of taste, but in my eyes it does Dead Island 2 no harm at all. Because what I”ve been able to see of the game world so far, I really like completely independently of this!

The developers at Dambuster Studios have made the most of the LA setting, which I already know inside out thanks to an analogue outing, but especially GTA Online. So I could fight my way through the winding streets of Bel Air, beat zombies out of the mansions of the rich and (no longer quite so) beautiful, or land in other times or on foreign planets via the Hollywood film studios, at least as I felt.

The game world of Dead Island 2 offers a lot of spectacle and invites you to explore. Sometimes there are hidden rewards in the form of new weapons or skill cards – and even if not, you can at least find useful loot. In any case, I”m curious to see what else the Dead Island game world has up its sleeve – I haven”t yet been able to make my way to Santa Monica Beach or Hollywood Boulevard, for example.

Two things that worry me about Dead Island 2

The quest design

In my first few hours of play, Dead Island 2”s quest design was … minimalistic. In the end, NPCs send me from A to B and back again for more or less important missions. When in doubt, something or someone has to be picked up from somewhere, there were really no other quest objectives in my first hours with Dead Island 2.

On the way to the destination, there are of course a bunch of zombies that I beat to a pulp and when I reach the destination, there are always – you won”t see it coming – even more zombies waiting. At least in two main missions there are still boss confrontations that bring a little playful variety, but otherwise their variance is very limited, at least in the first hours of the game.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as the gameplay, the open world and the presentation of Dead Island 2 make up for it in the long run. Especially in a relaxed round of co-op with friends, this circumstance shouldn”t weigh too heavily. But I haven”t been able to try it out yet, and so far I”ve only had to wander through zombified Los Angeles on my own.

(Couldn”t try it out yet and haven”t been there yet: firearms and the Santa Monica Beach of the game world of Dead Island 2.)

The menus

Yes, Dead Island 2 is mostly about denting the heads of undead creatures. But surprisingly, a lot of the game time is spent in menus. Sometimes I”m trading with merchants, arming myself with weapons and equipping them with modifications, or I”m nudging my skill cards back and forth in the skill menu.

However, the operation of the various and partly even essential menus does not seem really intuitive or fun to me. Sometimes I even resist going to the next workbench because its operation frustrates me. For example, when I want to select a weapon to modify, the visual feedback is simply not clear enough due to the minimalist design.

The fact that some of the elements of the weapon selection are also sticky – i.e. remain selected for the time being with a simple mouse click – can make searching for the right weapon or workbench function a test of patience. The fact that Dead Island 2 is a little too generous with the sheer amount of loot required for certain modifications is also a negative aspect. I don”t want to dig through long lists, I just want to kill zombies! Not a break for the game, but a bit of a nuisance.

(A screenshot of the crafting or skill menus was unfortunately not made available to me. But there”s a nice picture of an old acquaintance: Sam B.)

Questions that currently remain unanswered

Last but not least, while playing Dead Island 2, I have questions that I simply can”t answer at this point in time

The story: The plot of Dead Island 2 will probably divide opinions. So far, it seems rather unexciting and in part already expedient to rudimentary. The thin story is mainly carried by the cynical characters and the sometimes macabre-charming to black-humorous presentation. I have fun with it, but not everyone will feel the same way.

The firearms: Unlike Heiko, I haven”t had a chance to try out Dead Island 2”s firearms yet. In the first five to six hours of play, there”s only punching, hacking and sabering. So I can”t make any assessment of the gunplay yet, for the time being our previous preview will have to suffice.

The (new) skills: In the first few hours of the game there are mainly passive skills to unlock, which are only noticeable in the background. For the time being, little changes in the actual fighting. However, there are still a lot of gaps in my card deck, so I”m curious to see what other skills Dead Island 2 has to offer as the game progresses.

The co-op mode: I can”t say anything about Dead Island 2”s multiplayer at the moment, as it”s simply not playable in the preview version. How well (or badly) it works together with others will only become clear with the test version or when the game is released.

Editor”s verdict

Phew, my time with Dead Island 2 flew right by. Despite the wafer-thin story, annoying menus and boring quest design, I had a really good time with the zombie slasher. Because where Dead Island 2 wants to score, it also scores: with fast-paced battles against a diverse range of undead, who don”t roam through an open, but rather a really nice open world.

I also find it quite refreshing that Dead Island 2 adopts a completely different tone than many other current genre representatives. Sure, the attitudes and sayings of the six selectable butchers are definitely a matter of taste, but at least I had fun with the macabre and sometimes even really stupid sayings. Dead Island 2 doesn”t take itself too seriously, and that suits the game quite well.

After my quite generous play session, I”m looking forward to the final release with optimism – even if some important questions still remain unanswered, of course. In terms of gunplay, long-term motivation and co-op multiplayer, Dead Island 2 still has to show what it”s got. For me, however, one thing is certain: I”m looking forward to the (long overdue) release.

The post Dead Island 2 played: What excites and worries me as a zombie fan appeared first on Global Esport News.

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