Dead Island 2 is one of those often-discussed, never-released type of games.

It has been part of the list of in development games for so long that many doubted that it would ever be released. And by what we know, it has been a rough ride – throughout an entire console generation – for the sequel to the Xbox 360-era first game to finally be released.

So it had better be worth it, and luckily, in its own way, it is.

Dead Island 2 takes place in the early stages of a zombie apocalypse taking place in Los Angeles, California.

The city of angels serves as a backdrop for a relatively mediocre story that nevertheless moves you through different environments at a solid clip. Each level (despite it being set in a semi-open world) is highly detailed but also relatively contained, in a way that makes it feel like they are sets and stages. There’s the obligatory movie studio set, the upper class mansions set in the hills, an influencer incubator’s set and more, each making their own impression and in many cases directly contributing to the gameplay for each area, with specific mechanics just for that level.

Dead Island 2

And while the environments are nice, the core innovation of Dead Island 2’s melee combat is the FLESH system. The “Fully Locational Evisceration System for Humanoids” (FLESH) system is one of the most intense and gory sights I’ve ever beheld.

With each whack of your weapon, zombie flesh is progressively revealed and destroyed, exposing more of the zombie’s internals than you ever thought possible, right down to the skeleton. It’s not just a visual trick either, as the game encourages you to aim your swings intentionally – to cripple a zombie so they fall over, or target a head if the chest is covered by body armour.

It makes your otherwise wild swings feel more impactful; the addition of directionality imparts a small amount of tactics to each encounter. In addition, blocks, dodges, other skills, and environmental hazards all add up to combat that has a surprising amount of variety, even if it doesn’t reach the depths of something like The Last of Us.

Dead Island 2

This variety is further spiced up by the relatively large amount of melee weapons that the game throws at you. While I wasn’t a fan of the Fallout / Skyrim-style enforced scrounging for random detritus strewn throughout each area, this detritus can be turned into solid upgrade for your weapons that can, for example, light zombies on fire or work with environmental hazards such as water puddles to electrocute them.

Weapons do degrade relatively quickly – perhaps a bit too quickly for my taste – and so you’ll constantly be searching for more, upgrading and swapping them for new options.

Performance is, surprisingly, excellent on PC. This is a nice breath of fresh air coming off the back of The Last of Us Part 1’s port issues, amongst other recent releases that haven’t been up to an acceptable quality level at launch. It ran at above 4K 60FPS on my RTX 3080 and Core i7-13700KF PC, using the Quality setting of AMD’s FSR 2 temporal upscaling option. There’s no sign of Intel’s XeSS or NVIDIA’s DLSS though, which seems like an intentional omission considering that there are good plugins for Unreal Engine 4 to enable these alternative upscalers relatively easily.

Dead Island 2

I did have one annoying recurring bug however that resulted in an immediate crash to the desktop, revealing the flaws in Dead Island 2’s somewhat wonky checkpoint system.

Sometimes it would reset the entire scene, weapons, environmental hazards, zombies and all, while other times it would keep my weapon degradation or number of zombies taken out, or random combinations of the above.

So will Dead Island 2 blow your socks off?

Well, no. But it is a highly enjoyable time for what it is – a relatively brainless first person hack and slash that is easy to wile away the hours on, waiting, perhaps for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom to arrive.

Dead Island 2
Dead Island 2 (PC) Review
Game details

Released: April 2023
Rating: R16
Platforms reviewed: PC
Genre: Action
Developer: Deep Silver Dambuster Studios
Publisher: Deep Silver, Plaion

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