The road to launch has been a long and difficult one for Dead Island 2. Originally announced back in 2014, over the course of the eight years that have followed, the zombie action RPG has gone through multiple delays, resets, and three developers, and things have often stalled down so much that many have at times wondered if the game will ever even launch. At long last though, it looks like it really is coming out soon- for real this time.
Dead Island 2 was re-revealed by Deep Silver and developer Dambuster Studios at the recent Gamescom Opening Night Live, showing off both a cinematic trailer and a gameplay debut, following which more details on the game have come through thanks to hands-on previews and interviews from several outlets. Here, we’re going to go over some of those key details.
Back when Dead Island 2 was under development at Yager in 2014, the plan was to have the game be set in multiple Californian cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, but Dambuster’s overhauled vision of the game narrows down its focus to just one city. The game is now set entirely in Los Angeles, with recognizable locations such as Beverly Hills, Venice Beach, and what have you recreated within the game’s world.
NOT AN OPEN WORLD GAME
Interestingly, Dead Island 2 is also making some structural changes. As confirmed in a preview by Polygon, unlike its predecessor (and unlike its original vision), Dead Island 2 is not going to be an open world game. Speaking in an interview with Eurogamer, game director David Stenton explained that LA will be divided into several districts of varying sizes, each offering their own side quests and activities, but they won’t all be available at one. The progress you make through LA will be linear, with districts being unlocked as you make it deeper into the story- though of course, you can always go back to older districts.
Dambuster Studios has confirmed that Dead Island 2 will have a total of six playable characters. One of them is Jacob, whom we saw in the game’s cinematic reveal trailer, while IGN and Polygon’s hands-on previews also mention another playable character named Amy. So far, however, we don’t know much else about them, or even the names of the other four. The game will also feature 3-player co-op.
As you’d expect, this is primarily what Dead Island 2 is devoting most of its energy to. Players will be able to use some melee weapons and throwable items and what have you, but like the first game, the focus will primarily be on up-close melee combat. That means there will be plenty of dodging and frantic attacking. Players can expect a variety of melee weapons, from hammers and axes to sets of claws, katanas, and more, while there will also be a stamina system.
Being gory and violent is something that comes naturally to any media with zombies in it, but it looks like Dead Island 2 is placing extra emphasis on that. Interestingly, the game has a procedural gore system that will apparently bring an extreme level of detail and dynamism to how zombies and their bodies react to how you attack them and how they die. Speaking to Eurogamer, Worral explained: “It’s just fully anatomically correct models, we’ve basically done everything from hair, skin, fat, muscle, bones, and all the organs are stuffed in there. It’s all procedural. Melting is our favourite. Sometimes when you hit two or three zombies with a serious caustic melting attack or something like that, they stagger towards you and you can see them falling to bits, and they don’t quite make it because they’ve dissolved before they get to you. It’s really rewarding.”
Dead Island 2 makes no bones about being a pulpy horror game that just wants to make killing zombies fun, as evidenced by its aforementioned emphasis on gore, and sure enough, there’s going to be quite a few unique zombie types to kill in the game, and what type you run into will vary based on which district of LA you’re in. For instance, speaking to Eurogamer, creative director James Worral mentioned muscular “big crusher” zombies found at Muscle Beach, or rollerblading screamers who wear helmets. IGN’s preview, meanwhile, mentions a boss-type zombie that sharp bones sticking out of its arms that it uses as spears.
Interestingly enough, as per Polygon’s preview, all six playable characters in Dead Island 2 are already infected with the zombie virus, and even though they are immune to its affects and not in danger of turning undead, they can make use of its mutations. That takes the form of a Fury mode, which IGN describes as “an Ultimate-like ability” that you can use to literally tear zombies apart with your bare hands. Combined with the game’s focus on gore, one can imagine how that could be interesting.
Being an action RPG, Dead Island 2 will, of course, feature multilayered progression mechanics, which, in this game, take the form of the Skill Deck system. Players attain new cards as they make progress, with each card representing something different, from buffs and perks to abilities and more. The system apparently emphasizes flexibility and experimentation, allowing players to swap out cards freely to create the style of character build they want.
Dead Island 2 will, of course, also allow for weapon upgrades and customization, which will be done at workbenches scattered throughout the city. From the looks of it, the options that will be offered in terms of how you can customize your weapons is going to have plenty of variety. For instance, in its preview, IGN talks about a blowtorch attached to an axe, allowing you to burn enemies to a crisp while you hack away at them, or a set of claws that dishes out electrically-infused attacks that can stun foes.
Not only has Dead Island 2 finally resurfaced, we also have a firm release date for it. The game is out on February 3, 2023 for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Stadia. On PC, it will be available exclusively via the Epic Games Store.