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Dead Island 2 Game review

Game review 18 April 2023, 16:00

Dead Island 2 Review: Zombied Out

Dead Island 2 is a return to a tried-and-true formula: murdering zombies with baseball bats. What else does Dead Island 2 bring to the table? You'll find out in our review.

The review is based on the PS5 version. It's also relevant to PC, XSX, XONE, PS4 version(s).

Resident Evil, Dying Light, Walking Dead, Dead Rising – it’s safe to say developers love creating zombie games where you can whack the undead in the head and watch their brains spray out. So if a game wants to stand out from the rest, it has to have that special ingredient to make it a hit. Otherwise it’s doomed to be forgotten.

Such is Dead Island 2’s dilemma. Stuck in development limbo for a decade, this sequel finally sees the light of day but it also comes out after countless other zombie titles have had time to develop and ferment since its last installment. Does it still pack a punch? Yes, but like the decaying enemies you will into Dead Island 2 hits hard sometimes but can also fumble and fall apart at the seams.

City of Angels… and Demons

Dead Island 2 developed by Deep Silver

Unlike the original’s fictional setting, Dead Island 2 takes place in the real life Los Angeles and follows one out of six plane crash survivors who now must stay alive in the zombie-ridden city long enough to find a way out. Along the way, your character meets other Los Angelinos who stayed behind such as actress Emma Jaunt, her jumpy assistant Michael, and her housekeeper Andrea who isn’t afraid to whip out her chancla and hit you in the head if someone crosses her. The narrative is serious at times but also feels somewhat like a dark comedy that pokes fun at itself. It also ties in with its predecessor just slightly so it’s easy to follow without having played the original.

The character you select doesn’t affect the game’s story as everyone goes through the same cutscenes and conversations, but you do get a feel for the character during these moments. I mainly played as the tech-savvy Bruno, stuntwoman Carla, and exotic dancer Ryan, and could instantly appreciate their unique lines and personalities that made each playthrough unique and a little more colorful. Ryan will allude to stripping here and there while Carla and Bruno throw in some Spanish to spice things up.

  1. Plenty of ways to approach combat to your liking;
  2. Charismatic characters and witty dialogue during cutscenes;
  3. Beautiful and grotesque visuals that let your adventure come to life.
  1. Repetitive waves of enemies to fight;
  2. Story eventually starts to lose its grip on you;
  3. Disappointing ending.

One of my favorite things about playing games that take place in real life locations is exploring every corner and admiring the little details the game has taken to make it feel real. Dead Island 2 definitely feels like LA, but it takes liberties to make it feel more like “Hell-A” as you explore a desolate city that is overrun by zombies, bloody malls that are abandoned, and even beaches where you’ll see zombies in swimsuits and yoga pants to remind you how quickly the virus spread across the city but also that you’re in the City of Angels, after all.

Dead Island 2 developed by Deep Silver

Areas such as Ocean Avenue and Beverly Hills look recognizable if you’ve been to them before, and it’s a peculiar experience making your way through a spooky Santa Monica Pier at night or walking up to Muscle Beach only to discover all the bodybuilders are now muscular zombies more hungry for protein. There are plenty of other areas inspired by actual locations, too, and each dead zone comes alive thanks to the various posters, ads, and billboards you see while you explore.

All In The Cards

One of the great features of Dead Island 2 is how it lets you tailor your experience even before you start playing. The six slayers you can play as all come with a unique spread of stats that can really change how you approach a fight. Ryan, for example has the worst agility in the game meaning he isn’t very fast at out-speeding enemies but his defenses are unrivaled. Bruno, on the other hand, is faster and a master at getting critical hits with his weapons despite receiving the lowest health out of everyone. All characters also come with a unique perk that helps compensate for their stat essentially turning each character into a class of sorts with their own pros and cons.

Dead Island 2 developed by Deep Silver

You can further customize each character by equipping skill cards you unlock as you level up, progress through the story, or complete side missions. While you can’t control how a character’s stats increase as they level up, the skill cards you equip let you choose the build that works for your playstyle. Keeping with Bruno – because he’s more of a rogue character, I chose to dodge rather than block attacks but also equipped skills that took advantage of his critical hit back-stabbing perk and also recovered health when performing specific actions such as perfecting dodging.

Late in the story, the game also introduces Autophage skill cards that provide you with additional buffs that come at a cost. The more of these cards you equip, the greater your payout will be, but it also means you may lose health or stamina if you mess up the card’s requirements. Your Fury Meter, on the other hand, recharges over time at no penalty to you and offers you a temporary attack buff while tapping into your inner zombie. In comparison, Autophage doesn’t add much to change the flow of combat and felt completely unnecessary that I chose to ignore it.

LA Heat

Like the in the original game, weapons break down over time so you can repair them at workstations you come across and modify them with unique perks such as ones that do elemental damage, maim limbs more easily, or improve their durability. At first, any weapon is a good weapon when you’re trying to stay alive, but the more you play the more opportunities the game gives you to choose and modify weapons based on your character and playstyle. Carla, for example, gets an attack buff whenever enemies surround her so it makes sense to focus on hammers and larger weapons that do damage to multiple nearby enemies.

Dead Island 2 developed by Deep Silver

This nuance in combat depending on who you pick and the unique voice lines you hear give you an incentive to play the game with the other slayers to experience the game from a different perspective. Going from the more fragile Bruno to the tougher Carla felt very different, and I was surprised when I survived certain attacks I couldn’t before. It’s a shame, however, that the game doesn’t put in an effort to give you a more distinct experience depending on who you play as. For example, you don’t get special side missions unique to each character despite knowing their backstory and reasons for trying to board that plane out of LA in the first place. It’s a missed opportunity that could have made each playthrough feel more special.


Dead Island 2’s witty lines, weapon system, and combat customization options save it from obscurity, but let’s hope the next installment offers a lot more variety and creativity to compete with the other zombie titles out there doing it better.

Melee weapons are also the star of the game while guns just take a backseat. They are great in certain situations, but you do a lot more damage by whacking a modded baseball than you do with a shotgun if you don’t find uncommon or rare variations of it. Side missions and locked rooms will guarantee you find some of these stronger weapons so the game rewards you for taking a break from the main story and going back to explore areas you’ve been to before.

Dead Island 2 developed by Deep Silver

Story missions also provide you with more information about your sudden immunity and the world’s state of affairs, but they will mainly consist of fighting zombies and clearing areas to get to the next checkpoint. There are very basic puzzles that involve restoring power or calibrating the pressure of pipes here and there, but that’s never the focus. In fact, aside from these instances, the game mainly focuses on killing enemies. Even the original allowed you to explore the island aboard a car, but you’re out of luck in Hell-A since you have to run everywhere or fast travel instead.

After a few hours in, the game’s missions introduce waves of enemies for you to defeat over and over again. These are challenges all on their own that eventually spawn stronger enemies (or variations of bosses you already beat) and test your skills, weapons, and survivability, but they never shake things up enough to feel special and end up feeling more like a chore. You can also play through most missions with others via online co-op, but I didn’t get a chance to try out this online feature during my review time.

Final Thoughts

Dead Island 2 developed by Deep Silver

Lasting around 15 hours, Dead Island 2 soon starts feeling familiar, much to my disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, the initial battle against a literal bridezilla all while Marvin Gaye’s “Sad Wedding” played in the background was pure irony, but seeing the same kind of enemy I fought reused at least a dozen times made me feel like I was robbed. I soon realized the game introduces a new enemy variation as a boss but then puts them in with the regular hordes of enemies you have to defeat. Not only does this feel unfair at times, but it’s also lazy. Even the final boss and conclusion are big letdowns.

And that’s the thing. Considering how versatile its setting is and how much potential Dead Island 2 had to do something great with its combat and skills system, it doesn’t fully take advantage of it and gives up on it closer to the end of the game. It’s also a zombie game that offers six unique perspectives, but it could have expanded on this even more by including unique quests or character-specific cutscenes – but it doesn’t. It’s not all bad, of course, as Dead Island 2 is a generally a good time most players will enjoy. Its witty lines, weapon system, and combat customization options save it from obscurity, but let’s hope the next installment offers a lot more variety and creativity to compete with the other zombie titles out there doing it better.

Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com

Giancarlo Saldana

Giancarlo Saldana

Giancarlo grew up playing video games and finally started writing about them on a blog after college. He soon began to write for small gaming websites as a hobby and then as a freelance writer for sites like 1UP, GamesRadar, MacLife, and TechRadar. Giancarlo also was an editor for Blast Magazine, an online gaming magazine based in Boston where he covered various video game topics from the city's indie scene to E3 and PAX. Now he writes reviews and occasional previews for Gamepressure covering a broad range of genres from puzzle games to JRPGs to open-world adventures. His favorite series include Pokémon, Assassin's Creed, and The Legend of Zelda, but he also has a soft spot for fighting and music games like Super Smash Bros and Rock Band. When not playing Overwatch after a long day at work, he enjoys spending time working out, meal prepping, and discovering new international films and TV shows.


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