Dead Island 2

Back in January of 2022, I was hotly anticipating Dying Light 2, along with all the zombie-slaying mayhem that I expected in the follow-up to one of the greatest zombie games of all time, Dying Light. And considering Dead Island 2, at the time, appeared to have been stuck in development hell, Dying Light 2 was looking like the only game of its kind on the horizon.

But as excited as I had been for Dying Light 2, the actual game took the wind out of my sails. The zombie ragdoll physics made corpses feel like they were full of helium. The parkour felt oddly generic this time around, but that could just be that the novelty from the original game had waned in the interceding years. The ability to reshape the game world based on your choices felt about as impactful as deciding whether to use paper or plastic bags at the grocery store. The characters were also dreadfully uninteresting, the story was pretty bland and the zombies didn’t feel nearly as threatening as I think they were meant to.

Don’t get me wrong, Dying Light 2 is a fine game. It’s just nowhere near as ambitious as the marketing led us to believe, and its world is nowhere near as ambient or vibrant or well-crafted as Harran from the original game. I didn’t even bother to finish it; I simply moved on with my life.

But then the most unlikely thing happened: About six or so months after Dying Light 2 came and went, a brand new Dead Island 2 announcement trailer popped up seemingly out of nowhere.

From the looks of this new trailer, Dead Island 2 was a completely different game than what was hinted at during the original reveal trailer from 2014. And not only was it looking really good, it looked better than Dying Light 2, at least from what little was shown.

And just like that, we were through the looking glass.

Now, with the release of a fourteen-and-a-half-minute gameplay trailer (albeit a curated, semi- scripted, and semi-edited trailer), we finally get to see several vertical slices of mostly uninterrupted gameplay. And boy howdy, is my excitement approaching the roof (and possibly through it) status.

There’s a lot to unpack, and although I hate their polished, PR-approved line delivery, the narrator does a solid job of breaking down the nuances of what is being depicted in this trailer. So I won’t pick it apart beat by beat, since I would say it is definitely worth watching this trailer if you are interested at all in Dead Island 2.

Dead Island 2

I think this version of L.A. — or Hell A, as the developers are calling it — looks fantastic. The color palette pops and is a huge improvement over the muted and nature-overrun look of Dying Light 2‘s game world. And the new Flesh system that represents bodily damage to the zombies is pretty gnarly. Bashing faces and sending jawbones flying, shooting off legs to force zombies to crawl, hacking and slashing all the livelong day; it all looks really gross and cool.

I admit that the first time I saw a hulking zombie, my eyes rolled harder than Tootsee’s when employed by the 69 Boyz. I mean, the various zombie types feel so old hat that we need an army of milliners to save us from the doldrum of tank, screaming, and fast-running variants seen over and over and over since, I don’t know, probably Left 4 Dead.

But that shuddering resentment was mostly assuaged when it was mentioned that there would be over a dozen different zombie types, which is at least far better than the par-for-the-genre four or five that we normally see. And after the first big fella is taken down — who, I should point out, happens to be missing an arm and not lugging around a big piece of concrete attached to rebar — it was refreshing that there didn’t appear to be a two-step canned approach that required dodging to avoid a big hit and attacking once they are opened up. The player just walloped on them and that seemed to do the trick.

Dead Island 2

The narrator briefly touched on the new card system, which they seemed really proud of, and that is supposed to allow the flexibility to wholeheartedly change one’s playstyle on the fly. But this wasn’t shown much, nor did they show off what to expect when it comes to deck management, or even how you get more cards (or if you do even, although I imagine you will). For the time being, I would expect a system similar to Fallout 76, give or take.

I think the biggest takeaway for me, however, is just how fun Dead Island 2 looks to play. It isn’t clear exactly how big Hell A will be, and for that matter how open it will be either. Can we expect to be able to, for example, take Canyon View Drive over to San Vicente, then make a left and get on the 405 North, and from there just get off on Mulholland? I guess only time will tell.

All that said, I am very much looking forward to getting my hands on Dead Island 2. I will, of course, wait for impressions to come in before taking the plunge, but as it stands right now, Dead Island 2 looks like everything I wanted out of the follow-up to Dying Light, minus the heavy reliance on parkour — which, to be honest, I can honestly take or leave at this point.

Dead Island 2 was originally supposed to release on April 28, 2023 — after an initial delay from the original February 2023 release window — but it has since been bumped up to April 21. But considering how touch-and-go the development cycle for Dead Island 2 seems to have been, this somehow all just feels fitting. You can check out the new gameplay trailer below. I will note that it does state the game is still in development, and some things can still change before launch.

For what it’s worth, at the 05:40 mark in the trailer, after the player kills a zombie with a knife-glove punch to the face, we can see the player’s hands are visibly raised in a guarded stance, and yet their shadow clearly shows their arms and hands are at their side. I hope they change that bit, but otherwise, I’d say just keep the rest. It’s all looking pretty good right now.

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