Dead Island 2 Preview

The sly dogs at Deep Silver set a trap, and we all bit.

There’s the story from Judges Week where they had to pull a game from judging due to it being picked up for a conference, but the room it was to be shown in was all purple. Hell, one of the women on their public relations team DYED HER HAIR PURPLE to keep the illusion going. The common conclusion? Saints Row V is on its way, people! Well, the conference finally came (it ended up being Sony), the Deep Silver logo finally showed itself…

…and Dead Island 2‘s trailer started to play. The cat was out of the bag. We all fell for it, but in retrospect this trick was a beautiful thing. In a lead-up to E3 filled with leaks and early reveals, Deep Silver did the opposite and found a way to not only keep their game a secret, but totally fool all of us in the process. I should be upset, maybe even angry, but after seeing the game in action and hearing what Deep Silver has planned, I have no ill feelings at all. The game has a new developer, a new setting, and a new outlook, and I am damn ready to slay some zombie scum.

There are two facts about Dead Island 2 that need to be expressed right out of the chute. First, the new developer: Techland walked toward the Dying Light and is now partnered with Warner Bros. IE, so Deep Silver found a new home for its beloved zombie slayer in Yager Entertainment, the minds behind 2012’s excellent Spec Ops: The Line. Second, the technological first: Dead Island 2 will be the first game EVER to have a fully motion-captured cat. That’s right, they mo-capped a CAT. The developer giving the presentation said it was the “biggest pain the ass ever,” but they did it, and while I didn’t get to see the results, that alone has me intrigued.

So what is Dead Island 2 all about? The game is set in California, but not the actual state on the left side of the US. This is a new take on California, a hodgepodge of iconic locales from the entire state. How else would they be able to explain running on Venice Beach with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background? As the story goes, the government quarantined this California not because it was overrun, but because it wasn’t overrun at all. It was to be a safe haven for people to escape to, free from the undead and their carnivorous intentions…but that never really works out, does it?

We’ll play as either the Berserker, the Bishop, the Hunter, or the Speeder, all of whom are immune the plague. We’re led through the story by Max, the guy voiced by insane Jack Black soundalike Mick Wingert, stealing the fit guy’s sneakers in the trailer, who wants to lead a special task force of immune soldiers against the zombie hordes. The only problem is he’s not immune himself, and one small sniff of danger sends him into the hills. Oh, and he owns the mocapped cat, cleverly named Rick Furry. I love this game already.


There are a lot of technical upgrades being made to strengthen the Dead Island experience. For one, no two zombies will ever look the same thanks to the power of the new consoles. There will be thousands of weapons with which to kill the zombie jerks, and most of them will again be melee-focused. There are tons of different ways to dispatch zombies, depending on your weapon of choice, where the zombie is coming at you from, etc. Outside of the melee weapons are the new motorized weapons available for the first time in DI2. These can be modified just as the other weapons can, but motorized weapons will require fuel to keep going, and that will be scarce, so use at your own risk. Speaking of modding, a fully enhanced modification and crafting system will be in place, including the ability to dual-wield weapons for the first time in Dead Island.  Mods will become available by finding blueprints, just like in the other games, but once a blueprint is found you’ll be able to modify on the fly, no longer needing a workbench to make your weapons. Weapons can also be modded multiple times, as one weapon we saw in the demo was a Scoped Crossbow with Electrified Fire Arrows.

One of the most interesting additions to the formula is human factions, some that will act hostile toward you during the playthrough. In the demo we saw a pack of bandits, called the Raiders, attack the house we were looking for supplies in, trapping the player and forcing him into battle. These new factions allows for a more dynamic battle system; the player was able to locate the house’s gate, shoot it open, and allow the dead to roam inside and take on the bandits for him. If we get into a pinch, we’ll also be able to take weapons from unique places, like pulling a pipe right out of the plumbing of a house, so we’ll never be without some kind of defense. There’s also some kind of seamless multiplayer mode that was hinted at, featuring eight players on one map that can be joined or ignored, but the dev wouldn’t go into further details. Human faction vs. human faction with zombies everywhere? That would make for some interesting multiplayer matches.

Even thought it was the game no one saw coming, I’m now really excited for what the next Dead Island experience has in store for us. We have to wait until 2015, but I’m confident the wait will be worth it. MOTION CAPTURED CAT. What game with that could possibly be bad?


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Author: Jason Fanelli View all posts by
Jason lives and breathes gaming. Legend tells that he taught himself to read using Wheel of Fortune Family Edition on the NES. He's been covering this industry for three years, all with the Node, and you can see his ugly mug once a week on Hot Off The Grill.

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