In 2019, during an on the road trip to California, I was lucky enough to stop for three nights in Los Angeles. The City of Angels is very unique if not shocking. Everything here is gigantic: the salads are huge as are the roads that run the length and breadth of it. Walking through the streets around Hollywood Boulevard can be misleading, and why is quickly said: the question I have asked myself over and over again is. “is it possible that in all this wealth, in all this affluence, there are so many homeless people?” Boys, girls and middle-aged men walking around with their shopping carts crammed with clothes, items and food, everything they need to live, looking sad, lost in the void, resigned to a fate that never seems to be on their side. Beyond these obvious social problems, the California metropolis has always held a certain fascination for me.
I revisited so much of my brief time in Los Angeles in Dead Island 2, the new first-person action title, also playable in co-op, by Deep Silver Dumbuster Studios. If the feeling of moving through places I had already seen was glaring, it also has to be said that L.A. is no longer the L.A. I knew: instead of most of the citizens (some thankfully remaining in all their folklore) I find an almost infinite amount of zombies, ready to do anything to eat me alive.
A walk through Venice Beach
The reproduction of Los Angeles in Dead Island 2 is impressive: I think I took at least a dozen screenshots on Playstation 5 promptly shared via whatsapp to my traveling companion who responds with the most classic of emoticons with tears and then asks, “what game is it?” Beverly Hills, Mount Leetil you get to the wonderful Venice Beach, one of the must-visit locations at any cost for anyone strolling the West Coast of the United States.
When I first set foot in the Venice Beach of Dead Island 2, a wave of nostalgia swept over me: it really felt like being back there where the asphalt plays to the rhythm of basketballs while the air is cut through by skateboards whizzing by at full speed. Too bad, however, that what I am describing to you are mere memories. The reality of the facts is quite different. In fact, before my eyes appeared kilometers of sandy expanses teeming with the undead. There is little I can do about it, I have to take back HELL-A and to do that I have to beat my way through violence!
The amount of melee weapons available in Dead Island 2 is truly remarkable, and so is the loot to collect needed to upgrade our arsenal: axes, axes, baseball or golf clubs, knuckle-draggers, you name it. The protagonist I chose, from those available, possesses a variety of active and passive abilities. Guns are useful for catching one’s breath and handling combat from a distance as well as to avoid quickly wearing out equipment – which can be repaired – for close encounters. Finally, the environment, with its explosive barrels and puddles to be electrified, can be exploited to diversify the approach to the action. In short, if you like to beat the crap out of people, Dead Island 2 is that typical Los Angeles pool party where the birthday boy is free to decide how to slaughter his own guests.
The hordes of Dead Island 2
The combat system of Dead Island 2 then is even more effective because of the first-person view. With my wrench I dodge-or execute a parry-at just the right moment, a moment before taking damage, to stun the enemy who thus finds himself at my mercy. Then I decide to hit him in the jaw with a nice charged attack smashing it to smithereens (what a delight when you see the scene in slow motion) and then finish him off with a well-struck blow on the bare brain. Deliriums of omnipotence mixed with bursts of adrenaline run through my entire body (partly similar to those described in the review of Resident Evil 4 Remake). HELL-A invaders break against my character’s impregnable defenses. I am a violent blood-hungry killing machine.
However, as much as one may decide to follow only the main mission (not recommended choice), when I arrived at the final part of the main campaign I have accused a bit of fatigue due to some underlying repetitiveness in gameplayand noted a remarkable rise in the difficulty curve with the hordes of undead that have become really difficult to deal with: the damage inflicted very high and the number of zombies exaggerated. The advice, therefore, is to complete a good number of side quests (some are also quite interesting), achieve an acceptable level of the protagonist and, in this way, avoid turning fun into frustration.
Dead Island 2 was announced in 2014 and did not reach the market until April 2023s after going through a long and troubled development path. Nonetheless, Deep Silver Dumbuster Studio has done an excellent job in coming up with an action that, thanks to its environments and violent combat system, can give you hours and hours of wholesome grinding.