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Do Critics Think Dead Island 2 Was Worth The Wait?

The original "Dead Island" was released back in September 2011 during a surge in the popularity of zombie games. After games like "Dead Rising," "Call of Duty: World at War," and especially Valve's co-op classic "Left 4 Dead" were released, it seemed like every company wanted a piece of the horror genre. Even the beloved western game "Red Dead Redemption" got zombie-themed DLC in 2010, and players loved it. But "Dead Island" launched to mixed, but mostly positive, reviews before the industry began to move onto games like "The Last of Us" which focused on survival and story over zombie-slaying gaming mayhem.

Despite a mixed reception, gamers have wanted a sequel ever since"Dead Island 2" finally releases on April 21, 2023, and if early hands-on reviews are to be believed, it seems like the sequel isn't going to be for everyone. According to OpenCritic, the majority of critics gave "Dead Island 2" around a 7 out of 10. IGN's Travis Northup gave the game a 7 out of 10, and wrote that it's "a hilarious gore-fest and competent zombie-slaying adventure, but lacks creativity outside of its great sense of humor." 

Indeed many other reviewers echoed this sentiment, and the game received praise not only for its humor, but also for its visuals and arcadey combat. Unfortunately, most critics agree that "Dead Island 2" didn't hit every note, and a 10-year development cycle did little to improve upon the original's formula. Still, reviews paint it as far from the worst game in the world, and well worth trying for those new to this type of game.

Praise for Dead Island 2 stems from visuals and mayhem

The most commonly praised aspects of "Dead Island 2" were its visuals and combat, or at least the style and feel of combat — as well as its co-op, a main feature of the original and the zombie survival genre in general. One of the most commonly criticized elements of the game was a lack of gameplay variety despite a new card-based skill system, but few reviewers denied how fun it was to butcher up one of the shambling dead. "Dead Island 2" has pretty precise gore mechanics, and because it was developed in Unreal Engine 4 for modern consoles, critics agree that despite its flaws, the game is a wild — if short — ride.

For Kotaku, Ashley Bardhan gave a relatively glowing review with particular attention given to its environments, the carnage possible when fighting hordes, and the general feeling of progression. Bardhan was also one of the few critics who loved the story of "Dead Island 2," a testament to its love-it-or-hate-it nature. "I love that this game offers a chain of semi-pure fun," Bardhan writes. "It's a fable with a lesson, if you want it to be, or regular zombie mayhem if you don't."

At Game Rant, Dalton Cooper called attention to the game's bugs, but gave praise to its mindless fun, and argued that there's something to say for that type of game behind its issues. "Those that enjoy looter games and are looking for a fun co-op game to sink their teeth into should consider giving it a look when it's on sale," he wrote.

A forgettable experience for some

Most critics seem to be on the same page about the mayhem and carnage elements of "Dead Island 2," but opinions vary greatly when discussing smaller details. At PC Gamer, Lewis Parker praised the game's humor and visuals but not much else, and even then, the game only managed to "coax a couple of laughs" out of him. "Although the combat feels responsive and intuitive, it sadly does little to compensate for the game's numerous shortfalls – especially when said gameplay barely evolves throughout the game's twenty-hour campaign," Parker explained.

This feeling that "Dead Island 2" combat becomes stale quickly was echoed by Eurogamer's Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, who called the game straightforward and repetitive. He called attention to the spongey health bars and dodgy mechanics of tougher enemies, and said that its progression system is the only thing that holds it together. He only recommended it to those who have never played a zombie-themed RPG before. "Dead Island 2 isn't a bad game, but it does feel superfluous, which is a sad thing to conclude about a project that's been in development for almost a decade," Evans-Thirlwell wrote.

For GameSpot, Mark Delaney wrote a mixed review that said it was a miracle the game came out at all and praised its gore, which feels like peeling an onion. "Along with the lackluster story, poor gunplay and some balancing issues hurt Dead Island 2, but its deep melee combat systems and rich setting make it a better game than the original," Delaney wrote.