Dead Island 2 Thumbs its Rotting Nose at “Mature” Zombie Games, and That’s the Way I Like It

Dead Island, the original game, is one that I often find myself revisiting. It’s a joy to introduce fellow gamers to its chaotic world and witness their reactions to the sheer mayhem it offers.

Many years ago, at an EB Games Expo, I had the chance to play an early build of Dead Island 2. I may or may not have been cautioned, “Don’t go overboard with the fire, it might crash the game.” But I couldn’t resist. I ended up causing such a massive fire in a nightclub that it crashed the entire network of PCs connected to mine. That experience only fueled my desire for more Dead Island.

And now, after a long wait of nine years and three developers, Dead Island 2 is finally here. Let me tell you, it was worth every second of anticipation.

However, I must be fair and acknowledge that whether you love or simply enjoy the game depends on what you look for in a zombie game. Techland, the developer behind the Dead Island and Dying Light franchises, offers two distinct experiences. Dying Light explores mature themes with deep narratives and consequential decision-making, while Dead Island 2 represents an evolution of the franchise with improved graphics, sound design, and gameplay, all while retaining its identity.

Creating a Dying Light game might have been an easier task from a world-building and plot perspective. It embraces a more mature approach to the modern zombie game scene, exploring government conspiracies and the darkness within humanity with a sense of gravity. In contrast, Dead Island 2 adheres to a different philosophy. It revels in the stupidity and expendability of its characters, finding guilty pleasure in the downfall of vapid influencers or celebrities who succumb to their own hubris. The game has refined every aspect, leaping forward visually and leaving behind the character models of the original Dead Island games.

One noticeable aspect of Dead Island 2 is its obsession with what’s considered “cool.” It introduces celebrities, actresses, and influencers in the vibrant setting of Los Angeles. However, the true coolness lies within the game’s protagonists. They may not embody the latest trends, instead sporting 80s-style modded leather jackets, vests, and pin-up hairstyles. But what makes them genuinely cool is their rebellious nature, challenging societal norms in various aspects of their lives. Dead Island 2 encapsulates its core ideas: during a zombie apocalypse, social status becomes irrelevant, actions matter more than words, and above all, it’s about having fun.

While games like The Last of Us, Days Gone, and even Dying Light are hailed for their maturity and emotional depth, they might not necessarily be everyone’s cup of tea. If you crave a deep emotional connection to well-crafted characters navigating a morally complex apocalypse, those games are a perfect fit. However, if you yearn for the exhilaration of driving an electric crowbar through the flesh of former idiots who’ve found a new lease on undeath, then Dead Island 2 is the game you’re looking for. Personally, I believe there’s room in our hearts for both types of experiences.

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