Dead Island 2 (PS5) Review: Mindless Fun

Our review of Dead Island 2, developed by Dambuster Studios. Available now for PS5 (reviewed), PS4, Xbox X/S, Xbox One, and Windows.

Dead Island 2


Hollywood zombies meet Hollywood zombies.


Dead serious, this game is great.


Pedro Pascal to blow off some steam.

Dead Island 2


I’m racing across Venice Beach, weaving and juking past a veritable army of California zombies. A few minutes from now, I’ll be sneaking through the luxurious mansions of Beverly Hills, now overrun by the rotting and yet somehow still-botoxed undead corpses of various celebrities and “influencers”. A few minutes later, I’ll arrive at my destination, Hollywood Boulevard. Pausing to take in the scenery – a lovingly recreated Los Angeles with just a few more brain-dead tourists than usual – I let out a maniacal laugh and prepare for the next onslaught of comically combustible monsters.

Dead Island 2 is ridiculous, an over-the-top zombie extravaganza that plays like one of Ellie’s fever dreams after too many hours at the Last of Us arcade. Dead Island 2 has zombies, it has bad jokes, it has more zombies. Even the title makes no sense: last time I checked, Los Angeles wasn’t an island. Regardless, DI2 is a surprisingly enjoyable sequel to a twelve-year-old video game best remembered for its startling (and decidedly NSFW) trailer.

Dead Island 2


In 2002, Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later changed everything. Gone were the shuffling, slow-moving living dead popularized by George A. Romero. In their stead, mean, vicious, speedy biting machines that attacked with the frantic energy of a wild animal – or, in the case of the 28 series – of a virus-infected chimpanzee broken free from an experimental laboratory. 28 Days Later reimagined zombies as ruthless pack animals, something later emulated by The Walking Dead (though in that series, the zombies seemed to lose steam as the seasons dragged on). The zombies of Dead Island, and now Dead Island 2, are a mix of all zombies prior (give or take one or two fungal monstrosities), some fast, some slow, some absurdly superpowered. And all DI2 zombies have this in common: they explode spectacularly.

No really, the one thing you need to know going into DI2 is that it’s specifically attuned to those who think a Zack Snyder-directed zombie bank heist is the height of horror-comedy. Yes, Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead is incredibly stupid. And yes, Dead Island 2 is incredibly stupid. But each have their charms, and each benefit from a well-defined sense of space that brings the proceedings to, er, life.

DI2 is a first-person action-RPG in which players control one of six characters let loose in zombie-infested Los Angeles, only their (dubious) wits and a plethora of environmental hazards at their disposal. Tricking a swarm of zombies into one of several deviously-laid traps is always satisfying. Doing it in a quasi-accurate recreation of Venice Beach, replete with muscle-bound zombies, is all the better. Indeed, DI2 really comes to life in its free-flowing – though not quite free-roaming – approach to tackling your various objectives. While it’s disappointing that you can’t actually hop in a car and drive from one end of LA to another, there’s still enough of LA and environs that it can almost count for virtual sightseeing.

Dead Island 2


It also happens to be sightseeing with friends, thanks to DI2‘s three-player online co-op. Picking up on the excellent multiplayer of the original, DI2 allows players to join up with two others, including strangers, so long as they are at roughly the same point in the story. (In other words, you can only take on missions that you’ve all unlocked.)

Combat in DI2 leans heavily on melee options and environmental hazards, usually to its benefit. However, in some cases, overwhelmed by hordes of zombies, you’ll be grateful to have one or two buddies at your side, making full use of the weapons and abilities at your collective disposal. That said, there’s a generous XP/upgrade system that allows you to tailor your play style as you see fit, even if upgrades are governed by a card-based deck collection system which seems slightly out of place in this kind of FPS/RPG.

Really, there’s very little to complain about with Dead Island 2. If you want an over-the-top zombie showdown, featuring an affectionately satirized version of Los Angeles – not quite the “Los Santos” of Grand Theft Auto, but neither the straitlaced version of L.A. Noire – this is something worth sinking your teeth into. Sure, some of the bosses might be annoying, and those with queasy stomachs will want to give this game a hard pass.

But if the idea of standing in the middle of Sunset Boulevard, chainsaws akimbo, ready for the next wave of zombies, has you intrigued, definitely check this one out. To paraphrase the immortal words of Norma Desmond, DI2 is ready for its close-up.

Final score: 8/10 cordyceps.

Visit the official website for Dead Island 2 here.