Dead Island 2 Review – Dead On Arrival? (PS5)

Dead Island 2
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Dead Island 2 has been a long time coming. The title was first announced almost a decade ago, back in 2014. Since then, the world has seen the release of two Dying Light games, which are widely considered to be an advancement of the original Dead Island’s zombie-bashing blueprint.

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Development on Dead Island 2 has stopped and restarted multiple times across the past nine years, with the game being passed between not one, not two, but THREE development studios. Thankfully, the studio that finally managed to get the game out the door; Dambuster Studios, is a team who are more than capable of crafting a solid game, given that Dambuster Studios was formerly known as Free Radical Design.

Dead Island 2 is out on April 21st and is available on PC, PlayStation and Xbox consoles.

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Dead Island 2 - Launch Trailer | PS5 & PS4 Games

Dead Island 2 is the first significant piece of zombie media to be released following the finale of HBO’s brilliant adaption of The Last of Us; a show that really called into question just how relevant the infected are in the post-apocalypse and instead chose to peel back the layers of what makes the survivors tick. The question is; do we really need another generically violent story focused on zombies?

Frankly, I am not sure that I have a definitive answer to that question; sure it is always fun to mash in zombie skulls, but does it have a purpose? Is it saying anything that hasn’t been said a million times before? Still though, while I sway between gleefully impaling the undead with my electrified Wolverine claws and questioning whether there is any point to all of the virtual carnage unfolding before me, I do believe that is the question that everyone should be forced to ask themselves before picking up Dead Island 2, given that it doesn’t really do much at all to move the needle.

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Also read: 5 Heart-Breaking Moments from The Last Of Us That We Aren’t Ready To Relive

With that said, I’d like to try and disregard the existential issues that I have with a game like Dead Island being released in 2023 and focus my critique on the game itself, as it isn’t exactly the studio’s fault that HBO and Naughty Dog came along and blew everything else out of the water. Instead, let us talk about what the game is, rather than what it is not:

Dead Island 2 is called Dead Island 2, despite the fact that it does not take place on an island.

After reading that piece of seemingly arbitrary criticism, it may seem as though I have immediately gone back on my word regarding only judging what is in the game itself. However, the reason that I bring up my issue with the game’s inconsistent title is because I believe that it somewhat serves as a metaphor for the game as a whole.

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I guess that Dead Central Landmass With Some Coastline doesn't quite have the same ring to it.
I guess that Dead Central Landmass With Some Coastline doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

It is very likely that someone on the development team noticed the fact that Dead Island 2 doesn’t take place on an island and brought it up at some point during the game’s production, to which they were probably told not to worry, it will all work out. This sort of attitude seems to have been applied across most of Dead Island 2; from the repetitive moment-to-moment gameplay to the game’s obnoxiously unfunny writing, to the game’s lack of visual polish.

And I do want to emphasize the word polish. The game’s general presentation and art style is smooth and engaging. Certain moments could even be described as breathtaking, given the high quality of the game’s environments and well-designed character models. However, for every spectacular slow-motion explosion, there is a mirror that strangely reflects everything else in the room besides the player character. For every gorgeous sky box, there is a visual glitch that turns the interior walls of a building invisible.

Also read: Resident Evil 4 Remake Review – Controlled Chaos (PS5)

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Unfortunately, visual errors weren’t the only glitches that I ran into during my time with Dead Island 2. There were multiple occurrences of the player character getting stuck in a tight space while looting; not an issue that you want to experience in a game that revolves around looting as one of its major gameplay mechanics.

Speaking of looting, another baffling decision that I feel speaks to the game’s inconsistent development cycle is the decision to include deep RPG levelling elements in a game that is not fully built for it, as it is not open-world. The fact that Dead Island 2 doesn’t include an open world was originally appealing to me, as someone who tends to prefer linear narrative games.

I just hope that everyone realises that I am NOT cleaning up this mess.
I just hope that everyone realises that I am NOT cleaning up this mess.

However, it doesn’t work here as the studio has chosen to carry over a similar looting and levelling system to what we saw in the first open-world Dead Island game. It feels extremely likely that the RPG elements of the game were designed back when Dead Island 2 was still intended to be a fully open-world title, and they are simply remnants of a game that has been designed and redesigned countless times over.

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Before wrapping up, I would like to touch on a few of the game’s positives. While the NPCs in the game are unanimously obnoxious and unfunny, I did grow to like Jacob who was the player character that I chose to play through the game as. His voice actor did a great job, as did the majority of the rest of the game’s VO cast.

Also read: Resident Evil 4 Remake – All Skippable Sections Guide Part One

I also appreciated just how gory the game gets during melee combat scenarios, this allows kills to feel satisfying and allows the player to relish in the carnage they are inflicting. While I didn’t feel that any of the weapon mods in the game were particularly inspired, that doesn’t mean that they weren’t satisfying to use, even if I had first seen them be used over a decade ago in the first Dead Island game.

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In summary, Dead Island 2 is not a bad game, there are certain moments where the satisfying combat and the visceral visuals come together to create a fleeting moment of beauty. The issue is that there isn’t anything of great substance in between these stand-out moments. What Dead Island 2 does offer, it pulls off competently enough. However, it never manages to pull off anything that feels truly original, causing the overall package to come across as tired at best and regurgitated at worst.

Dead Island 2 – 4/10

Dead Island 2 was reviewed on PS5 with a code supplied to FandomWire by PLAION.

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Written by Daniel Boyd

Articles Published: 156

Dan is one of FandomWire's Gaming Content Leads and Editors. Along with Luke Addison, he is one of the site's two Lead Video Game Critics and Content Co-ordinators. He is a 28-year-old writer from Glasgow. He graduated from university with an honours degree in 3D Animation, before pivoting to pursue his love for critical writing. He has also written freelance pieces for other sites such as Game Rant, WhatCulture Gaming, KeenGamer.com and The Big Glasgow Comic Page. He loves movies, video games and comic books.