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Dead Island 2 Preview - E3 2014

Enter another zombie paradise

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There are few staple genres you can always count on video games to provide. Every year we see another slew of sports games, another military shooter, and we usually see at least one zombie game. One of the franchises which makes sure we get our taste for decapitating the undead is the Deep Silver published Dead Island. While the original game is most famous for its evocative debut trailer, in the end it turned into the stereotypical zombie experience.

The announcement trailer for Dead Island 2 seems much more in line with the kind of game Dead Island was and what Dead Island 2 is likely to be. The franchise is no longer in the hands of developer Techland, who are hard at work on the zombie game Dying Light for Warner Bros, instead Deep Silver has tapped Yager for the sequel, a studio that is most recognizable for the surprisingly emotional military shooter Spec Ops: The Line. The changes continue for Dead Island as Yager has moved the locale of the game from the fictional island of Banoi to the real-world setting of California. Taking place several months after Dead Island, the United States has quarantined pockets of the nation which have become overrun with the zombie virus. One such place is that state of California. The quarantine zones have become zombie playgrounds for the adventurous and Yager intends to turn the most iconic locations of California into the perfect place for undead mayhem.

Dead Island 2

The game features four heroes to choose from, the classes being Hunter, Berserker, Speeder, and Bishop. The heroes you play as are people who are immune to the zombie virus and would rather live in the anarchist zombielands instead of the amidst the remains of modern society. These heroes will be gathered and led by Max and his cat Rick Fury. While not immune to the virus, Max has still chosen a life of danger, following his dream of zombie killing. The new world inside of California offers a second chance at life, an opportunity to start over for the characters which inhabit it.

We’ve already seen how impressive zombie worlds can be on the Xbox One with Dead Rising 3, and Dead Island 2 is looking to continue creating massive undead hordes while making sure no two zombies look alike. On top of undead foes, the game will pit players against human forces, adding variety to combat encounters.

The second most important thing in zombies games - after the zombies, of course - is the arsenal you have with which to butcher the undead. Dead Island 2 offers a variety of choices from regular ol’ guns to motorized weapons which use fuel and create noise. On top of the regular weapons you receive in the game, players will get opportunities to craft their own weapons, modify existing weapons, and dual wield these instruments of death.

Dead Island 2 also continues the series’ focus on cooperative multiplayer, allowing up to 8 people to share in the fun. Players can compete, cooperate, and coexist in their world. Yager is also hoping to bring some more interesting narrative to the game with the talents of an Emmy-winning writer.

As our hands-off demo for Dead Island 2 starts, I am instantly taken in by the sun-kissed look of the game. Driving through the suburban roads outside of San Francisco, the game is baked in the golden glow California is known for. Soon the van carrying the player comes to a stop as zombies block the way. Getting out of the van, the player approaches the zombies and while getting up-close-and-personal puts them to final rest with graphic slicing and dicing.

Dead Island 2

Suddenly, raiders show up and begin attacking. The player pulls out their own gun and engages the raiders in a shootout. The noise draws nearby zombies who overrun the raiders. Seeing an opportunity to create more mayhem, the player lights a molotov cocktail and blows up a few cars the raiders were suing for cover, bathing them and the zombies in flames. The player continues covering the battleground in flames, attracting zombies with car alarms and then taking them out by blowing up explosive barrels. When zombies get too close, he hacks at their limbs, using the game’s strategic dismemberment system to make the zombies little more than stationary, chomping mouths.

After finding some time to catch their breath, the player takes a crossbow and modifies it with a shotgun-pump. After firing arrows into a couple of zombies, the player changes things up and pulls out a sledgehammer. Using the sledgehammer’s power attack, you can launch enemies into the air. With all this up-close combat, I notice the zombies continuing to surround the player, always doing damage, but getting bloodied and wading deep into the fray seems to be a part of what Dead Island 2 is selling.

Post battle, the player approaches the wedding the survivor told us about earlier. The undead have already overrun the home and as they approach the house the wedding was being held in, I can hear civilians begging for help. The player enters through the basement, where it is so dark we can barely see the undead lurking about. They spring forth, taking the player by surprise. We manage to escape, as the player comes up to a dance floor all set for a reception which will never come to pass. All the same, the player puts on some dance music, attracting zombies and then proceeds to blow them away, dropping a chandelier on the head of one for dramatic effect.

Dead Island 2

Amidst all this gory combat I notice little impressive details about Dead Island 2. Things which prove the progression of tech in subtle ways, like the dust particles floating in sun beams, the once clean hands of the player becoming covered in blood, and so forth.

I don’t have long to be impressed by the minutia of Dead Island 2 as the game is still busy throwing undead foes at the player. The latest one is a gigantic behemoth called The Thug. The player attempts to hang back from this guy, peppering him with bullets while trying to maintain distance. Eventually they both go out the window and into the courtyard, which gives the player some more breathing room. After pumping the big guy full of bullets, the Thug eventually drops to his knees and the player takes off the top of its head with a finishing move, putting an exclamation point on the end of our time with Dead Island 2.

Based on what we got to see, Dead Island 2 looks like the zombie-killing game players seem to flock to every year. The title has some nice touches and the new console platforms allow the developers to do some impressive technical work demonstrated in the environmental shots we got to see after the demo, but the emphasis of the game is still on slicing up undead and blowing them away. Dead Island 2 is set to be release on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in Spring 2015.

Dead Island 2
Dead Island 2 box art Platform:
Our Review of Dead Island 2
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