Dead Island 2 Review

Dead Island 2 Cover Art

Over the last decade, a lot of things have changed in the video game industry. Technology we thought was impossible or improbable is now either in development or coming out. Almost a decade ago, when Dead Island 2 was first announced, many gamers and even developers were feeling burnt out on the Zombie trope. Just between 2010 and 2014, thirty-one games with zombies in them had come out, including: Call of Duty: Zombies, The Last of UsResident Evil 6, Dead Island, Lollipop Chainsaw, and State of Decay.

As you can easily see, the videogame market was oversaturated with the zombie genre. Ironically looking back, it did not help us with the covid-19 pandemic. With a catchy song, a sunny setting, a comedic trailer, and the voice of Jack Black, fans have eagerly awaited the release of Dead Island 2. Over the last decade, Dead Island 2 has been in development hell. Since 2014, the game has changed developers three different times. After playing it, we can easily say that the game has changed drastically.

Dead Island fans will notice these changes for better or worse when they play the game; this includes the absence of Jack Black. Now just days away from the game’s release, we’ll tell you how Dead Island 2 shaped up to be fun and worth the wait – read our review to find out!

Dead Island 2
Developer: Dambuster Studios
Publisher: Deep Silver
Platforms:  PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S
Release Date: April 21st, 2023
Players: 1 – 3
Price: Current Gen – $69.99 USD

Going into Dead Island 2, we knew that more than likely that a good bit of changes had occurred. At PAX East 2023, we had the opportunity to preview Dead Island 2 and see if the game was worth our excitement.

Based on the demo we saw in our preview, we were eager to get our hands on the full game, play cooperatively, and kill the evil clown that evaded us at PAX East. Now let’s dive into our Dead Island 2 review.

Dead Island 2 Gameplay and Story


Dead Island 2 is the story of one of six survivors trying to escape California and avoid the apocalypse; sadly, things do not go as planned and zombies end up on the plane. Who would have guessed?

After surviving the crash landing, the player is taught the basics of combat until they are bitten. Despite being bitten, our character does not reveal this to some of the other survivors. Now that we’ve got the standard zombie trope out of the way, let’s dive into the positives and negatives of the story.

Dead Island 2 follows the stereotypical zombie trope narrative. The main character is bitten, turns out to be immune, and tries to get a group of survivors to escape with them. The group stays behind and the protagonist goes to get reinforcements and find a cure. The group is then splintered and something dramatic happens while a plot twist occurs. If you are looking for a formulaic zombie story you have it here.

What the story doesn’t have is an impactful or unique moment. At no point did we go ‘Wow, that was amazing. I want to tell others about this’, the closest we probably got was when fighting through the Santa Monica Pier, which we saw at PAX East.

Even the story’s main ending is campy, unoriginal, and rather bland. Without spoiling anything, you should be able to guess what is going to happen way before you even leave Beverly Hills. What makes matters worse is they took one of the best characters from the original Dead Island and made him insufferable.



Gameplay is probably where Dead Island 2 excels. Before we jump into the positives of it, we will briefly cover some of the negatives, some of which have been fixed prior to release. While we were playing through it, resources were an absolute nightmare.

Yes, there is a certain level at which finding stuff should be difficult, but when it feels next to impossible, there is a problem. Upon booting up the game after the day-one patch, it’s worth noting resources seem to be more abundant.

Second, each character the player can choose feels interchangeable. Yes, the voice lines are different and the characters have their own personalities but we honestly can’t say that any are remarkable enough to stand on their own like the original.

Players can find a character they like and occasionally will get an interesting line from their character while playing. After a while though, we just wanted our character to be quiet. Thankfully, there is an option to turn down dialogue and sound effects.

The third and probably worst aspect was the constant pathing within the game-there is always another door to get into the room. On most occasions, you will have to go around to find another way into a locked room. What is infuriating is that these locked rooms would be accessible to anyone who has a brain. On numerous occasions, the locked door had glass around it that was breakable.

This problem also holds true when it comes to safes; the game is riddled with safes whether in a small house or hotel room. It is up to you to find the obscure key somewhere in the area and unlock the safe. Honestly, this felt like a big waste of time and we decided to just skip it.

The fourth and final problem would be some of the fight mechanics and grinding. On numerous occasions, we were one shot by a zombie. At first, we thought it was because we were under-leveled but it turns out it was the game forcing the block/counter mechanic on us.

The mechanic isn’t always responsive and it is easier to just jump away or swing wildly at vital points. Additionally, we found that slaying zombies to level was not worth it and it was better just to do a quest for experience. You are more likely to break your weapon than you are to level.

Neutral Critiques

As we move from the negative critiques to the positive ones, we will share with you some gameplay details that are neither positive nor negative. Players who have grown accustomed to playing games with fast travel in it will probably be frustrated at first.

The game does not feature fast travel until later in the game. In fact, the fast travel system did not become available until over halfway through the game. If you want to go back to a different area, you will have to walk or run there.

Dead Island 2 trades out a skill tree system for a card-based skill system. Each character has a set number of skills that can be equipped, players can choose between 60 or more cards. The card system is divided by ability skills, survivor skills, slayer skills, and numen skills; each character has 15 cards that they can equip. Cards can be found by completing quests, leveling, or randomly throughout Hell-A.

Some cards have an autophage modifier which gives more powerful rewards for that card. However, having multiple autophage cards equipped will alter the autophage virus within the body.

These modifications can buff Fury mode benefits but have a negative impact on the body’s toughness, stamina, and health regeneration. So pick and choose wisely.

One additional thing to be aware of is the game’s co-op or online settings. The game can be played in single-player on or offline, but in order to invite players or have others join, you will have to go back out to the main menu to change the lobby type.

The Alexa game control is a neat gimmick but isn’t massively important. Players can lure zombies to them which is helpful when leading into a trap. During our playthrough, we only used it a few times before turning it off.


When players consult their quest journal, quests are divided up based on the story, side quests, and lost and found quests. Players can see what rewards they will unlock by completing each one. Quests will also indicate which area they can be found. Additionally, players can track how many quests are left in each area by using the map.

The map also indicates where safes are located. Payers can also see where workbenches, storage cabinets, and points of interest are. Mission markers can show where players need to go, but if a door is locked, it doesn’t help you find the alternate path.

The map can also be used to see where special zombies will spawn in abundance. The map will show how many points of interest there are and how many quests are in the area. When a player travels to a different area, they are able to choose whether they want it to be day or night.

Dead Island 2 features a hit detection system called the F.L.E.S.H system. Hits on zombies in certain areas will have an effect. So each slash or hit the player does on a zombie will be visually seen. Want to knock their head off or dislodge their jaw, you can see it. Limbs can be picked apart and pinpointed to create a realistic feel.

Dead Island 2 features a realistic environment, outside of the zombies. The representation of California is accurate with the environment and the character’s personalities being on point. If you know someone from California or live in California, you will see aspects of them within this game.

The environment is beautifully designed and the special effects feel realistic. If you have never been to California, you can get a very good idea of what it is like based on how things look and how the characters act.

The game’s controls are fairly simple to use, utilizing popular shooter controls mixed with most RPGs. There are some controls that take a bit to get used to, but they are fairly easy to get accustomed to. The music in the game helps set the mood, with the infected’s sounds helping to keep the suspense high.

When a zombie jumps out of nowhere or is right behind a door you opened, you might jump thanks to the atmospheric ambiance. The songs within the game work, but don’t live up to Pidgeon John’s – The Bomb.  The game’s graphics are beautiful and the F.L.E.S.H system helps create a realistic zombie slaying experience.


Although Dead Island 2 has taken away a lot of what fans loved about Dead Island and Dead Island: Riptide away, it is still a rather solid game. The game’s F.L.E.S.H system gives a realistic feel to slaying zombies in fun and unique ways. The card system does take a bit to get used to when you compare it to a skill tree system, but having the ability to swap cards easily is rather helpful. The world the team has made is beautiful even in all of its post-apocalyptic glory.

Our biggest complaint would have to be with Dead Island 2‘s story and characters. The story itself is very basic and follows the stereotypical zombie genre. If you are looking for a unique story, then we’d recommend looking elsewhere. Each slayer character is interchangeable and after a while, their dialogue and the NPC’s casual dialogue gets rather annoying.

Dead Island 2 has solid gameplay and a beautiful environment despite cutting out the game’s soul. If the game was named something else, it would be perfectly fine but as a sequel, it fails to build off its predecessor. Players will have fun playing through the game either solo or cooperatively, but once the quests are done, it will be on the shelf until an expansion or DLC is released. If you want a zombie slaying game you have it. If you want an expanded lore to the Dead Island franchise, then you are out of luck. See you in Hell-A Zombie Slayers!

Dead Island 2 was reviewed on an Xbox Series X using a copy provided by Deep Silver. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Dead Island will be available on April 21st, 2023 on Windows PC (via the Epic Games Store), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.

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The Verdict: 8

The Good

  • The F.L.E.S.H. system creates a realistic zombie slaying experience
  • The map indicates what players can find in each area
  • Realistic special effects and great sound effects
  • Varity in Skill Cards each character can use
  • Game has great graphics and brings LA to life in video game form

The Bad

  • Fast Travel does not unlock until half way through the game.
  • The story is generic and follows the standard zombie trope
  • Blocking is mandatory in some encounters
  • Each Character is interchangeable, with the NPCs using vague pronouns to describe the character (They/Them)
  • Ruins previous Dead Island lore and characters.


Hardcore gaming enthusiast, cosplayer, streamer, Tall Anime lover (6ft 9), and a die-hard competitor. I have been a Pop-Culture Journalist since 2011 specializing in shooters, Pokemon, and RPGs.

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