Dead Island 2’s sporadic boss fights introduce new zombie variants, making them the most memorable moments of the game. The weighty, animalistic nature of swinging makeshift melee weapons at unending queues of zombies is the core pursuit in Dead Island 2. The action is gratifying enough in its own right, but extra layers of gruesome spectacle help keep your perpetual motions rewarding and keep you motivated enough to move onto the next one, and the next.
Dead Island 2 is not an open-world game, but one of several discrete areas that hone the focus on environmental details, creating the sense of a world that’s truly become suddenly overrun and left as-is. You can’t walk in any direction for more than 30 seconds without stumbling across an undead corpse in your way, just asking to be smacked with a hammer or beheaded with a fire axe.
Each fleshy zombie in Dead Island 2 becomes damaged in unique ways, depending on where and how you hit them, and the kind of weapon you used to do so. Large gashes will be cut open, chunks of flesh will be ripped out, with sinewy insides being exposed in clear detail, and wet organs spilling out. Enemies can be dismembered with ease, and skulls can be completely crushed.
More advanced zombie variants regularly appear to mix things up with higher-stakes affairs, requiring a little more thought above and beyond a bloodthirsty frenzy. They push you to make more creative use of your weapons, your defensive maneuvers, an excellent dropkick, and the environment (along with the elemental damage opportunities it provides) to more deftly suppress the threat of being eaten alive. An action-RPG-style looting system provides extra fuel to keep you constantly moving and in pursuit of your ideal arsenal, and an ever-growing variety of passive boosts, weapon modifications, and supernatural abilities provide a suite of options to consider in your encounters.
Attractive but Ultimately Cursory Facade
Dead Island 2 is like a music video, a vehicle fashioned to deliver you one key thing – a song to the tune of a zombie-slaughtering power fantasy. The entirety of Dead Island 2 is kind of like a music video, and the opening images of dreamy Los Angeles iconography combined with ‘Drown’ by Karen O and Danger Mouse help put you in that mindset. The game’s juxtaposition of bright and sunny LA and a portrait of American excess, along with the macabre nature of the walking dead, takes more than a few pages out of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, an influence it proudly brandishes in obvious strokes.
Dead Island 2’s approach to satire is more often akin to the likes of Grand Theft Auto by way of Far Cry – that is to say, incredibly on the nose, and sometimes gratingly so. The core supporting cast fares better from sitting at the more dramatic side of the scale, though the strange places the plot of Dead Island 2 ends up going are never really completely explored to any kind of meaningful fruition.
Like a music video, that extraneous color and flavor don’t really need to make complete sense. Both are an attractive but ultimately cursory facade for the flesh and blood of Dead Island 2 – the constant, thumping blur of feverish hacking and bashing, of gore and viscera, that all swirl together in a cocktail of extreme queasiness. By the end, it leaves you teetering on that precipice between wanting a little more and feeling satisfied enough. And that’s a good place to be.