Dead Island 2 was one of the few ‘AAA’, (ish), titles at EGX this year that I was truly looking forward to playing. I had played Dying Light at last year’s event, so I already kind of knew what to expect from the game before arriving at Earls Court. Dead Island 2, however, is a game that I’ve been following quite closely since E3, so I was really excited to finally sink my teeth into it.
In theme, content and even gameplay, Dead Island 2 and Dying Light are incredibly similar games. Both games are zombie slashers, both are survival horror games, both are action-adventure games and both have RPG elements (Dying Light slightly more so). What’s more, both games will be coming out around the same sort of time next year, so to say that they’ll be going head to head is a pretty safe statement to make.
Since I got to play both games at this year’s event, I’ve decided to set them off against each other (well, just their ten minute gameplay demos, anyway). Obviously, it’s not going to be wholly accurate, comparing two games from just ten minutes of game time, as there’s a lot of both games that I wouldn’t have seen. Still, both gameplay demos were incredibly similar in style. Both had a small objective to complete but, in essence, all they wanted you to do was to explore the world a little and smash the shit out of some zombies. So here’s what I thought after ten minutes with each game.
Dead Island 2
This game was graphically impressive, however, it was very clearly running off of a PC using an Xbox One controller. Whenever the demo restarted, we were greeted with a Windows home screen before it loaded for the next person. Obviously, this isn’t the end of the world. The game is coming to PC, so it’s not like they were trying to pull the wool over our eyes. However, I doubt that the game would look as good as it did on the PC at EGX when playing it on the Xbox One or PS4. The game is set for release on just the current-gen consoles and the PC, so it’s going to be one of the few upcoming games that has been developed purely for the current-generation. To me, that suggests that it should be something quite powerful and visually impressive, as they wouldn’t have to worry about creating a game for the last-generation that can then be boosted for the current-gen. All of that makes me think that it should still look pretty on the current-gen consoles, but not as pretty as it was at EGX in the ten minute demo. Although, it was definitely the most visually impressive game that I got my hands on at the expo, PC run or not.
Gameplay wise, it was rather solid. I wouldn’t say that there were any major revolutions in the way that you control the character since Dead Island and Dead Island riptide, however. The characters felt a little more stable when swinging the heavy weapons and I’d say that they weren’t as manic as they were in the older games. Some of the zombies were pretty tough to kill and others went down quite easily; but it was nice to have the variation. The weapons were your usual sledge-hammer / short sword / hatchet / shotgun / pistol, so nothing too weird and wonderful there. However, in the demo we were tasked with collecting electronic and flammable components to make two weapon mods. One weapon mod (for my character, at least) was an electrified shotgun, which was surprisingly weak. The other was a fire mallet, which was ridiculously powerful. It’s hard to tell how far into the game you’d have to get to unlock these mods and whether or not they’re something you’d really have to work for. In the demo it took all but a minute or two to get both mods. But then we only had ten minutes to play, so they may well have made it easier to collect items for the mods for the sake of our enjoyment. Overall, the combat was sound and it was definitely enjoyable – but I’d like to know what sort of stats each character has, and whether one would be more effective with guns than the others, etc.
We didn’t get much of the story, but from what I could tell we were basically in a free-roam mode that would have ‘random’ events for us to complete. The random event in the demo was a bar protection objective, where we had to hold off from zombies attacking a bar. It was definitely fun and it served as a good distraction from the mindless zombie killing. Well, it was still mindless zombie killing, but at least we were given an objective to focus on as well. I was in a world with three other players, and it was quite clear that we were expected to work together to help protect the bar. In the event, three of us protected it whilst the other player ran off to randomly kill zombies (he wasn’t a team player). At the end, though, I noticed that he got a share of the XP for completing the objective, even though he wasn’t directly involved in the event. Bit weird, but I guess the game just equally shares the rewards for story based objectives with all active players.
It’s not difficult to pick faults with the game, however. But, before I get into its short fallings, it’s important to remember that the game isn’t coming out until next year, so there’s plenty of time to fix them. The first main issues I that have with the game is the bugs. It was incredibly glitchy, with the occasional zombie flying miles after I had hit them (even though the game was exaggerated, this was clearly an unintentional distance for a dead zombie to fly as it sailed off into the distance, out of the demo area). It was also plagued with disappearing zombies, invisible zombies and hovering zombies. I also managed to strike a zombie through a wall, only for it to then fall out of the sky behind me and grab me to take a few bites – unless it was supposed to be a new ‘special’? The magic undead.
This game felt far less structured than Dead Island 2, even though Dead Island 2 wasn’t very structured at all. For me, I just ended up running around and killing as many zombies as I could with the different weapons. This game was running off of the Xbox One, and as far as I could tell it was the actual console, and not a PC demo (but they might have done a better job at hiding it, who knows). The difference between Dying Light and Dead Island 2 is that Dying Light is cross-generation, so it’s being developed for last-generation consoles too. That doesn’t automatically make it a bad game, but I could definitely see a difference in the graphics when compared to Dead Island 2. But, as I always say, it isn’t all about graphics and even an ugly game can be a great game!
The gameplay was pretty decent and I loved the combination between free-running and zombie bashing. When compared to the first demo that I played last year, I could spot one or two differences. This time the demo was definitely geared towards exploring its free-running aspects as well as the zombie killing. That’s a good thing, in my opinion, as the thing that makes this game stand out is its free-running elements. I did have one or two problems with the gameplay, however. I would say that the free-running wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked it to be (though I can’t vouch for what ‘level’ your character is, so he might become a free-running aficionado as the game progresses). The flow of traversing the building tops seemed to break down quite quickly, and it was very difficult to judge whether or not I would be able to grab a ledge or if I’d just be face-planting the wall. My other issue was with the combat, which seemed as wiled as the original Dead Island. Swinging weapons, especially heavy weapons, was quite disorientating and half of the time I felt like my character was about to topple over. I understand that they want to bring an element of realism, but it made combat quite difficult, especially with large groups of zombies – who seemed to descend upon you like a flood, at times.
There were a few elements of the gameplay that I loved, however. Most of these were small additions that gave it a slight edge over Dead Island 2. For example, when you hit zombies in some body parts, the game gave you a quick x-ray of where you had hit them and the bones that you had broken. It was a bit of a novel feature, but it was a nice addition nonetheless. I also liked the use of traps that had been set up around the demo area. Whether or not you can set these up yourself, or if they’re just randomly generated around the map, I’m not entirely sure – but it was a nice idea, nevertheless. I’m pretty sure that there was an objective to complete, but I was so caught up in killing the zombies and trying out the different weapons that I lost track of time. Something that would have been nice, however, is a bit of co-op, as it was a single player demo. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of the co-op over the coming months, though.
It’s quite easy to compare the two together, as in essence they are very similar games (even down to the weapons and weapon mods). There are a few elements that sets Dying Light apart from Dead Island 2, like the free-running, which is a great addition to the open world zombie bashing genre. However, as a zombie bashing experience, I’d say that Dead Island 2 has the advantage. Dead Island 2 was also a lot prettier and I preferred the combat and overall style of the game. Dying Light felt quite serious, whereas Dead Island 2 was far more tongue-in cheek and over exaggerated. For me Dead Island 2 holds the middle ground between Dying Light and Dead Rising 3, which is the ideal placement for this type of game, for me at least. Something that could bring Dying Light in line with, or even help it surpass Dead Island 2, could be its co-op. But that’s yet to be seen. I would also have liked to see the night-time mode for Dying Light, as much of the game is geared towards how more ferocious the experience is when the sun goes down – it would have been nice to have given the night mode a go as well.
Overall, I must admit that I enjoyed Dead Island 2 more than Dying Light. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy Dying Light, however. I think that, after seeing a bit more of what Dying Light has to offer, it’s going to be a tough decision as to which game I’ll go for. The thing that really sells this type of game, for me, is the co-op. Dead Island has been doing co-op zombie bashing fun for some time now, so I know that they’ll be delivering a solid experience. Dying Light, which is being developed by Techland, who also worked on Dead Island, has a bit more potential, and could offer something different to Dead Island 2 – particularly with the choice of characters and the customisation options that are currently being promised. So, going purely by what I played at EGX, I’d be inclined to pick up Dead Island 2 over Dying Light. But there’s still plenty of time for Dying Light to level the playing field and I feel like, over the next few months, we’ll be seeing more from Dying Light which could convince me of its credentials as something new, and exciting, to the genre.