When one thinks about the zombie apocalypse, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a dark and foreboding city steeped in destruction. Coming from a series that fit this characterization, Dead Island 2 takes a step away from this generalization and instead brings zombie slaying out onto the sunshine-tinged sidewalks of California.

Designed by Yager Development, this latest instalment in the Dead Island series made waves when it was first announced at Sony’s E3 2014 media presentation. While the first title didn’t run as well as some might have liked, Dead Island 2 will be a markedly lighter affair.

For this reason, California seems like a fitting locale for the coming zombie apocalypse. Taking place months after the outbreak in the first title, Dead Island 2 will see California shut down and quarantined. As Deep Silver describes it, this quarantined California will be “the outbreak of your dreams,” retaining all the beauty and color that one might associate with the state – despite the higher-than-normal undead presence. The player will then traverse this undead wonderland as one of four classes – berserker, hunter, speeder and bishop (as well as an unannounced PS4 exclusive) – as they work to eliminate this threat.

Rather than showcasing a recent build of the title, Deep Silver was on hand to present a prototype build from 2013. Unsurprisingly, with a prototype comes rough edges but as the studio stated, the purpose of the demo was instead to highlight some of the features that they are most interested in implementing and perfecting as they work toward release. While far from finished, it’s clear that a promising framework is in the works.

Dead Island 2 Prototype E3 2014 Running Zombie

Taking a cue from Far Cry 3 and its use of fire as an unpredictable forceDead Island 2 allows players to set fire to their surroundings – in the demo’s case, the overgrown grass of someone’s lawn – as a means of protection or wanton destruction. Even in its early form, the spreading fire looks quite daunting and could very well make eliminating large groups of undead a snap. This isn’t the only new gameplay element reminiscent of Ubisoft’s recent jungle romp though.

When the player takes on a group of human bandits, the undead will be far more unpredictable (rather than a mild nuisance) – and can even be used to turn the tide of a battle. Given that they are drawn to noise, gunfights will no doubt carry unwanted attention, so smart players will find themselves keeping away from open areas in hopes that nearby zombies will inadvertently contribute to your cause.

Arguably one of the most exciting new features to be implemented into Dead Island 2 though, is the crafting system. Adhering to Yager’s “any weapon, any time” philosophy, players will not be required to hunt down a crafting table in order to put together a new device for dealing sweet death. Rather, they will be able to do so on the fly at any time. This trimming of the fat allows players to stay in the action for longer and not force them to arbitrarily disengage from the content that they want to be experiencing. A system similar to this was present in Dead Rising 3 and helped to greatly streamline the experience (check out our review).

Dead Island 2 Prototype E3 2014 Dead Zombie

Speaking of crafting, the Dead Island 2 prototype showed off the game’s first foray into modifying weapons. Imagine a crossbow seemingly wired up to an electrical current, the arrow giving off sparks as it waits to be fired. A blink of the eye later, it has a blowtorch strapped to its side, lighting the tip of the arrow on fire. This immediacy is what Yager and Deep Silver hope to achieve with the game’s finished product.

If old-fashioned melee combat is more your style, then the game’s new Fury attacks should be more to your palette. These will represent some of the characters’ most deadly attacks. In the prototype, the berserker’s Zombie Launcher took center stage with the player kicking back an encroaching zombie and then proceeding to knock it sky-high with a sledgehammer. These flashy moves are sure to accentuate the action-heavy nature of the title and its commitment to uninterrupted fun.

Dead Island 2 artwork

In addition to this prototype, Deep Silver also showed off a short in-engine environment demo. While little can be taken away from the shown scenes outside of its undeniably pretty aesthetics, its encouraging that so much time has evidently gone into developing a world that is brimming with life despite the complete lack of living beings residing within it.

In its current state, it’s impossible to comment on how the final product of Dead Island 2 will turn out. Having been shown a prototype that is at least half a year old, there’s no telling how much the game has progressed since then. Still, with evident nods to both Far Cry 3 and Dead Rising 3 in terms of new features, the game has picked strong points of reference. It will be interesting to see how the game changes and evolves as time passes, so keep an eye out for more information as it begins to surface in the coming months.

Do you think Dead Island 2 will manage to stand apart from the other zombie titles on the market? What would you like to see changed in the series’ latest iteration?

Game Rant E3 2014 Live Coverage


Dead Island 2 is slated for release in spring of 2015 on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Follow Ryan on Twitter @ThatRyanB.