The Dead Island franchise has had a storied history. The original game, released in 2011, became an early viral hit based on its groundbreaking trailer. The game was a major success, and the sequel was announced with another stunning trailer way back in 2014.
Now, nearly nine years later and after many delays, Dead Island 2 is being released April 21. I finally got hands-on at PAX East and it was worth the wait.
Despite the title, Dead Island 2 is actually set in Los Angeles, or Hell-A as they refer to it in-game. Like the original title, the game is an open world first-person action RPG that centers on a group of slayers trapped in LA and trying to survive, and thrive, post-zombie apocalypse.
When I had a chance to play, I was immediately struck by how great Dead Island 2 looks. It seemed to me that a huge focus was made on the lighting and visual effects, and it really showed. The demo was primarily on an amusement boardwalk, and the sights and sounds were really appealing and added to my enjoyment.
Taking the role of one of the slayers, Amy I believe, I was dropped in the middle of the beach, and made my way to the fair. A number of objectives popped up, and I used the easy-to-follow markers to get the power re-activated and made my way to a safe zone.
Armed with a seemingly mid-game pile of weapons, I was able to take on in a variety of ways the zombies that inevitably stumbled (or ran) my way. The sword was my preferred method for elegantly but brutally slicing limbs from the horde, but smashing them with a rocket sledge was also really satisfying.
Once I discovered I had some firearms (with limited ammo of course), I used them to great advantage to take out some brutes and faster undead. The shotgun in particular was incredibly fun to use as I fought off waves off shambling creatures.
Near the end of my time with the demo I had to power-up a Ferris wheel to get to the next area, and as I travelled through it I was brought up into the air. At this point I finally encountered what I had been hearing for the entire level: an undead clown who scampered around on all fours over the ride and attacked me. It was truly the scariest thing I had experienced in a game in a long time, despite being a cliché.
Out of time, I exited the demo, but wanted to hop right back in. The combat felt great, the enemies were fun and varied (damn clown), the dialog was actually enjoyable, weapons were customizable and satisfying and the game itself looked and played great.
In chatting with the developer I learned that there will be a number of different slayers, all with different skills and personalities to explore the game with. They also told me that the story will have some very nice twists and a huge variety of zombies and monsters to encounter.
Dead Island 2 has been in development so long that at times I forgot it was a real thing. After playing the game at PAX East I am very excited to get my hands on the full version once it releases April 21 on PC via Epic Games Store as well as PlayStation 4/5 and Xbox One/X/S platforms.