Dead Island 2 preview

It's alive!

Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Dambuster Studios
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, Xbox One, PS4, PC
Release: 04.21.23

Usually, when you don’t see anything about a game for, oh, eight years, it’s pretty safe to assume it’s dead. But zombies are nothing if not persistent when it comes to cheating death, and Dead Island 2 seems to have inherited that trait from its hordes of brain-craving baddies.

That’s right: After switching developers multiple times and spending the better part of a decade in development limbo, the first-person zombie action RPG is finally gearing up for release. And from everything we’ve seen, it won’t be shambling into stores, either—it’ll be striding in very much alive and well.

The game’s latest—and, barring a zombie-apocalypse-level catastrophe, last—developer is Dambuster Studios, and the British studio has reimagined some of the ideas from the in-development version promoted in trailers and demos in 2014 into something altogether different. Rather than being set on separate maps spanning the whole of California, Dead Island 2 will instead take place entirely in a zombified version of Los Angeles, with iconic sights from around the city recreated for the game. The good news is there’ll be much less traffic than in real life. The bad news is, well, everything else.

You play as one of six survivors, all of whom have discovered they’re immune to the zombie virus. Each has their own backstory, personality, and specialties, but you’ll also have plenty of freedom to customize how they play thanks to the new skill system, which lets you instantly respec to try out whatever build catches your eye. In general, however, combat will gear toward melee—as ammo for ranged weapons will be fairly limited, you’ll want to save it for special occasions.

No matter what you fight with, you can count on the combat in Dead Island 2 being particularly brutal. Some of the images we’ve seen are definitely not fit to print in a family friendly magazine. We’re not even sure we should describe them. Suffice it to say, a great deal of technological know-how has gone into crafting some uh, let’s say memorable, visuals as you carve, punch, burn, and bludgeon your way across the City of Angels.

Like previous Dead Island games, this new entry will feature special zombies that will be even tougher to take down, so you’ll want to make sure you’re collecting new loot to have the best chance at survival. If you want a leg up against the undead, or just some company, you can also invite two of your friends along for three-player co-op.

Given the tumultuous history of Dead Island 2, it’s a pleasant surprise to see this revived version of the game finally coming together. With the launch set for early April, the big remaining question is whether the long wait will prove worth it in the end. But early signs are promising, and if we’ve learned anything over the past eight years, it’s this: Never count Dead Island 2 out.

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