Dead Island 2 SoLa Review – Zombie Woodstock

Dead Island 2 SoLa Festival Review

I really liked last year’s Dead Island 2. It was more than a worthy successor to the 2011 original. Moving the setting to a zombie-infested Los Angeles, the combat and gameplay were fun and the social satire was spot on if a bit obvious. The biggest drawback was that over time, the brain-dead enemies became a bit repetitious to fight, no matter how inventive the weapons. The first of three planned DLCs was Haus, which overall was a pretty mid experience. Now we have SoLa.

Cover Band or Superstar

With a running time of 2-4 hours — depending on your level, gear, and skills — SoLa takes place in and around an outdoor music festival, complete with main and side stages, concession stands, pools, and lots of little nooks and crannies. Right off the bat, SoLa’s setting has the potential for more variety than Haus’ claustrophobic survivalist compound. Unlocking SoLa means completing, at minimum, The Giant Slayer from the main game. Since the game doesn’t scale to player level, that might be a bit too early for the DLC’s significant difficulty.

The environments are still where Dead Island 2 shines the brightest. The graphics remain top-notch and the layer of social satire and over-the-top NPCs are fun to experience. Each DLC of course introduces some new enemy types and some inventive new ways to kill them. My grisly favorite this time around was a zombie that used their entrails like a deadly whip.

SoLa’s theme of music carries over from the setting to bosses and gameplay mechanics, like using powerful beats to attract zombies. The game’s main mission and side quests ping-pong the player between areas on the festival grounds, with one short jaunt back to home base.

Discordant Notes

Like a crowd surfer dropped by the crowd, SoLa doesn’t make it through the song unscathed. The biggest bummer is the amount of repetition. An example is the final boss, called The Dirge. Killing the Dirge means killing hordes of zombies to power up orgone spheres, which are thrown at the boss to make him temporarily vulnerable. This process is repeated three, nearly identical times. Die at any point and it’s a long, tedious do-over.

There are a lot of sections of SoLa that demand patience for repetition and being ok with repeated attempts, because this DLC is not easy. There are some fun new weapons to bring back to the base game but after hours of the main story and the first DLC, I was ready for SoLa to throw something really new my way. Grace, the DLCs main new character, is engaging enough and well-acted. Dead Island 2’s cut scenes and writing remain entertaining enough but the action is wearing a little thin.

2023’s Dead Island 2 was gaming junk food in the best possible way. It was dumb fun surrounded by smart humor and satire. In SoLa, none of that has really changed. Melee combat is still visceral — literally — and bloody good fun. The game’s visuals remain sharp, detailed, and full of humorous touches. The new DLC is an improvement over Haus, but there are more and more moments where things feel a bit stale, too. Come to SoLa with realistic expectations for more of the same, and it’ll be a pretty good time. Let’s hope that the planned third DLC shakes things up.

***Xbox Series X code provided by the publisher for review***

The Good

  • Bloody fun
  • Inventive new weapons
  • Great environments

The Bad

  • Repetitive
  • Short
  • Doesn’t change the formula