It's been a long wait for this zombie slaying sequel which delivers one of the goriest adventures we've played lately.
Music shudders and thuds around me as I bounce around from zombie to zombie, fly kicking and head chopping my way around a sprawling system of sewer tunnels and drain pipes.
Moaning and snapping sacks of human meat are stumbling towards me - I lift up my shovel wrapped in barbed wire and go to town on them. A gaudy batch of damage numbers float up above the shuffling zombies as limbs fly off and hunks of body tissue sloughs off my victims.
A carefully timed block allows my character, Ryan - a male stripper dressed as as a firefighter, to riposte an incoming zombie with a violent and disgusting beheading.
Loot sprays out of the twitching corpse, flopping to the ground to be hoovered up - its stats will be compared later. Will it be another worthy addition to my staple of zombie mashing items (joining my butcher’s knife, replica broadsword, shotgun and baseball bat) or just another item to be ground into crafting components?
Who knows. Who Cares? More zombies shuffle forward, offering a quick burst of adrenaline spiked combat and fast-paced, gruesome combat. I command Ryan to belt out a battle roar and start up a running charge attack - it’s time to clean up HELL-A.
A ROLLERCOASTER RIDE BUT TO WHERE?
Dead Island 2 is a thrill ride, an explosion of guts and gore that cares about the moment-to-moment adrenaline soaked fun of combat and little else.
There’s a story being framed in the background here; a debauched, destroyed L.A, filled with tanned influencers, rich 1%ers, there’s a mysterious cult, your character seems to be immune to the zombie virus and also have strange powers.
Tone-wise, it’s more tongue-in-cheek than techland’s Dying Light 2’s attempt to channel Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. There’s no tortured introspection about cycles of violence ala The Last Of Us. There’s zombies. You have weapons. They have limbs that can be cut off. Chop chop. It’s time to destroy.
The ragtag story of a group of survivors (a b-list Hollywood actor, their assistant, her housekeeper and other taggers on) provide a few moments of slowdown during the joyride, but the temptation to slap the ‘skip’ cutscene button is high here.
Rollercoasters, haunted house rides and amusement parks work best as tightly curated experiences, and Dead Island 2 understands its niche clearly.
This is not a big, sprawling open world. Environments are self-contained joyrides; a series of rich mega mansions and YouTube influencer homes, a cheesy hotel & wedding reception centre turned into an army base, the set of a schlock horror-movie about killer giant spiders.
They’re stuffed with details and little nooks, crannies and secrets to uncover. Keycards to doors, mysterious locked vaults and safes, treasure chests out of reach all tempt and reward careful exploration.
There’s nothing quite like beheading zombies on the set of a YouTube ‘unboxing’ program or dropkicking the corpse of an influencer down their personal 12-pin bowling alley (strike!).
IN THE F.L.E.S.H.
Much has been said about the game’s F.L.E.S.H system. Yes, it’s an acronym. It stands for ‘Fully Locational Evisceration System for Humanoids’ but what it really means is ‘hit zombie and gross things will happen to them’.
Slap a zombie with a big hammer in their face and you’ll damage it - ripping off layers of skin, maybe breaking a jaw. Bring out that chef’s knife and you’ll create cuts and marks in their flesh, slicing and dicing whole parts of zombies off as you go.
There’s strategy at play with all the flying guts and gore. Carefully aimed slices can remove a zombie’s legs, making them a slow crawler that’s less of a threat.
Other zombie varieties demand precision maiming; big hulking pustule infested zombies that spit poison will need their tumours chopped; zombies that are infected by wasps stumble towards you with hives exposed - mash hive off their body and they’ll take critical damage and the swarming insects will immediately die.
It’s revolting and extremely unsettling. This is gore at a whole new level, a triple AAA gore-a-palooza.
“Oh this is disgusting” I’d find myself saying as I’d use a katana to rip arms and legs off zombie after zombie.
A few minutes later I’d wonder why I felt so desensitised to it all. It’s the most profane video game violence I’ve ever witnessed, yet strangely I feel no emotional impact from it.
That’s the heart of Dead Island 2. A romping thrill ride, a rollercoaster, a guts-n-gore explosion fest. Loot items, make numbers go bigger, kick zombies onto the ground and pound them.
Have a friend join into your world and you can pound the zombies together. Set them on fire. Hit them with crackles of lightning and electricity.
It’s rotten and gory flesh on the surface, but when you chop down this shambling beast of a game, there’s not much else underneath.
A copy of DEAD ISLAND 2 on PC was provided to SIFTER for the purpose of this review.