Very rarely does a game put a smile to my face. Perhaps it was when I kicked a zombie with such force that it flew back thirty feet and exploded into a bloody smear on a house, or when I grabbed a walker by the throat and snapped its neck with a close-up of its grisly face. But no, even that wasn't silly or extreme enough to make me giggle with joy. The moment that defined my time with Dead Island 2 at PAX was slaughtering an entire horde of zombies to Pigeon John's "The Bomb" single-handedly.
It's not too often that you hear genuine praise from developers for how you played their game, but the praise I got for taking care of such a massive threat on my own definitely set the tone for the rest of my day. The sheer amount of violence found in Yager's Unreal Engine 4-powered zombie co-op slaughterfest is divine. Skulls crack and paint the pavement with thick blood spatter, chunks of flesh fly from zombies as you hack at them with knives and pellet their bodies with buckshot, and (my personal favorite) zombies fall into two neatly-cut halves from powerful vertical swings of your blades.
Dead Island 2 lacks subtlety. It feels meaty. It's a goofy first-person action game that has some of the best feeling melee combat I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Your strikes carry a weight that is absent from so many melee-oriented titles, and strike with the grisly sound of flesh shredding and meat flying. Zombies shamble along the streets of quarantined California, shuffling awkwardly towards your encroaching blade. The undead hit harder but fall so much faster than they used to; a strike or two, and they're down.
As I was told, Dead Island 2 is not meant to be a painfully difficult game; while hordes of zombies remain just as (if not more) deadly in here as they were in its predecessor, the main goal Yager has in mind is to make you feel like the ultimate zombie ass-kicking badass. It does that just fine, and the hundreds of corpses I left behind after a brief fifteen minutes were proof of that.
Dead Island 2 releases on Windows PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One Spring 2015.
Rhys Egner is a writer for Front Towards Gamer from Seattle. He likes comics, hates crowds, and loves gaming of all kinds.