Action, survival horror
PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Since I generally prefer games that don’t traditionally fall into the AAA category, I spend most of my time at Gamescom hanging out at the booths of small developers and publishers. But when PLAION, formerly known as Koch Media, invited us to play a secret title at the time, it piqued my interest.
I had already seen the headline that was this when I clicked on this article: The long-awaited sequel to Dead Island is finally on the horizon and in Cologne I was allowed to run around a deserted amusement park in half an hour, while I was devastated by a killer clown. Removed the zombie factor.
The moon, the sea, and rotten flesh
My adventure begins on the beach of Los Angeles. As one of six playable survivors in a closed state of California, I must find a laptop tucked away on a sidewalk as the idyllic American theme park slowly deteriorates. For my gaming session, I am equipped with a full arsenal that includes traditional weapons like the pistol and katana, as well as cunning weapons like the blazing ax or the electric claws for which the series is famous. Anyone who has played the first Dead Island will know that trying all the offensive options is part of the franchise’s allure. Fortunately, there are people who would like to take tests on the sandy plains.
Firearms are something you don’t want to grab too quickly for logical reasons, so I’m going to tackle choppy carcasses using the various melee options at my disposal. Remarkably, you really have a noticeable difference between the weapons. For example, the metal tube and the katana are very fast, but they feel too weak to use in hectic situations. The aforementioned claws offer better options in this regard, but require you to get close. So in the end I settled on an ax with a gas stove installed on it.
One learns by doing
Since I mostly play games with RPG elements, I tend to attack every enemy I see in order to collect XP. Usually I had to get rid of them quickly during the demo. The zombies are not very fast, but they are a problem in large numbers. So avoiding confrontation is in many cases a great option to avoid getting trapped. On the other hand, you can also use this to flip tables and use your environment. For example, set up a trap, remove loners from the mix first, or push enemies into the choke point to control the flow of combat.
You are vulnerable to full attack, especially when special jumping zombies appear or spray poison and your bullets are wasted very quickly when you are about to die. You have a Rage in a situation like this, where you can go crazy for a while, but this asset is short-lived and reloads slowly, so you really have to keep it on hand.
Once this lesson became difficult and I challenged the largest group of zombies in this adventure, his tone suddenly changed. The usual intruders have been replaced by a proud clown Pennywise, which does not crawl towards you, but destroys and surprises you with attacks that you would not expect. It’s a welcome change that may have been deliberately chosen as a constant for this demo, but if it represents what’s to come, that’s a positive.
Revenge should be mine
This remains the somewhat more grotesque tone for the rest of the demo, which ends with a confrontation with the colorful geek. A tough battle I almost won when time ran out. That alone gives me a good reason to play the game next year, because if there’s one thing I hate, it’s unlocked. However, this is not the only reason.
In the presentation leading up to our gameplay session, we got more information about the development and the mechanics. The emphasis on co-op was already known, you could play the game with two friends, but the other spearhead that was clearly featured was fun. Dead Island doesn’t want to take itself too seriously and make that very clear. Reminiscent of a hero from a bad ’80s flick, each character has plenty of clubbing, chopping, and sorting fun between ex-pals. Something they have with Dambuster too, given that they put a lot of effort into how to dissect zombies with all kinds of weapons. They called this system FLESH, which stands for Fully Locational Evisceration Simulator for Humanoids, in fact it tells you everything you need to know about the title tone. So let’s quote their presentation “Enjoy at the end of the world.”
Dead Island 2 has a lot going for it: impressive, too suspenseful, devastating and too big to use in some apt terminology. More than anything else, it’s fun. She understands that the apocalypse doesn’t always have to be a serious thing and she breathes this out of every pore. From the main characters to the humor and weapons, everything screams that this is a video game. There is nothing wrong with that at all!
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