Dead Island 2 Demo: First Impressions – PAX Prime 2014
I hit the Deep Silver booth at PAX Prime to get hands on with the next installment in the popular zombie hack-and-slash series, Dead Island 2, and it looked pretty nice. Unlike the previous Dead Island games, Yager Development will be working on this next-gen zombie killing game. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, you may know of their hit Spec Ops: The Line. Yager Development is not a stranger to shooters and battle-torn landscapes, so they should fit right in the Dead Island series.
Since I have played all of Dead Island and some of Dead Island: Riptide, I was curious to see how much of the gameplay has changed in this title. In Dead Island 2, the virus from Banoi has spread to the state of California where the government has quarantined the entire state making it somewhat of an island. That’s what they are telling me anyway, which is fine with me. Moving on, the demo takes place in the city of Los Angeles showcasing the huge Hollywood sign in the background. San Francisco is the other announced city to be in Dead Island 2, with one more city to be announced before it’s launch.
When you start the demo, you are joined by your party of four, but a server can have up to eight players slaughtering enemies all over the map. Unlike the previous Dead Island games, Dead Island 2 will forgo the ugly lobbies and allow players to seamlessly jump into online mode. So far it’s more of what you love from Dead Island, focusing on brutal hand-to-hand combat rather than range which cause for some gruesome finishes. Even better are the graphics, with Dead Island 2 now being developed in Unreal Engine 4. The previous games did not look so hot graphics wise, so it’s awesome to see how nice this game looks. As I continued, I was using an axe from the firefighter tank-like character so I was chopping enemies left and right with ease. There was one more character available for the demo, the quick slicing specialist that is similar to Xian Mei in the first game. The other two classes not in the demo include the ranger who most likely specializes in range combat, and a priest that is to be used as a support class. The sequel seems to be more open now for exploration, unlike the last Dead Island games that have paths that you pass to and from places avoiding the perilous mountain sides and cliffs that were prominent. Granted the demo we were playing was a small flat suburb to be a tenth of the map or city, so who knows how open the landscape can stretch to. Looting is big in this game again, so I found myself going into houses and grabbing any crafting items in random luggage and furniture all the time. What’s great about Dead Island 2 is that they decided to take out all crafting tables, making crafting as streamlined as possible. In the last two games, crafting tables were only in certain areas, so you had to trek back and forth in between missions. The developers came to the conclusion that these fixed tables took players out of the experience, so now you can craft wherever and whenever you like. I eventually crafted a flame add-on which shows a torch-lighter taped to the side of my axe. It was quite cool. It’s especially helpful in fighting those annoyingly strong thugs from the previous games, except they aren’t as slow this time around. There are also enemies who mutate based on the areas. For instance, there can a be zombie by a gas station that absorbs the gasoline and becomes a hulking bubbly zombie that blows up when you kill it. There will be zombies that mutate by electrical power stations and become walking electrical surges and so on. I don’t know how many iterations of these special zombies there will be, but it’ll be fun to find out in-game.
A new addition to the Dead Island 2 is the reactive environment. You can now start grass fires in the Dead Island series! I’m not sure if the fire spreads to nearby structures and the like, but it’s quite cool that you don’t need to create a molotov to enflame a horde of zombies. Another addition that Yager wanted to bring to the series was live in-game events. Similar to MMOs, Dead Island 2 will have live events that pop up on your map where you and any nearby players will hopefully gravitate towards. For instance, maybe a military helicopter crashes down into the vicinity, and you want to know if there are supplies there that you can salvage. Instinctively, you will head over to the crash site and anyone else that feels the same way. Events like this will happen in the game. The developers at Yager wants the online experience to be social and interactive, so by creating these randomized occurences they hope that players will begin to work together instinctively. Since the game is still in pre-alpha, many of the features are not in place yet so I spent most of my time exploring the small suburban area. From what I have been told though, it looks to have some interesting multiplayer options to bring to table. I don’t have any news about the story of the game, but we will be sure to bring them to you when announced. Look for Dead Island 2 to come out in Spring 2015 for Xbox One, PS4, and PC.