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“A Love Letter To Old Hollywood B-Movies”

After a long wait, Dead Island 2 is finally set to release this April, and Screen Rant spoke with two of the game’s developers – Art Director Adam Olsson and Narrative Designer Lydia Cockerham – to discuss the game’s movie inspirations, its setting, and of course, its zombies.

In recent years, the zombie genre of games has seemingly favored darker, more horrifying tales as opposed to the silly and over-the-top fun seen in the likes of Dead Island, Dead Island Riptide, and the Dead Rising series. That drought has now come to an end, as Screen Rant‘s preview of Dead Island 2 demonstrates just how unashamedly loud, bold, and gory the sequel can get, all heightened by the power of current-generation hardware. Here’s what Olsson and Cockerham had to say on creating the new world:


Related: Dead Island 2 Devs Reveal Secrets Behind Its Gore System

Dead Island 2: Setting Changes, Inspirations, and Zombie Types

One of Dead Island 2's playable protagonists, Jacob, sits on an inflatable chair, drinking a cocktail in a swimming pool as zombies approach from all directions in Dead Island 2's official cover art.

Screen Rant: Why did you pick L.A for the setting rather than a fictional island like Banoi [from the original Dead Island]?

Adam, Art Director: Los Angeles for us is a city that’s filled with character, and I think it’s a city that lives somewhere between fiction and reality in one way or another. All of us have visited and lived in it through various media, and we wanted to tap into that. It is larger than life, and you’ll see when you play through that we take players through a picture postcard journey through Los Angeles from the sunny beaches of Venice to luxurious mansions of Bel Air.

Screen Rant: Some of the ways players can attack zombies get pretty gruesome and gory. Caustic attacks can be particularly grim – were there any movies or other games that inspired these sillier, B-movie-esque methods of battle?

Adam: I think our entire game is a love letter to Old Hollywood B-movies and horrors, and our entire team is inspired by so many of them. It’s so hard to think of one specific example, but I think all of them have just been a huge inspiration for us.

Lydia, Narrative Designer: I would agree. I think it’s that whole pulp aspect and through the lens pop culture throughout the years. We wanted to tap into something that feels fresh but familiar

Adam: It’s a lot of work getting finding that right tone for the game and finding that balance between the macabre and the humorous.

Dead Island 2 screenshot: a large, muscled Crusher zombie faces away from the player, who is holding electrified claw weapons.

Screen Rant: The destruction a player can cause with simple things like forcing zombies into an electrified pool, or exploding something flammable near them, offers sometimes endless ways to create maximum havoc. Can you talk a little bit more about creating environments that offer this playground-level of destruction?

Adam: We created a dynamic range of environments, zombies, and weapons, so in each moment you’re challenged to think on your feet and adapt your play style. We had a lot of fun thinking of how the environment can either help or hinder your success when slaying zombies, and ultimately we wanted players to enjoy trying out these crazy ways to fend off zombies. Fire, water, electricity and caustic acid are all elements you can play with, but you have to be clever as some zombies will be impervious to certain elemental weapons and attacks!

It’s been a while since we had a silly zombie game in the AAA sphere! 2023 has so far been about post-apocalypse horror with things like The Last of Us show dominating the headlines and Resident Evil 4 coming up. Is there still room for the sillier side of zombies in such a busy market?

Lydia: Yes, absolutely. And I think tone is what helps us stand apart from other games, movies, and TV shows in the zombie genre. There are plenty of people that want be immersed in a world that’s grim and dark and asks those existential questions about what would really happen if people started turning to zombies. But for us, we know there are plenty of others would enjoy a different approach and want to see the slightly quirkier side of the zompocalypse. We didn’t want to take ourselves quite as seriously.

Lydia: We wanted to bring back the fun of really smashing a zombie apart, which is obviously at the core of our game.

Dead Island 2: an overweight zombie with a fog of green around him, suggesting he is toxic.

What’s your favorite zombie type in Dead Island 2?

Lydia: Personally, I really like Screamers because whenever I encounter them, I suddenly have to switch up my play style because I can’t just slash my way towards them. You really have to think about it. Am I going to throw my weapon at them? How am I going to dodge or get around them? It’s an onslaught of sound. So I find them really fun for forcing you to try something different.

Adam: I like the Walkers, which might sound like a simple answer, but our standard zombie types can really allow you to have fun with the different ways to attack them. I like to just get in and hack them apart to bits. We wanted to bring the idea of zombies being the real ‘monster’ in Dead Island 2 and the FLESH system really helps bring that to a whole another level. In so many other games I’ve seen, it’s like you’re really just facing wounded people. But here you can have a zombie who has their exposed brain hanging out, guts all over the place, an eyeball dangling. I feel like we really put the horror back in the zombie genre with this.

More: Every 2023 Video Game Release Date

Dead Island 2 releases on PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC on April 21, 2023

  • Dead Island 2 Key Art

    Dead Island 2

    Dead Island

    PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S


    Dambuster Studios

    Deep Silver

    First-Person Shooter, Action RPG

    Online Co-Op, Online Multiplayer

    Unreal Engine 4


    Dead Island 2 is a sequel to the original action RPG/multiplayer game released back in 2011. A couple of months after Dead Island, California has been placed under full quarantine after an even worse Zombie outbreak arrived on U.S. shores. Players will take control of a character living in the middle of this new apocalypse and fight to survive with – and against – other people as all of Los Angeles and San Francisco turn into a zombie-slaying playground. New to the franchise is also an eight-player multiplayer co-op mode where they can tackle the chaotic events of the game together.

    Dead Island


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