A New Direction for Dead Island
Set after the events of the original Dead Island and Riptide, the infection that started on the island of Banoi is now spreading all over the world. One such place that has fallen victim to this plague is California, and thus the United States Government has turned the state into a large quarantine zone.
They’ve also turned it into a ‘zombie filled playground’ for our new heroes to dive headfirst into. After the teaser trailer that premiered at Sony’s E3 presentation, we got to see that the new California is a much brighter and fun place than it’s darker predecessors. With Dead Island 2 the developers are opting for a tone described by them as “cool and kickass”; less dark and heavy than those before it but also not reaching the level of ridiculousness of Dead Rising 3.
This tone is mirrored by the goals of the main characters, each one being immune to the virus and heading into the quarantine zone to destroy zombies. This game isn’t so much about escape, this time it’s more about fighting back.
Players will be able to choose from four unique character classes, each with their own skills, abilities and fury attacks. If you purchase the game on Playstation 4 you’ll be able to select an exclusive additional class which has yet been unannounced. The four classes announced are the Hunter, the Berserker, the Speeder and the Bishop. The specifics of each class have not yet been announced, but from the images shown today we’ll have a speedy blade focussed class, a heavy weapon specialist, a ranged weapon class and a fourth class based around thrown weapons.
Deep Silver also announced a central character, ‘Max’, who drives the van featured in the trailer. He will be joined by his loyal pet cat, Rick Furry, in the adventure through California. This is the first time a real life cat has been motion captured in gaming, allowing Rick’s animations to be very realistic. The story behind this quirky duo is one of second chances. Upon seeing these ‘immune’ in California Max hops in his newly outfitted van to start a fresh life in California, hoping to help the immune and potentially find a cure for the spreading illness.
Besides zombies, our characters won’t be the only humans in the quarantine zone. The game will also focus on the human factions gaining power in the zone such as the raiders, escaped prisoners and even deserting military forces. These forces will challenge the player in new ways, often outfitted with powerful weapons and vehicles.
On top of introducing all these new classes, factions and characters, we’ll also be getting new ‘motorised’ weapons like hedge trimmers and hand saws. While this new type of weapon will be very powerful, they will all be powered by fuel, a resource you’ll have to collect, and will make a lot of noise, attracting nearby zombies. These are probably best saved for when you have no choice to fight loud and fast against the horde, unless of course you enjoy being swarmed by the undead! The developers also noted you will be able to dual wield in Dead Island 2, rushing in to fight off zombies with a sawn off shotgun and machete at the same time.
We’ll also see a whole host of new zombie bosses and types, and the developer, Yager, claims to have a new system implemented into the final build that will ensure no two zombies look exactly alike, adding to the immersion of the game. It will be very interesting to see just how different the variety in zombie design will be.
After being presented with all this new information we were treated to a live gameplay demo from a 2013 prototype build of the game. We were also shown in engine renderings of scenery and zombies taken from the most recent build. The graphics are looking quite good at this stage, but I expect we’ll see much more of the actual graphics in the lead up to Dead Island 2’s 2015 release.
The demo opened with us driving in Max’s van into suburban California, and then leads through houses and backyards in the area. This allowed the developers to really show off what is at the core of Dead Island games, the melee combat.
Dead Island 2 adopts the same combat style of it’s predecessors; that is to say it’s full of slicing and dicing zombies up close, lopping limbs and heads clean in gruesome slow motion. Not a lot has changed on the melee side apart from adding more moves and animations, as well as some cool abilities that will have you smashing zombies into the sky with you sledgehammer. It all looked very fun.
Ranged weapons seem to perform better in this game, especially with Yager at the helm. Their previous title, Spec Ops: The Line, was a third person shooter and you can see aspects of that in Dead Island 2’s presentation. New crossbows and guns can be used to devastating effect against zombies and humans alike. You’ll also be able to mod and upgrade your weapons on the go this time round instead of having to find a weapon bench, which is a nice new change.
Yager have worked well so far to implement noise into combat scenarios, as well as using the zombies to attack and distract enemies. By simply shooting cars with a crossbow to get the alarm going or causing an explosion you can draw a whole load of zombies, perfect to take out enemies deep in cover or to set up a dangerous trap.
Fire is another aspect of the title that has an interesting new implementation. In much the same way as we saw in Far Cry 3, grass and foliage can be lit on fire, causing damage to the environment and enemies. It’s a cool little feature that means you have to be more thoughtful in where you lob that molotov, making sure not to find yourself in a dangerous spot!
In terms of multiplayer, the game will offer the full open world and story experience to up to eight players at once. You’ll be able to ‘compete, cooperate or coexist’ in a social open world, but you’ll still be able to play completely solo or offline too.
It will be very interesting to see how this game turns out when we see more footage, and all the way up to release. For now, I’m optimistic. The game has a good studio at the helm and a solid foundation, I only hope that we see a better narrative in this title than in previous entries, and that it will do enough to really make it stand out as a new and improved Dead Island title. The game will be playable at Gamescom and PAX later this year and I’m very interested to see how it differs from and improves upon what was shown to us at E3 2014.
Dead Island 2 is coming to PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4 later in 2015. You can check out the official box art below!