Dead Island 2 is the Most Uncompromisingly Gory Game We've Ever Played – Gameplay

Dead Island 2 is the Most Uncompromisingly Gory Game We've Ever Played – Gameplay

Richard Walker

Would you believe it's been nine years since I first played Dead Island 2? At Gamescom 2014, Dead Island 2 was there in playable form, and it seemed like a fairly promising sequel. It's interesting to see how far the game has come since then, despite being entangled in development hell, passing from original developer Yager to Sumo Digital and then, finally, to Dambuster Studios. Amazingly, it's emerged unscathed, and, a month or so out from release, it plays like a California dream. Maybe we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

Opening in the wake of a plane crash, our extended preview time with Dead Island 2 takes us to the sunny and salubrious climes of Bel Air, where our chosen Slayer must make good on a promise: to meet Hollywood starlet Emma Jaunt at her fancy mansion on Alpine Drive. Starting out with a strip of metal debris as an improvised dismemberment tool, we hack our way through a few stragglers amid the flaming wreckage, before things open up, and we enter 'Hell-A' with our chosen character, Amy. Each of Dead Island 2's six characters have their own strengths, weaknesses, and attributes, but Amy's health regen and agility make her an easy choice.

Ryan the firefighter, Jacob the stuntman, Dani the edgy former retail worker from Ireland, Carla the mechanic, and Bruno the tattooed-up hustler have their own 'innate skills', too, and you can add to them by levelling up and earning new Skill Cards to add to their Skill Deck. The card system does away with the usual skill tree, enabling you to pick which cards to equip in the Abilities, Survivor, Slayer, and Numen slots. These can be swapped out and changed at any time, so you can constantly tweak your loadout, as you unlock new cards, until you find a setup that works best for you.

Picking the right skills to turn your character into a zombie-slaying machine that best suits your playstyle is part and parcel of Dead Island 2, and the payoff is the minute-to-minute action, which revels in unflinching, graphic, and unapologetically brutal gore. Seriously. Thanks to what Dambuster has dubbed its 'FLESH' system (Fully Locational Evisceration System for Humanoids), every swipe at the hordes of undead causes bones to snap, and skin to tear, exposing pulsating offal. Limbs and heads fly, blood spatters and pools, eyeballs drop out, skulls shatter – there really are no compromises when it comes to viscera.

It's not all about blood and guts, of course, and during 3-4 hours with the game, we're taken from the high-class mansions of Bel Air and Beverly Hills to the Halperin Hotel, and the glitzy Monarch movie studio, inhabited by zombified extras, film crew, and film stars. Each quest presents you with numerous fellow survivors to aid, so that they can join you at the safehouse with Emma, her assistant Michael, and other folks like Sam B. from the original Dead Island. You can purchase useful materials from the handyman that can be put towards crafting new weapons, weapon mods, medikits, and other items, like 'Curveballs'. These encompass throwable items, like chunks of meat to bait zombies, pipe bombs, molotovs, or vials of water that leave zombies soggy and temporarily dazed (and extinguish any fires in your way) – all available on a cooldown timer.

Weapon crafting and degradation returns, too, although weapons can be repaired and levelled up using materials and cash, so you need never wave goodbye to a favourite katana, machete, baseball bat, lump hammer, or whatever bludgeoning implement you happen to grow fond of, providing you have the readies and resources. And you can outfit weapons with electrical, incendiary, and corrosive mods, among other things. We can't vouch for how guns work, however, having failed to find a single one during the game's opening hours, despite a number of undead roaming around in military garb. You'll be able to acquire handguns, rifles, and such later on, but, for the time being, a judicious hit to a grenadier zombie's explosives belt will set 'em off, causing a blast to help thin the herd.

Like the grenadier, zombies come in numerous forms, from the standard walkers to weak, decayed shamblers; nimble, freshly turned runners; and lumbering, muscular crushers. Weakening a zombie by chipping away at the stamina gauge beneath their health bar will send them toppling to the ground, leaving them open to a head stomp, although there are myriad other ways to maim the undead, and, should you do so, you'll be greeted with the word 'MAIMED!' on screen, ensuring there's no ambiguity regarding what you've just done.

Add to this the ability to dodge, block, and barge your way through groups of undead, unleash kicks to knock them back, perform flying dropkicks to send them pirouetting through the air, or slide into their shins, and you've a versatile suite of abilities that will help you stay alive amid the LA chaos. Given a long and complicated development cycle, Dead Island 2 is in remarkably good shape, then. And like the first Dead Island, the location is a sunny and exotic place, all palm trees, beaches, and swimming pools. Visually impressive, effortlessly enjoyable, and brimming with weird characters, a menagerie of flesh-eating undead, co-op for up to three players, and insane weaponry; this is a fucked-up HELL-A holiday you'll relish.


Dead Island 2 launches for Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC on 21st April.

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