If you enjoy opening undead uglies from brain stem to belly button, from behind an arsenal of over-the-top death-dealers, you’ll want to spend your next vacation in Dead Island 2’s gorgeously sun-soaked, blood-bathed open world. Our recent short-but-sweet demo offered a teasing taste of the wickedly creative carnage.
Unfolding at the foot of the Hollywood Hills on a gorgeous afternoon, our slice of gameplay set the perfect stage for a summertime barbeque. With that in mind, we set out to the local convenience store for some goods. Charcoal and hot dogs weren’t on our grocery list, however, as a post-apocalyptic cookout calls for a somewhat different supply run. In this particular case, we headed to a nearby gas station to siphon some fuel from its pumps.
As the title’s tank-like Berserker – one of the sequel’s four character classes – this task imbued his oversized ax with a fiery effect. Taking the new weapon for a test drive, we set out to tackle the mission’s objective of protecting a defensive gate from an army of foot-dragging foes. In addition to turning our targets into sirloin tips, the modded melee weapon crisped them up like marshmallows over a campfire.
Piling corpses like cord wood also fueled our “fury” ability – which, in the Berserker’s case, allowed him to kick infected foes like the longest field goals ever. Some brain-cravers weren’t so easily eliminated, however; the Suicider, for example, is a hulking side of beef that exploded all over us when we got too close. If this kamikaze zombie catches you while you’re near a gas pump, well… let’s just say it’s gonna take more than a box of bandages to put you back together again.
The second part of our hands-on session put us behind the fleet-footed Speeder. Far less powerful than the Berserker, this zombie-hatin’ heroine can run like hell and deliver swift death. We got the opportunity to power-up a pair of her weapons – a machete and machine pistol – with electricity and fire, respectively.
Coursing with blue bolts, the former simultaneously sliced and zapped the flesh-eating freaks, leaving them twitching and smoking in a pool of their own ooze. When paired with the Speeder’s one-hit kill fury ability, her zap-happy blade also cut the meatbags clean in half. Our favorite, though, was the fire-buffed hand-cannon – not for the obvious thrill of filling foes full of burning bullets (though, that is all kinds of fun) – but because its use yielded our demo’s coolest and most strategic attack. Shooting its payload into a grassy area, and then taunting the walking corpses by whistling at them, eventually led to that barbeque we mentioned earlier. The fire slowly spread from the lush greenery and up the bodies of the brain-hungry hordes, resulting in the best bonfire ever.
Following our preview, game director Bernd Diemer stated that similarly screen-clearing results could be obtained by allowing electricity to jump from target to target. He also said we can expect plenty more stylish slaughter from Bishop (the support class) and the Huntress (a crossbow-wielding ranged character that, incidentally, is Diemer’s personal favorite zombie exterminator).
Our time with Dead Island 2 barely scratched the surface of the potential festering beneath its rotting flesh. On top of southern California, the massive open-world contains a huge NorCal region, as well as a third monster-populated mystery area. And while our time beating back the hordes beneath the iconic Hollywood sign was shared by a trio of co-op buddies, the final game will support a total of eight zombie-poppin’ pals. It’s also important to note that our defensive mission was not specific to (or segregated into) a cooperative mode, but instead displayed the same story objectives that a solo apocalypse survivor would encounter.
Dead Island 2 doesn’t start spreading its virus until spring 2015, but our thumb-numbing, grin-inducing time behind the game pad already has us packing our survival gear for our next getaway to the gory, er… Golden State.