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Image by Dambuster Studios

Dead Island 2 is like The Walking Dead, but with optimism

There’s only a little less arguing in the game.

The impact that 2010’s The Walking Dead had on my family is hard to overstate. This show revitalized the zombie genre and became one of the few occasions where we would all sit together in comfortable, contented silence—a weekly ritual where the only sound that could be heard over the groaning of walkers was us biting our fingernails. While it faced many criticisms, it stayed true to the genre by ensuring the deaths of the hated undead and the beloved characters were as memorable as they were gruesome.

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While I stopped watching the show around season eight or nine, I’ve recently gone back, coincidentally ahead of playing Dead Island 2—be warned of minor spoilers for both below. It’s fascinating to see how the zombie genre fantasy is represented in both of these titles, so much so that I often found myself scouring Dead Island 2’s L.A. for the weapons that my favorite characters used on the show.

Screenshot by Dot Esports

One of the most iconic characters from The Walking Dead is Negan, portrayed by the talented Jeffrey Dean Morgan. What was almost as memorable as his shit-eating grin was his closest ally in the apocalypse, the barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat nicknamed “Lucille.” As soon as I unlocked crafting in Dead Island 2, my first goal was to make my own shoddy version I could carry with me through the Zompocalypse.

After an hour or two, my wish was granted and I was smashing heads all across Bel-Air and The Halperin Hotel with my own baseball bat equipped with a Puncturator mod. The level one rarity applies barbed wire that looks a little different than in the show, but functions in much the same way. Higher rarities of the Puncturator apply more wire and razor blades, but it makes it look less like Lucille, so I found myself favoring the lower rarity despite the improvements offered by higher tiers—because it isn’t about the numbers, it’s about playing the part.

Screenshot by Dot Esports

What’s important is that the game seemed to understand what I wanted, with many of the swings and animations feeling like something I saw Negan do, whether it be to the undead or just smashing the heads of the living. This also included the occasional bat twirl to add a little flair when Bruno was feeling saucy

Negan wasn’t the only character I was reminded of while playing Dead Island 2. I came across a number of Bo Staffs during my time in HELL.A. Morgan was another memorable survivor in The Walking Dead, showing up around the same time as Negan’s Saviors, and his skills at fighting both the undead and raiders with his staff were without question. I often found myself seeking out my Bo Staff as well, making sure to deal blunt force trauma or stabs to the undead’s faces like I was the traumatized father myself.

I could name examples from the show that I really enjoyed using all day: Tyreese’s claw hammer, Michonne’s katana, Rick’s revolver, and an assortment of knives I’d seen over a variety of episodes. The devs should just do an official collaboration to pay homage to the recent cultural juggernaut.

A zombie looks at an explosion in the distance.
Image via Dambuster Studios

It wasn’t hard to imagine myself in the shoes of the badasses I had seen on TV every Sunday during my high school and college years. This was largely aided by the fact that the base zombie type in Dead Island 2 is also called a “Walker” due to its tendency to take its time in getting places. How AMC hasn’t had a legal field day is beyond me. 

Related: Why is Dead Island 2 not on Steam? Explained

That being said, the weapons and the undead are probably the only two places where these worlds are similar, as their themes are pretty much diametrically opposed. Where The Walking Dead builds its drama on the worst tendencies of humans, Dead Island 2 is all about thriving at the end of the world. Everything may be crumbling around you, but as long as you got beer and a bud, you might as well enjoy yourself while you wait for it to blow over.

Screenshot by Dot Esports

This is ultimately realized by the immunity the player character will experience at the start of the game, removing any fear they might have of getting infected. That hasn’t been a thing from what I’ve seen in my The Walking Dead rewatch so far—no one spoil it or I’ll sue. Because of this lack of immunity in the show, there’s always this ever-present anxiety that your favorite character will realize they have a bite, and a dark sinking feeling when they do. 

The weapons used on the Walkers and people in The Walking Dead are grim acts of necessity, but Dead Island 2 manages to make head-smashing the best part of the whole experience. I didn’t make a “Lucille” out of a need for one or keep using my Bo Staff because it was the best weapon in the game, but because Dead Island 2 let me live out the ultimate zombie fantasy I’ve wanted since watching TWD. It put the undead at my feet and let me loose to thrive in HELL.A. as I pleased.

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Christian Harrison
Christian is a freelance writer of five years who's been with Dot Esports for over 15 months covering Fortnite, general gaming, and news. Some of his favorite games include Yakuza 0, The Witcher III, Kingdom Hearts 2, and Inscryption.