We got our hands on the Gamescom demo of Yager Development's Dead Island 2 and came away entertained.
The original Dead Island was one of those games you'd be lying if you said it was great, but it was still great fun. However, its sequel, Dead Island: Riptide, felt like a downgrade in comparison, and with a switch of both developers (from Techland to Yager Developments) and console generations Dead Island 2 looks like a game that can fully live up to the potential of the concept. At least from the small fenced off demo we got our hands on at Gamescom suggested so.
While the basics of the Dead Island concept remains, i.e. co-operative zombie slayings from first person view, crafting, sunshine, it is clear that the game is also taking a very different direction in the hands of Spec Ops: The Line developers Yager.
Perhaps surprisingly this new direction feels like it meshes better with the gameplay found here than the sometimes oddly serious tone of the two first Dead Island titles. There is dual wielding, visceral finishing moves (the Berserker has a neat kick+sledgehammer combo that sends zombies flying into the air. Add the fire augmentation to that and it's fireworks), no need for work benches to craft (although the crafting system was left out of the demo), improved visuals (obviously) and physics (playing with fire will likely prove a lot of fun).
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The California setting also makes for a different tons Sure it's still sunny, but compared to the island delights of Banoi this is familiar territory. The game will feature large maps based on Los Angeles and San Francisco, but it appears as if Yager have opted against one big seamless open world for this game.
Interesting side-note. We learnt during our post-play chat with the dev team that they ran into a strange Unreal Engine 4 bug, which triggered when they filled their world with a certain number of objects. Half a million, to be precise. It was apparently more than the engine could handle, and the result was that every time they started the game up, their in-game character would be slammed through the ground and into the nothingness beyond. How they solved it? By raising the maximum limit of objects and adding even more stuff in.
Either way, it sounds like we're in for a very expansive and perhaps, more importantly, content-filled open world experience.
The demo we played featured a small section of Los Angeles map where we got to sample two of the classes, some of the weapons and augmentations (fire and electricity), and it finished off with a scenario where we were tasked with stopping zombies from breaking through some barricades and reaching a bar.
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One very intriguing prospect about Dead Island 2 is the idea of 8 player drop-in, drop-out, open world zombie mayhem. Exactly how this will play out remains to be seen, but the idea of being able to roam in a large pack of survivors is really appealing to us.
The two classes we sampled was the Beserker (tank-like, hulking guy with shotgun, sledgehammer, etc), and the Speeder (quick, agile girl with dual wielding swords). Interestingly enough a kill counter had been implemented for the demo, and this feature is something that Yager plans to carry over to the full game (much like what you see in Dead Rising).
"You have four classes and the Beserker is your basic tank," says design director Bernd Diemer. "You know big, tall dude, used to be a fireman, now he is a hero of the apocalypse. "The other girl is a Speeder - super-fast damage dealer, kind of like an assassin type. We wanted to do the classes so that they're pretty easy to get into right from the start and also that we don't have a limitation what you can play. Because one of our number one rules in the studio is - never do anything that keeps people from playing together."
"The basic level is pretty similar and easy to get into. They do get very, very complex and also complimentary the longer you play. But you can play with 8 Speeders if you want. Because hey, why not?"
Two further classes, the Bishop and the Hunter, have been revealed, but Diemer did hint the four may not be the final tally as far as classes go.
At the surface you'd think there really isn't anything Yager could bring from the development of Spec Ops: The Line directly over to something like Dead Island 2, but design director Bernd Diemer told us the use of music was one thing they'd implement in similar fashion to their previous title.
"Personally I think, not polishing my own apple here, but [the use of music] worked really well in Spec Ops. You know the way music kicked off when you did something and it enhanced the mood or contrasted it. And the cool thing is that by the use of music you can create either comedy or kind of like an absurd situation. Like in one demo that we did internally you were slaughtering zombies left and right and during that you could turn on the music, there was like a DJ stand or whatever, and then Love Is In The Air came on."
Overall, it's very difficult to gauge exactly what Dead Island 2 will offer based on this brief walled off demo. It's fun to play and there is certainly a lot of potential, but the demo wasn't completely polished leaving a little to be desired as far as frame-rate and preciseness of attacks go. There is plenty of potential here so here's hoping Yager can finally deliver on the full promise of the original Dead Island.