Dead Island 2 Review – A Lackluster Sequel?

Title – Dead Island 2

Platforms – PS5, PS4, PC, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One

Release Date – April 23rd, 2023

Developer – Dambuster Studio

Publisher – Deep Silver

MSRP – $59.99

ESRB – M for Mature

Disclaimer – This product is being reviewed on the PlayStation 5. A review copy was provided by Deep Silver for the purpose of this review. This review may also contain spoilers for certain gameplay and story elements. Watch at your own risk, you have been warned. Gaming Instincts is an Amazon Affiliate and does gain financial benefits if you choose to purchase this product on this page.

After numerous delays and a lengthy development period, Dead Island 2 has finally become a reality. The game was initially announced at Sony’s E3 2014 conference but remained in limbo for years. Fans of the cult-classic zombie-bashing FPS game feared that it had been canceled, but fortunately, that wasn’t the case. I’ve had the opportunity to play Dead Island 2 for a couple of weeks, and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you on this title. Welcome to our review of Dead Island 2.

The Cast and Premise

Dead Island 2 is set in California, with gameplay taking place in various locations throughout Los Angeles, including Santa Monica. The game begins with you and a group of survivors who have crash-landed in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, with no cure or vaccine available. Your objective is to protect a group of wealthy Hollywood figures and find a way to survive in this new world. The plot of Dead Island 2 begins 10 years after the events of the original game and is considered as a direct sequel.

You have the option to choose from six different characters, each with their unique innate abilities that provide a range of passive bonuses. Once you’ve selected your character, you embark on a journey to survive in this zombie-infested world. For my first playthrough, I chose to play as Carla, a former motorcycle stuntwoman who lived in Los Angeles before the apocalypse struck.

Carla, for instance, has two special passive skills, Dig Deep and Mosh Pit. Dig Deep increases her “Toughness” stat, which provides additional defense when her health is critical. Mosh Pit, on the other hand, grants Carla the ability to inflict more damage when she’s surrounded by multiple zombies. Each character in the game is distinct, offering unique boosts to their passive abilities.

Dead Island 2

One thing I appreciate about each of the characters in Dead Island 2 is their distinct personalities, as well as their humorous and cheesy one-liners. The voice acting is fitting, representing what the game would have been like had it been a B-Tier comedy film mixed with outrageous gore, zombies, and a touch of horror. Many of the characters remind me of the “Hurk” character from the Far Cry games.

The game doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is evident in its tone and storyline. It’s not designed to be a dark, gripping horror tale like Dead Space or The Last of Us. Rather, it’s a ridiculous take on what would happen if zombies took over Los Angeles, with a cast of characters comprising goofballs and wealthy individuals. I like this approach because it sets the game apart from other zombie titles, such as Dying Light 2, which has a more serious tone and narrative. Now that you understand the game’s setting, let’s delve into its combat and gameplay.

The Gameplay and Combat

This is where I believe Dead Island 2 shines the most, well at least it did for me. As you explore the various regions of Los Angeles you will come across a wide variety of different weapons including knives, hammers, cue sticks, wrenches, and even wolverine-like fist claws that are super fast and can rip’n’tear the zombies to pieces. There are even golf clubs that I am sure many of The Last of Us Part II fans will really appreciate and totally not have PTSD of their favorite character dying.

The melee combat is addicting and fun and the gore system is unlike any other I’ve ever experienced in my gaming career. You can aim at specific body parts and make the combat strategic. However, it’s the visual representation and the gore tech itself that are impressive.  The gore itself is quite detailed and can you make cringe just a tad because it’s pretty gross. But those who love overly gory movies will appreciate it here. You can literally see the flesh peel off as you stab and slash with a sharp object. Do it enough times and the limb will get chopped off. This adds another level of strategy to the combat. Removing the legs and limbs is a good way to make the zombies extra slow, while others are running at you at full speed trying to bite you.

If you get grabbed, you have a few seconds to defend yourself by spamming certain buttons. If you fail, then you get bit and take a decent chunk of damage. If you are surrounded by multiple enemies, then it’s best to use a weapon that has a wide arc range of an attack such as a shovel or something that can just swing across the screen. Weapons also have different rarities, the rarer it is the more strong the weapon is. Some weapons are also a lot slower than others but pack a much bigger punch, others are quite weak but are very quick such as the wolverine claws and knives.

Players may also perform execution moves if they parry the enemies hit at a perfect time and follow up with the correct QTE prompt that comes up on the screen. However, if they have too much of high health, the fatal hit will not always end in execution, so it depends on the level of your weapons, how much health the enemy has left, and the level of the zombie you are fighting.

Dead Island 2 also has a skill card system. As you level up you gain more card slots, and as you complete quests and explore more areas you eventually find additional cards that you can equip. Think of it like building a deck of cards for your character, and that deck of cards gives you a variety of combat bonuses. Some cards are also unique only to that character as well, so there is some incentive to try out all six characters that the game provides.

Similar to titles like Dying Light 1 and 2 you can add mods to your weapons and give them elemental stats such as electricity that shocks and stun enemies, poison, fire, and so on. Shock mods are usually pretty good on quicker weapons because the more you it them the more likely the zombies will get stunned. Yes, there are also range weapons as well, but the melee is really where it’s at. Bashing zombies just never gets old. There are plenty of weapons to use and experiment with. There are also workshop stations that are scattered across the locations where you can upgrade them, dismantle them for materials, craft mods, and so on.

Dead Island 2


With the combat out of the way, It’s time I talk about the structure of the game and its world design. Dead Island 2 is not set up like a traditional open-world game as you might think. Instead, the game is divided into campaign missions with NPC interactions that give you additional side quests in the region. So essentially, you are free to explore the region at your own pace, complete whatever side quests you come across, and explore each nook and cranny to find collectibles, hidden caches, or even special NPC zombies that carry keys to secrets that can contain valuable loot and so on.

Some of those key-holding NPCs though don’t spawn until you have gotten through specific parts of the main questline and that can cause a bit of confusion. For example, I’ve spent about an hour or so looking for a named mob and eventually gave up because I looked everywhere I possibly could, then later down the line he decided to spawn after I got past a certain point in the questline. Sadly, the game doesn’t tell you that, so you might spend time looking for things that are not even there, to begin with until later. While it’s not really that big of a deal, it was still somewhat annoying and I didn’t like the fact that I was wasting my time.

Other than that, exploring the regions is fun, and yes you can come back to them even after you’ve completed the main questline previously. It’s nice to not be pressured and look for everything and try to 100% everything on the go. This allows and gives the players the agency to play at their own pace. Maybe one day, you just want to do the main quest line and another do all the sidequests alongside the collectibles. It’s good when the game doesn’t force you to do certain things or makes certain gameplay sections missable.

In conclusion, the gameplay loop of Dead Island 2 is pretty fun, especially if you involve a few of your buddies. The game can be played by up to 3 additional players equaling a total of four. The game also provides a variety of difficulty options, so if you just want to stomp everything and experience the story without much stress you may do that as well. Or you can opt in for a harder challenge. The game won’t blow you away with its mechanics, there is nothing particularly new here or super exciting that hasn’t been done before in a co-op zombie-killing game. Just grab a few baddies, find some cool melee weapons, and go on a rampage and enjoy the crazy and whacky characters of Dead Island 2. Sometimes, simple is better, the game is not trying to be anything new or special and that’s completely fine because it’s fun.

Visuals and Audio

The graphics in Dead Island 2 are impressive with vivid and colorful environments, along with detailed character models. The gore system adds an extra visual style and flair to combat scenarios, making it a more immersive experience. The game runs smoothly with no noticeable dips or frame stutters.

While some may have hoped for the game to use the latest engine technology such as Unreal Engine 5, it turns out that the game was made and optimized for Unreal Engine 4 and is a cross-gen title. Despite this, the game still looks good and plays well. However, there are a few oddities such as no reflections in mirrors when looking at oneself. It’s nothing game-breaking and doesn’t affect the gameplay, but it’s immersion-breaking, especially when exploring areas with a lot of mirrors like hotel rooms, bedrooms, and bathrooms.

One of the most impressive things about Dead Island 2’s visuals and technology is the detailed character models. The facial animations, however, could be better as they don’t blow you away as much as the character models do.

The soundtrack in Dead Island 2 is a standout feature, especially the main menu theme. It’s memorable and sticks out, making players want to pause the game just to listen to it. Sound effects when hitting zombies with a variety of weapons are well done, providing satisfying audio feedback. Overall, the audio and visual package is more than satisfying for my tastes.

Final Verdict

After such a long wait, was Dead Island 2 worth it? It’s a tough question, but I can confidently say that the game was a blast to play. Fans of the franchise will appreciate the fact that a sequel has finally arrived, and newcomers will find it to be an enjoyable experience with an intriguing cast of characters. While it may not revolutionize the FPS or zombie genre, it certainly delivers in terms of entertainment value.

From the start, Dead Island 2 makes it clear that its primary goal is to be a fun zombie slasher. And it succeeds in doing just that with its stunning visuals, solid soundtrack, and addicting combat system. The game runs smoothly without any noticeable game-breaking bugs, and the technical performance is impressive.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Dead Island 2 and I’m thrilled that it has finally been released. If you’re a fan of the series or simply enjoy a good zombie game, then this one is definitely worth your time. Dead Island 2 will be receiving a final verdict of 8 out of 10.

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Fun zombie killing gameplay with decent exploration and more enjoyable with friends


Utilizes the older version of Unreal Engine but still looks beautiful when it comes to environments and has fantastic character models. Although there are some some occasional pop-ins and the lack of reflections in the mirrors feels a tad weird


Solid soundtrack and fitting voice acting if you are into campy B-tier zombie games


Not much replay value here after you beat the campaign and get all the collectibles.