The Very Meh of Modern Gaming: A Dead Island 2 Review

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I remember playing Dead Island in 2011. It was an interesting variation on the zombie game genre, and more generally of the horror genre. Like many other horror stories, regardless of whether they’re games, movies, books or any other media, it hit all the right notes. It was set on an island, thus allowing the story to unfold in a space secluded from the rest of the world. However, the island was not deserted, but a popular tourist destination, complete with a massive hotel and resort, thus adding another key element of horror – human sin and corruption to serve as a counterpoint to the monsters. It threw four desperate survivors against a horde of zombies which had to be fought with improvised weapons – given the fact that the fictional island of Banoi is under Australian control and thus firearms and ammunition are scarce. The absolute horror of the zombies was contrasted very strongly with the paradisiacal ambient of the island of Banoi. Well, at least the resort areas. Further inland, the island is shown to be a bit of a shithole. There was even a sick horrorcore rap song, which was a banger, even for those of us who aren’t into rap. 

By the time the sequel rolled up in 2023, I had already become strongly disillusioned with modern gaming and frankly, I expected the game to try and preach modern progressive bullshit to me. And indeed, Dead Island 2 delivered on the bullshit. But it was not just the woke bullshit that turned me off to the game. There’s so much wrong with the game’s setting, characters and overall mood as well that just shows contempt for the consumer, or at least an assumption that we’re dumb, mouth-breathing retards who need dopamine drip-fed into our brains rather than an engaging, interactive world to lose ourselves in. So, let’s just take it from the top. 

The Story

Dead Island 2 does not happen on an island. Instead it takes place in LA… sorry Hell-A. Immediately, the sense of isolation and no hope of outside help arriving from the original Dead Island is gone. In fact, while it appears that first the CDC and then the US army effectively took over LA and held it under occupation, all that’s left of them are blood-spattered remains of military camps and zombified soldiers. Unlike in the first game, where it is a plot point that the Australian navy is keeping the island under quarantine, it beggars belief that there are no ways in or out of LA. I’ll also add that while Los Angeles is much bigger than the (fictional) Banoi Island from the original game, in comparison with both Banoi and Palanai (from the Dead Island: Riptide expansion), the LA of Dead Island 2 simply feels small and claustrophobic. We’re taken through Bel-Air, Beverly Hills, Venice Beach, Sunset Boulevard, Santa Monica and other world-famous locales and they feel small, constrained, impoverished and empty, regardless of the detail.

Like its predecessor, Dead Island 2 places a greater emphasis on melee combat than it does on shooting zombies or blowing them up. However, while the absence of guns may have made sense on a Pacific resort island administered by Australia, it beggars belief on the North American mainland, even in gun-grabby California. Sure, it may be difficult for a law-abiding Angeleno to own a firearm, but are we to believe that the hundreds of thousands of illegal firearms already within the state would just disappear during the zombie apocalypse, to say nothing of the thousands more military-grade weapons the Army would have brought in during its takeover of the city? The dearth of guns is portrayed as so bad that one of the late-game NPC allies is depicted as fighting zombies with a crossbow and knife, after the group rampages through and loots an abandoned military camp. This just beggars belief and fits a lot better on an isolated island. I understand that the developers (or more likely, the marketers) wanted a “world famous” location, but honestly, any celebrated island would have done the job here. At a stretch, I would have bought London or Tokyo as a good enough venue, both being world-famous capitals of island nations with strict gun laws, but anywhere else would just be swarming with firearms, even in Europe. 

The game, at least, delivers on the element of human sin and corruption to contrast with the monstrous zombies. We are, after all, in LA, home of Hollywood, the great dragon of vice from which all modern evil emanates, the hedonistic fun-in-the-sun land of endless summer. However, it all falls rather flat. We’re treated to trite and worn cliches about the movie industry being fake and celebrity gossip being mostly contrived by marketing experts. There are some clever jabs at steroid-abusing bodybuilders who become horribly mutated zombies, but nothing to write home about. The best social commentary comes from an area of Bel-Air known as the GOAT pen which seems to be a house where social media influencers live and livestream themselves in what looks like a reality show format. At least one of the social media people has lived and is trying to livestream herself escaping zombies and get the heroes to help her make zombie-slaying video. I have to say that I’m very satisfied with that portion of the game’s criticism of human venality, which is a staple of horror stories. It also reminded me just how much I despise normie livestream/reality show culture, its shallowness and petty dramas and the crass nature of the so-called stars who get even more disgusting and offensive when they’re allowed access to money. 

The Gameplay

With regard to gameplay, the game is a curious combination of thrilling and tedious. Yes, you read that right. The action itself, in the sense of actually fighting the zombies is top notch, improving on the original Dead Island’s viscerally satisfying combat system. Whereas in the original you could hack off or break zombie limbs and heads, here you can do all of that and more, as the game adds the elements of fire, electricity, water, caustic damage, barbed wire, bleeding with the ability to damage body parts in gory detail. The graphics also work phenomenally and add a degree of satisfaction – the zombies and their gruesome destruction simply feel real. I must report a good deal of cathartic release experienced whenever I’d bash a zombie’s head in with a baseball bat. Even the rare firearms within the game are satisfying to use, especially the hunting rifles. However, once the moment is over, the game itself is tedious. Yes, it feels very real and satisfying to lop off a zombie’s arm with a gigantic sword, but beyond that, the combat gets repetitive and stale very soon. Even attempts to spice it up with different combinations of zombie enemies don’t really work, because all of the so-called apex variant zombies can be defeated with a simple, repetitive and boring solution. The moments are good, but the overall campaign is tedious and sometimes feel more like a job than a game, which I suppose it is from the standpoint of the player characters. 

The Heroes Slayers

And here we come to what I believe is simultaneously the weakest and strongest point of the game, which are the player characters. At a glance, they look like they jumped straight out of some HR hen’s presentation on diversity and inclusion. There’s a disabled Asian woman, an afro-British pot-smoker who says “Wakanda” instead of awesome, a fat white woman who smokes pot, an inexplicably blonde Mexican cholo, a strahng and independant Latinx whaman and oh, a white dude… who’s not even a fireman, but a stripper, so I guess technically he’s also intersectional because he’s a sex worker. They’re all bland, forgettable and uninteresting… except the white guy, Ryan. The character selection screen depicts them all in a plane crash – enjoying themselves, except Ryan, who cowers in fear- the only one having a normal reaction to the airplane literally falling apart around them. A friend speculates that this was done to humiliate the only white man in the picture and I tend to agree, but whether intentionally or not, it created a strange effect. By portraying Ryan as initially fearful, and as a stripper who’s merely pretending to be a fireman, the writing staff inadvertently (or intentionally, who knows) made him the only player character to have an arc.
All of the other people are already “badass” in some way or another, including a stuntman, a Paralympic athlete, a roller derby girl, a gangster and an outlaw biker. But Ryan is not even a fireman. He is a stripper and sure, he’s ripped, but he has no fighting skills, has the lowest stamina and is the only normal person of the player characters, i. e. not enjoying being stuck in a city with millions of flesh-eating corpses. However, over the course of the game, Ryan grows into the man he was always supposed to be. He goes from pretending to be a fireman to actually becoming a hero and a rescuer. He goes from fearful and cowering, thinking only of his own survival, to a genuine badass who rescues the innocent and destroys hordes of zombies without batting an eye. By moving from a state of cowardice and weakness in the beginning, to a state of courage and strength in the end, he has, as I mentioned earlier, a character arc and is the only character to have one. Everyone else, all the rainbow coalition, they’re dropped into the player’s lap as already perfect and as such cannot grow. And since Ryan is the only one allowed to grow, he’s really the only memorable one. In videos featuring the game on YouTube, all the comments are always about Ryan and what a memorable character he is, an everyman thrown into a horrifying situation who nevertheless rises to the challenge and becomes better for it. 

So, what’s my ultimate assessment of the game? It’s a good enough value for your money if you value cathartic violence, but if we’re going to treat video games as an art form, then they’re going to have to conform to some higher standards than just push button receive dopamine. Dead Island 2 comes close to fulfilling some of those standards, fails miserably in others. I’d give it a 3/5 on gameplay, 5/5 on graphics and sound and 2/5 on story, which graduates to 3/5 if you only play as Ryan and pretend the other player characters don’t exist. A good-ish game that simply doesn’t live up to its predecessor’s feel and strong storytelling. 

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Thanks for slogging through this game for us Nix. Isn’t it just so satisfying that their diversity characters are static and flat, and the white male characters they try and humiliate still come out so interesting, and even inspiring? They don’t intend to make it this way. It’s just that the idea of a strong Latinx woman or whatever is so contrived that they can’t take it anywhere, whereas the story of the white pussy should obviously evolve into the white hero. Sorry brownoids & leftists, you ain’t escaping the white man’s imprint on history and culture, even if you try.

Last edited 3 months ago by William

I have recently played dead Island 2 on xbox game pass. I found it to just be insanely tedious. I think the FPS genre is finished. (This game is basically an FPS).

I decided to fire up a REAL shooting game – TimeSplitters 2 – and was thrown once more into an immersive world. Memorable music. Good movie references (Blade Runner is Neo Tokyo, The Untouchables Chicago, and Atomsmasher is a James Bond spoof… ). The amount of game modes is staggering. The solo player has 3 difficulties and Hard mode is HARD. The multiplayer has endless permutations of game modes. Not just Deathmatch and Capture the Flag but Virus and Assault and others.10 AI bots. The Challenge mode is almost listless; throw bricks thru windows, shoot exploding monkeys, avoid
a burning circus troupe of freaks.

There’s even a Map Maker mode where you can create simple solo missions or multiplayer levels.

This was all released, on one disc, for one one-off payment, with no bugs, no DLC, no lootboxes, no paid extras, in late 2002.

Why have we gone backwards from that to the current gruel. They’re all the same. Boycott.

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