The original Dead Island made an impact in 2011 with its dramatic teaser trailer and intense zombie-killing action. Since that time, we saw follow-ups Dead Island Riptide and the spin-off, Escape Dead Island.
Thankfully, we’ll enjoy another round of zombie smashing later this year with Dead Island 2. Under the direction of new developer, Yager (the original team at Techland created Dying Light for WB Games), this sequel may become more entertaining than the original.
Dead Island 2 takes you all over the West Coast as you fight to stay alive and eventually reach a safe haven. You'll run through San Francisco, Venice Beach, Hollywood, Los Angeles and Santa Monica, with an area comprised of more than 10 miles of virtual terrain.
Similar to the original, melee combat remains a primary focus. Your character will use a number of weapons to beat enemies to a pulp, although on some occasions you'll have to resort to your fists and feet in order to stay alive. Fortunately, the variety of what's available is sure to spice things up, whether you're driving a crowbar into an opponent's head or using something more creative in the environment, like an exploding car.
Naturally there are different types of zombies to deal with. Walkers are the most traditional creatures, lumbering around waiting to nibble on an unsuspecting victim. Next up are the Runners, speedier monsters that will have no trouble catching up to you.
Then come the Suiciders, large zombies that remind us of the Boomers in the Left 4 Dead games. These guys explode, unleash nasty bile and cause plenty of noise that will attract other foes; take these guys out from a distance. Finally, the Thugs are probably the most threatening, since they're tougher and faster than the usual bunch. You'll need to work together with your fellow players to bring them down, or suffer the consequences.
What's more, Yager wants to crowd the environment with as many zombies as possible, with 50 on the screen in some instances. This can result in getting ambushed, which will put you and your friends at a serious disadvantage. For this type of situation, you'll want to make sure you have a powerful weapon on hand, like an axe or chainsaw.
In addition, modifications allow you to craft more efficient weapons. For instance, if your character has a shotgun, he or she can find items that will let them create electrical bullets. Once fired, they'll impact all the zombies within the blast radius, leaving these enemies vulnerable to a final blow. In another example, you can mod a sledgehammer with an explosive tip, creating the ultimate boom hammer.
Dead Island 2 supports up to eight players in co-op battle (with drop-in/drop-out support), and we recently had a chance to try out this mode. Only two characters were available during our hands-on time with the game, but each brought something to the table, whether it was speed or strength.
Furthermore, characters have unique attributes, such as Ryan's brute strength to hit a zombie's head clean off its shoulders. His lack of speed is the tradeoff, which makes him easy pickings for a group of Runners.
Dani, by comparison, isn't nearly as strong as Ryan, but she knows how to handle a weapon efficiently, and can maneuver around enemies, including Runners, to hit their weakest points.
Publisher Deep Silver promised the other two characters in the game will be distinctive, as well as the additional zombie types we’ve yet to see. Expect a few surprises closer to the game's release – and maybe even more via DLC. On that note, we'll learn more as Dead Island 2 creeps towards its late 2015 debut for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.