There's a new developer at the helm of the Dead Island franchise, so you'd expect a few changes with Dead Island 2. By taking place in a cordoned-off area of California, the "island" concept is certainly different this time around. It also has a vastly different tone after shedding the depressing theme of the original game and bolts on a sort of quirky fun. It's a bit odd since Yager previously developed Spec Ops: The Line, which was a gritty, depressing third-person shooter. From the E3 2014 presentation, Dead Island 2 seems to be more grounded and brings sunny Californian culture to the world of slaying hordes of the undead.
Dead Island 2 takes place months after the original outbreak, with areas all over the world having succumbed to the zombie apocalypse. You play as one of four special survivors: Berserker, Bishop, Hunter or Speeder. A normal survivor NPC named Max leads the team while driving around in his RV with his cat, Rick Furry. The cat apparently marks the first time a cat has been motion-captured for a game, which was described as a real "pain in the ass" to accomplish.
The combat seems like a tweaked version of what put the original game on the map, with some key differences. Dual-wielding is now an option; one example showed you holding a firearm in one hand and a machete in the other. Motorized weapons are now available, which make a lot of noise and need fuel to run but also have a lot of power. Zombies are attracted to noise sources, but this can be used to your advantage. Set off a car alarm to get a horde of them in one spot, and then blow them all up with a well-placed shot into a nearby explosive container.
The use of the Unreal 4 engine has made for some strong new visuals. The most impressive parts of the demo showed off the high-contrast lighting in some of the dark basements and other areas. The game will continue to feature seamless drop-in multiplayer like the original game, though this wasn't shown in the demo. The crafting engine is also said to be expanded significantly, but it also wasn't shown to any real extent.
The undead aren't the only threat that you'll face, but human enemies are only part of the larger apocalyptic ecosystem. At one point in the presentation, the player came under attack by a bunch of raiders while "Born to be Wild" blasted over a mansion's sound system. The player character opened a security gate to allow the undead to pour in, making the fight a three-way battle for survival. Raiders traded gunfire with the player while the undead rushed their positions, and elsewhere in the compound, a fire broke out. Fire in the game spreads from surface to surface, and in this example, it set a big patch of grass on fire, and some undead that were wandering through it were also set ablaze.
The melee combat seems more visceral this time around. Kick a zombie in the knee, and it'll spin to the ground while another well-placed kick sends it flying through a railing and off a balcony. Strategic dismemberment is a feature, allowing you to cut off a zombie's limb to reduce its threat to you before you finish it off. You can also sneak up behind to stealth-kill them, which takes them down in a brutal manner that doesn't alert nearby enemies of your presence.
The presentation of Dead Island 2 was impressive considering how well the new developers have retained the feel of the series while also including new features to expand upon the gameplay. Dead Island 2 will be coming to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and the PC next spring, and it looks like the title is in good hands.
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