A star rating of 3 out of 5.

Developer Dambuster Studios and publisher Deep Silver will launch Dead Island 2 this week, finally ending the long-awaited zombie game's troubled development.


Multiple developers have taken a stab at reanimating this sun-soaked horror franchise in the years since Techland (the original developers that have since moved onto the Dying Light franchise) launched the original game in 2011 and its Riptide follow-up in 2013.

Yes, you could argue that this new one should be called Dead Island 3, and since Dambuster's new game is set in Los Angeles, you could also argue that it doesn't feature an island at all – but you can't argue with the dead part! Is the game any good, though? Read on for our full thoughts!

Firstly, it's worth noting LA (despite not being an island) is a cool setting from a zombie game. The bright blue skies and holiday-worthy vistas make a nice change from the doom and gloom that often permeates the zombie genre's gaming efforts (see: the miserable European village at the heart of Resident Evil 4 last month).

The developers have clearly had fun ideating around the stereotypes of LA, as well. You'll come across washed up actors, has-been rockstars, zombified gym bros and over-enthusiastic hangers-on as you work your way through the story, and you'll also get to visit garish hotels and over-the-top movie sets as you progress through the nicely varied levels on offer.

However, it does feel somewhat jarring that game doesn't offer a full open world, instead being split into various different areas with old-fashioned loading screens in between them. This creative decision breaks the immersion somewhat, pulling you out of the action and stopping LA from feeling like a fleshed-out place.

The story, too, leaves a bit to be desired. You get to choose between a handful of playable characters at the start, and they all dish out mildly amusing sassy comments as you go, but there isn't really a compelling emotional hook to hang the whole experience on. Perhaps The Last of Us has spoiled us in that regard, but in a post-TLOU world, zombie action without a deep story feels a bit old hat by comparison (and some shared plot DNA doesn't help, either).

The action is a bit hit and miss, as well. Compared to the fluid-feeling parkour combat in Dying Light 2, Dead Island 2 seems a bit stilted and stunted, especially at the start where your options for dodging and blocking attacks are pretty limited.

More like this

Read more on Dead Island 2:

The zombies often feel faster and more powerful than you, which doesn't exactly make it feel like a power fantasy in a satisfying way. Crowd control is vital, but you have to wait ages to get the best tools available to support that approach. Until then, you'll try your best to haphazardly dodge zombies without a great success rate.

There are no difficulty-lowering options in the game, either, which means you could get stuck on the same showdown for ages. This can get frustrating, and that's not a great look in an age where accessibility in gaming is more talked-about than ever before.

The game supports both solo play and co-op multiplayer, and it feels at times that multiplayer is more what it's designed for. If you're playing on your own and your reflexes aren't lightning fast, you'll probably see the 'You Died' screen more than you'd like. You'll also find that boss arenas require a fair bit of running around, if you're playing on your own and want to use all of the tools at your disposal.

That being said, there are elements to enjoy here. The game looks great for the most part, despite a few little visual glitches in the early-access review build. And while it's not often laugh-out-loud funny, the script is inoffensive enough that it won't detract from your enjoyment. And for returning fans, there seem to be plenty of callbacks to the original two games.

The combat, as well, does get more enjoyable as you unlock more skills and learn how to craft more weapon upgrades. You can add electricity, fire and various other perks to a wide array of melee weapons, and you will eventually get some guns as well.

Once you get into the swing of it, slicing and dicing your way through zombie hordes can feel really satisfying when you get it right, and the game does an admirable amount to create fun environments where you can lure zombies into traps. However, as the difficulty ramps up, you might have to repeat scenarios multiple times to progress.

All in all, we can't say that we loved Dead Island 2. It has some fun ideas, and the sunny setting is really refreshing, but it won't go down as a great solo experience in this player's books. We spent quite a lot of our playtime being annoyed, but the satisfying moments almost made up for it. It's not exactly dead good, but it's not exactly dead bad either. After a decade, the wait wasn't really worth it.

Dead Island 2 launches on Friday 21st April for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC. We reviewed on Xbox Series X and S.

Subscribe to our free Gaming Newsletter for weekly insights, and visit our Gaming hub for all the latest news.

Looking for something to watch? Check out our TV Guide or Streaming Guide.


Try Radio Times magazine today and get 12 issues for only £1 with delivery to your home — subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to The Radio Times Podcast.