I think the biggest surprise to come out of the Dead Island 2 reveal was that it would be developed by Yager (Spec Ops: The Line) after Techland opted to focus on Dying Light. Like its predecessor, the Dead Island 2 trailer caused a stir by depicting an exquisitely rendered Alpha Bro jogging down the street, unaware of the chaos unfolding behind him. This wouldn't be the first time Dead Island hyped itself with a well produced announcement video. Who could forget the stir surrounding the plight of a vacationing family, a piece so moving that film rights were optioned well before the game was released? Instead of playing as the father or mother in the full game, Dead Island pulled a 180 by introducing four playable immune survivors, each with their own colorful personalities. With Dead Island 2, we once again find ourselves in a familiar situation. The Dead Island 2 announcement was fantastic but is it representative of the actual game? Does the trailer's comedic tone suggest a game more like Dead Rising? Not necessarily. Yager didn't plan on making the game dark and depressing or even ridiculously goofy. Instead, they want to empower the player with something "cool" and "kickass" by delivering a game filled with tons of zombies ready to be mutilated by lots of over the top weapons.
The action is set within the golden state of California months after the outbreak in Banoi. The zombie virus has become a full blown global catastrophe and California has been hit the hardest resulting in a statewide quarantine. This is where our new heroes come in. There was very little mention of why these characters have come to California but we were teased with the suggestion that they've arrived for "a second chance." The characters are designed after their class, Berserker, Hunter, Speeder and the Bishop, and fully embrace the idea of an undead reaping. The protagonists are backed by Max, a metalhead-looking fellow who is not immune to the contagion but has dreams of leading a zombie task force with his cat companion at his side (one slide in our presentation indicated that an actual cat was motion captured for the game).
Because the game is set in one of the most famous states in the country, Yager wants to put players in a virtual world that is recognizable from the real thing. Iconic locations like Hollywood, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills can be fully explored along with forests and suburban neighborhoods. These areas have been completely overrun by zombies, making them no safer than they were pre-infection. Well, depending on your views and experience with Los Angeles, that is. Speaking of zombies, Yager is hoping to outdo the previous games by including more regular and special zombies than ever before. The game's tech allows for an increased number of zombies to occupy the map as well as variations in their appearance. The idea is that each zombie will have a unique appearance, different from any other creature.
Battling the legion of undead is going to require a heavy arsenal of weapons and Dead Island 2 will be rich with destructive implements. It was suggested that there would be "thousands" of weapons available, many of which can be crafted into dangerous monstrosities. Motorized weapons, for example, are a new thing. Lawn mowers and weed whackers can be modified to slice, chop and cut zombie flesh. Cool as they are, these tools come with two caveats: they need fuel to work and the noise they make will attract any and all zombies in the area. The ability to craft weapons has been streamlined and designed to keep the action moving, meaning you won't need to hunt down crafting tables to make new gear. Weapons can be modified and upgraded on the fly. Apart from character upgrades and skills, each player has the ability to dual wield weapons. While you could walk around with two guns or two baseball bats, you are encouraged to really mix things up, like a machete in one hand and a shotgun in the other.
Dead Island 2 will support up to eight players in a seamless multiplayer mode that sounds pretty close to what Bungie is doing for Destiny. Rather than search for games in a lobby setting, players will co-exist in the map where you are free to team up, compete or just leave each other be. Yager's vision for multiplayer suggests that they have thankfully done away with Dead Island's backwards requirement of two players being in the same point of the story in order to play together.
For a first showing, Dead Island 2 sounds like it will be a great follow up to Techland's 2011 horror and adventure. The only thing that bums me out is its Spring 2015 release date.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.