Dead Island 2

PAX: Dead Island 2 rekindles all the same feelings as its predecessor

Play it again, Sam

Recommended Videos

Dead Island 2 has been a long, long time coming. At 11 years on from the original and a whole history behind it, I went into my PAX East 2023 demo wondering what a new Dead Island would look or play like now, in 2023. The answer, as it turns out, is a lot like the first Dead Island.

How that answer lands for you will depend on, well, how exactly you felt about the preceding entry. Dead Island 2 certainly looks good; it’s got some lighting that creates some memorable moments. When I started the demo, my player character was on a beach at night. Fires burned, creating silhouettes of the walkers and runners who were soon going to set themselves on me.

So, anyway, I started swinging.

Melee it on me

While guns exist in the world of Dead Island, it’s always felt like the franchise likes to lean towards the melee side of things. Bullets can be a precious commodity, while a bat can keep on swinging. And if that bat has nails, electric wiring, or a butane torch hooked up, it can do some solid damage.

The core of Dead Island to me, that persists in Dead Island 2, is melee combat with layered, makeshift implements of zombie destruction. In my demo, they didn’t skimp on the goods either. Already in my inventory, there were electric claws, a flaming axe, and some sort of water-spreading tool. Sure, I had a katana and a staff, and even a few guns. Those were weapons meant for taking down enemies. But it’s Dead Island. I’m going to use the fire axe.

Dead Island 2
Image via Deep Silver

Elemental effects are a big part of Dead Island and in the sequel it seems like they take a much more central role to the action. With the original, I felt like elemental effects were a nice little addendum. But Dead Island 2 rewards you for masterful elemental use. Water can spread around, creating potential shock zones when mixed with electricity. Fire can obviously do some damage over time, but so can acid. And paying attention to which enemies have elements, especially ones that could help you if activated, is crucial when trying to fight off a big wave of infected.

Staving off the horde

Most of the level I played was spent carefully making my way around a boardwalk, seeking my objective marker all the while. Everything is shut and locked down, so occasionally some light puzzle-solving was required. There were some environmental tidbits to pick up, in order to learn more about what awaited me near the end. But for the most part, it was pretty straightforward: Forge ahead. Slay zombies.

While small encounters broke out frequently, full chaos broke loose when I reached the boardwalk’s Ferris Wheel. Here, I had to kickstart the ride’s system in order to move on, but doing so was going to attract the horde. It’s a zombie classic at this point, and so much like I’d done many times before, I looked for the best holdout and chokepoints, grit my teeth, and started the action.

Dead Island 2 April 2023 games
Image via Deep Silver

Though there are normal, shambling infected as well as faster, running variations, here I also contended with giant ground-slamming behemoths and exploding zombies using my special abilities — which consisted of a Molotov and a zombie-distracting grenade. Still, it was tense. I even got taken out here, eaten up by the small army of undead. Eventually making it through, I got on the Ferris wheel and caught sight of an unusual, extremely dangerous type of zombie, right before my time ran out.

The song remains the same

Again, it might feel reductive to say that Dead Island 2 feels like “more Dead Island”, but it really, really does. It’s certainly been polished up and given some new tools, but the core framework of Dead Island 2 still feels like that Left 4 Diablo blend of RPG loot and bonuses in a zombie shooter world.

None of that is a bad thing, if what you wanted was more Dead Island. To be honest, my demo made me reminisce on the Xbox 360 era that bore the original title. Given the development history of the sequel, it almost feels miraculous that Dead Island 2 even exists, especially as other games — that have similarly toiled in development — haven’t seen the light of day.

Dead Island 2 will see the dawn soon enough though, as the game’s scheduled to launch on April 21, 2023 for PlayStation, Xbox, and PC.

Destructoid is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Image of Eric Van Allen
Eric Van Allen
Senior Editor - While Eric's been writing about games since 2014, he's been playing them for a lot longer. Usually found grinding RPG battles, digging into an indie gem, or hanging out around the Limsa Aethryte.