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Dead Island 2: Is This Game Worth Playing?

Posted: Jan 19, 2024

Approximately ten hours into my playthrough of Dead Island 2, I began questioning the significance of continuing. I anticipated the game to introduce new gameplay mechanics or narrative surprises to keep me engaged, or at least provide a reason to persist. After an additional ten hours, I was certain that if I wasn't playing for review purposes, I would have stopped long before reaching its conclusion. 

So is Dead Island 2 worth playing? The following is my truest feeling.

Dead Island 2: Is This Game Worth Playing?

My primary issue with Dead Island 2 is its gameplay loop, more of a flat circle than a loop. Acquire weapons, kill zombies, break weapons, obtain more weapons—repeat. While this might seem like a dismissive critique, the problem with Dead Island 2 lies in the lack of anything beyond this loop to make engagement worthwhile. The game lacks an open world, instead featuring a map divided into 10 locations that you can eventually fast travel between. Once the main story and side quests are completed, the only remaining activity is traveling to these areas and battling infinitely respawning zombies until boredom sets in.

Is killing zombies enjoyable, at least? Yes, initially. At the beginning of the game, you have a few key skills and basic melee weapons. As you accumulate more Dead Island 2 Cash, you can purchase more weapons. This part of Dead Island 2 was the most enjoyable, experimenting with the "FLESH" system. Nearly every body part of a zombie can be hacked off in a visceral and dynamic fashion, allowing precise dismemberment. However, as the story progresses, this novelty wears off. While sending a zombie's jawbone flying remains entertaining, subsequent combat additions do little to spice up the action. Unlocked cards buff certain skills, and "Curveball" throwables can be obtained, but these upgrades lack substantial variety.

It's worth mentioning that Dead Island 2 lacks difficulty settings. While not every game needs adjustable difficulty, Dead Island 2 feels inconsistent and could have benefited from it—not necessarily because it's too hard, but due to its uneven difficulty curve. The first third of the campaign is challenging, but unlocking guns later makes the difficulty trivial.

Although you won't have enough ammo to clear entire areas without resupplying, guns allow you to dispatch basic zombies with a single shot and deal critical damage to bosses from a safe distance. This, combined with skill buffs and throwables, can make you nearly invincible. The game attempts to balance this by spawning more boss enemies, but it only pads the game with spongey health bars.

However, Dead Island 2's weakest element is its lackluster story. The short campaign revolves around flimsy narrative excuses to visit different sections of LA, introducing disposable characters that become irrelevant after transitioning to a new area. Most characters aim for cheeky humor, featuring washed-up actors and LA socialites. Unfortunately, the writing is not clever or witty enough to elevate these characters beyond basic concepts or to pass as satire.

Some side quests managed to provide a few laughs, but they were rare. Side quests generally offered more flavor than the main story, leaning into absurd characters for humor and avoiding mishandled seriousness present in the main narrative.

Regarding the content of story missions, the uninspired design choices are notable. Tasks involving finding batteries or fixing pressure sensors are embarrassingly repetitive, and the game's attempts to lampshade these puzzles only serve to annoy.

I played Dead Island 2 on two separate builds, and both generally ran smoothly. FPS drops occurred during certain set pieces, and some bugs were encountered, but nothing game-breaking. Despite technical performance, it's challenging to recommend Dead Island 2, as the combat fails to compensate for the game's numerous shortcomings, especially when the gameplay hardly evolves throughout its twenty-hour campaign.

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