What’s it? A melee-focused motion game set in a zombie infested Los Angeles.
Launch date April 21, 2023
Anticipate to pay $60/£55
Developer Dambuster Studios
Writer Deep Silver
Reviewed on  GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER,  i7-7820X, 64GB RAM  
Steam Deck Unsupported
Hyperlink Official site 

Roughly ten hours into my playthrough of Lifeless Island 2, I began to marvel if there was a lot level in persevering with. I saved ready for the game to introduce some new gameplay mechanic or narrative shock that may hold me invested, or on the very least give me some form of purpose to hold going. After ten extra hours, I used to be sure; if I wasn’t taking part in this game for evaluate, I might have stopped taking part in lengthy earlier than its conclusion.

My greatest drawback with Lifeless Island 2 is its gameplay loop, which is not a lot a loop as it’s a flat circle. Get weapons, kill zombies, break weapons, get extra weapons—rinse and repeat. It would sound like a dismissive solution to criticise a game, however in Lifeless Island 2’s case the problem is that there is nothing outdoors of this loop to make participating with it worthwhile. The game doesn’t have an open world as many could also be anticipating—as a substitute the map is segmented into 10 completely different areas that you would be able to (ultimately) quick journey between. As soon as you’ve got accomplished the comparatively brief predominant story and mopped up the remaining facet quests, all that’s left to do is journey to one in all these areas and kill infinitely respawning zombies till you both give up or die of boredom.

(Picture credit score: Dambuster Studios)

Is killing zombies enjoyable, a minimum of? Sure—at first. At the beginning of the game, all you’ve gotten are just a few key expertise and entry to some primary melee weapons. That is the a part of Lifeless Island 2 I had probably the most enjoyable with, as I spent nearly all of my time messing round with the “FLESH” system. Virtually each physique half a zombie has may be hacked off in a visceral and dynamic trend, permitting you to chop off a zombie’s leg at a selected level or come out an eyeball with a nicely positioned bonk to the top.

Because the story progresses, this novelty rapidly begins to put on off. Sending a zombie and its jawbone flying in two separate instructions admittedly by no means will get previous, however the additions to the fight that observe do little to boost the motion. Playing cards you unlock permit you to buff sure expertise, like your dodge or your soar kick, and you’ll unlock “Curveball” throwables to assist skinny out the horde, however these upgrades aren’t substantial sufficient to supply any actual selection.

That is most likely time to say that Lifeless Island 2 would not have any type of difficulty settings. While not each game wants adjustable difficulty, Lifeless Island 2 actually feels prefer it might have used it – not as a result of it is too laborious, essentially, however quite as a result of it is so inconsistent. The primary third of the marketing campaign is comparatively difficult, and I discovered myself always burning by all of my melee weapons and scrounging the setting for health gadgets frequently. Then I unlocked weapons, and the problem grew to become a joke.

Though you will by no means have sufficient ammo on you to burn by a whole space of the map with out having to resupply, they do permit you to pop the limbs off primary zombies with a single shot and deal crucial harm to boss enemies at a protected distance. Pair that along with your talent buffs and your Curveballs, and you’ll simply develop into untouchable. Lifeless Island 2 makes an attempt to steadiness this by spawning an increasing number of boss enemies on the map and in the principle story missions as you progress, however all that serves to do is to pad out the game’s size with a load of spongey healthbars.

(Picture credit score: Dambuster Studios)

You spend the entire of the brief marketing campaign discovering flimsy narrative excuses to go to every completely different part of LA, always being launched to new, disposable characters.

Your first encounters with every of those particular enemies may be fairly enjoyable, however they’re instantly recycled into customary encounters scattered all through the map. The primary time I fought one of many hulking Crushers, it was easy however pleasing. As you make your method by a marriage venue, you run right into a bride-to-be turned zombie, and should fend her off as gradual, romantic music performs within the background. Dodging the brute’s gradual, telegraphed assaults and timing jumps accurately to keep away from her floor slams made for a fairly memorable and humorous set piece; one which was immediately soured once I walked outdoors and bumped into one other Crusher roughly two minutes after finishing the story mission.

Lifeless strains

Lifeless Island 2’s weakest factor, nevertheless, is its shambling story. You spend the entire of the brief marketing campaign discovering flimsy narrative excuses to go to every completely different part of LA, always being launched to new, disposable characters who cease being related the second the plot transitions you into a brand new space. Most of those characters are written to be annoying in a cheeky nudge-nudge, wink-wink type of method, with washed up actors and LA socialites forming nearly all of the cast. But at no level is the writing ever humorous or witty sufficient to raise these characters past their base ideas, and it is actually by no means intelligent sufficient to play it off as satire.

(Picture credit score: Dambuster Studios)

It is also type of tough to inform when precisely some jokes are deliberately horrible, in a b-movie form of method, and once they’re merely poorly written. Over half method by the principle story, you are launched to “sKOpe”—an Amazon Alexa-style gadget concerned in a sidequest to trace down different sKOpes all through the map. It may need been humorous when my character made a degree of talking in a monotone voice simply so the sKOpe might recognise her – if I hadn’t been prompted on three separate events beforehand by an in-game commercial to attach an Amazon Alexa to Lifeless Island 2 so I might use it for voice instructions. Is that this a cheeky send-up of its personal co-marketing deal, or simply a clumsy try to lampshade it?

It isn’t all dangerous—just a few of the facet quests did handle to coax a few laughs out of me, even when they had been few and much between. The facet quests normally really feel much more flavourful than something the principle story needed to provide, as they have an inclination to lean into extra absurd characters for his or her humour and infrequently veer into the form of mishandled seriousness and drama the principle story is vulnerable to.

(Picture credit score: Dambuster Studios)

Dangerous to the bone

As for the precise content material of these story missions, I actually can not consider the final time I performed by a marketing campaign with design selections this uninspired. The quantity of occasions I used to be tasked with discovering a battery to restore a circuit breaker or fixing the strain sensors on some pipes is frankly embarrassing. Worse nonetheless, your character will joke about how usually they’re tasked with fixing the identical monotonous puzzles to progress. I am certain it is supposed to return throughout as some form of cute, self-aware second from the devs, however as a substitute it solely served to bother me additional. If you already know your puzzles suck, why are you forcing me to play them?

I performed by Lifeless Island 2 on two separate builds, one which was comparatively excessive finish (Ryzen 9 5900X, RTX 4080, 64GB RAM) and one other that was a bit extra modest (i7-7820X, GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER, 16GB RAM), and each usually ran fairly easily. In truth, even the extra modest construct managed to run the game with all settings on Extremely – with solely minor FPS drops in comparison with its beefier counterpart. Each the button mapping and graphical settings are comparatively strong too, which is helpful contemplating how excessive the movement blur is ready to by default.

(Picture credit score: Dambuster Studios)

Aside from the admittedly spectacular technical efficiency, it is laborious to search out a lot purpose to suggest Lifeless Island 2.

No matter which construct I ran the game on, I did run into some fairly hefty FPS drops throughout sure set items in the principle story. One specific section, through which you battle by a military checkpoint, triggered my FPS to dip into the 30s (most certainly because of the quantity of zombies on display). One space within the game, Beverly Hills, additionally had an odd drawback that triggered the game to drop down to twenty FPS any time I closed a menu, though fortunately that might be mounted by merely reopening and reclosing it. These points gave the impression to be the exception quite than the rule nevertheless, as from what I examined, the game appears to run extraordinarily nicely even on comparatively dated {hardware} – one thing that was a little bit of a aid given the current uptick in poorly optimised PC ports.

I additionally bumped into just a few basic bugs, a few of which had been fairly minor (comparable to assets falling by the terrain earlier than I might choose them up, and odd collision detection on sure objects throwing me midway throughout the map) and others which had been extra main (like once I clipped inside a wall throughout a cinematic assault, or when sure quests refused to advance). I by no means bumped into something game breaking or progress-halting that could not be mounted with a easy reload nevertheless, and Lifeless Island 2’s comparatively beneficiant checkpoints and autosaves meant that I barely misplaced greater than a few minutes of progress at any given time.

Aside from the admittedly spectacular technical efficiency, it is laborious to search out a lot purpose to suggest Lifeless Island 2. Though the fight feels responsive and intuitive, it sadly does little to compensate for the game’s quite a few shortfalls – particularly when stated gameplay barely evolves all through the game’s twenty hour marketing campaign.