In a stunning resurrection at Gamescom Opening Night time Reside 2022, Dead Island 2 got here again from the lifeless. Regardless of having been in improvement for a decade, the model of the zombie motion sport coming in February has a lot more energizing blood than what was teased in 2014. That’s as a result of in 2018, improvement handed to a Deep Silver Dambuster Studios workforce that was content material to start from scratch to create their very own imaginative and prescient of the sport.
“We thought it had a great deal of potential for characterful areas,” artistic director James Worrall instructed me throughout an interview at Gamescom. “However when it got here to the precise gameplay engine, what we actually needed to laser deal with was the up shut and private melee fight. There are weapons within the sport – gunsies are for funsies! – however it’s all concerning the melee fight … and to do this, we had to start from scratch.”
It was very obvious that this was a completely new beast once I went hands-on with a 20-minute demo of the sport at Gamescom. Somewhat than feeling like a 2014 sport trapped in a 2022 physique, Dead Island 2 is a contemporary motion RPG that joyfully dishes out essentially the most grotesque physique horror it might consider.
Dead Island 2 takes gamers to a zombie-infested model of Los Angeles that’s three weeks into quarantine. Gamers select certainly one of six characters after which journey by means of the apocalyptic tackle the town. The characters right here aren’t precisely scared survivors hiding from monsters; actually, they virtually appear to be having fun with it slightly an excessive amount of.
That is virtually like an origin story for a sort of superhero.
Tonally, it feels a bit like Sundown Overdrive, one other apocalyptic zombie sport that trades in tense horror for sandbox violence. Characters really feel overpowered in contrast to zombies, clearing them out as in the event that they have been taking down a pack of rats. In a single a part of my demo, I lured a number of towards an uncovered electrical wire in a moist room simply to watch them fry. I might have reduce them down simply as simply, however I simply needed to mess with them. For those who noticed its Gamescom trailer starring a hero lazily slicing up the undead on their means to the grocery retailer, that’s precisely what the sport looks like in motion.
“I believe that any sport that has that degree of violence, notably in a up to date setting, you want to steadiness that with a robust ethical framework,” Worrall says. “We’re solely ever combating zombies. We’re by no means combating different people. But in addition, you want that aid … One minute you’ll be slaying zombies and the following you’ll have slightly little bit of schadenfreude as you glimpse the stays of the human thoughts in that zombie as they try to stagger or fall off one thing comically.”
Worrall compares the sport’s method to its heroes to motion pictures like Die Arduous. He needs gamers to really feel like highly effective Hollywood stars that take down a whole lot of enemies with a smirk to maintain the deal with dismemberment.
“In some ways, that is virtually like an origin story for a sort of superhero,” Worrall says. “We’re doing quite a lot of laying the bottom in Dead Island 2 for future releases. There’s a lot of zombie video games and film properties on the market which can be about surviving. The zombies sort of develop into this background wallpaper towards which the interhuman dramas play out. We didn’t need to do this. We needed to get gamers operating into the fray headlong.”
One notable element shared throughout Gamescom is that the sport has six playable characters. Worrall clarified that gamers don’t management all of them throughout the story. They’ll choose one to comply with by means of the story and largely undergo the identical beats with distinct dialogue. Although there received’t be branching paths to discover on playthroughs, Worrall notes that these dialogue adjustments will recontextualize components of Dead Island 2 a bit relying on the character.
All concerning the melee
Dambuster Studios notes that the sport is about “thriving, not surviving,” and the motion definitely matches that mantra. This can be a first-person sport, however weapons aren’t the main focus. As an alternative, melee weapons are the star of the present. Throughout my 20-minute demo, I attempted out an entire buffet of lethal instruments that have been sickly satisfying in their very own means.
My demo started with me strolling on a darkish seaside towardsa lit-up boardwalk. Katana in hand, I began slashing zombies aimlessly wandering out on the sand, typically splitting them in half in a waterfall of gore. At first, I puzzled if melee-focused first-person fight would get previous quick. Then I had a revelation.
Throughout one wave-like set piece, I geared up a pitchfork I had discovered. As a zombie ran towards me, I occurred to hit its leg within the scramble. It exploded, knocking it to the bottom. A button immediate would let me step on its head after, popping it like a grape. After that, my playstyle modified drastically, as I switched between weapons like electrified claws and rocket-powered axes to carve up enemies like semi-human turkeys.
That’s all made potential due to the sport’s flesh system, which Worrall broke down with childlike glee.
“It’s fully procedural,” Worall says. “Different techniques have pulled our bodies aside beforehand. Right here, in case you shoot somebody within the ankle or the shin or the knee, then the leg will come off on the ankle or the shin or the knee or wherever in between! I believe essentially the most spectacular impact we’ve received is that in case you injury somebody with a caustic ax, they’ll stagger in direction of you and the flesh will actually drip off the physique till there’s a skeleton and it simply falls down.”
That system isn’t only for sadistic laughs. It makes for some nice visible literacy too. “There are alternatives to flip off the HUD components. For those who do this early, you’ll study the sport faster. You don’t want the HUD components. All of the reactions are there within the sport for you to see and listen to.”
I solely began to get a way of the fight by the point my 20 minutes have been up, however I can really feel the extent of depth. In a single notably intense encounter exterior of a Ferris wheel, I had to use each instrument in my arsenal to survive. I swapped between every melee weapon in my stock to goal particular physique components, switched to a gun once I needed to shoot an explosive barrel from a secure distance, knocked zombies over with a floor pound once I was getting overwhelmed, tossed blood bait to distract some stragglers, and (most significantly) carried out first-person strafe dodges. All of that comes earlier than entering into the sport’s card system, which provides a layer of character-building perks on high of all the pieces. It’s not simply brainless hacking and slashing.
After spending a lot time in improvement hell, the prognosis is wholesome for Dead Island 2. The slice I performed confirmed off a elegant motion RPG with fastidiously thought-about melee fight and a playful tone. Even in case you’re sick of zombies at this level in your life, Dambuster Studios discovered a brand new means to slice the style up with a gleefully grotesque method to physique horror.
Dead Island 2 launches on February 3 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Sequence X/S, and PC.