12 Years Later, a Dying Light Alternative Is Finally Coming to Xbox Game Pass

Dead Island 2's path to Xbox Game Pass wasn't always so sunny. Here's the story of its tumultuous development...

Dead Island 2
Photo: Deep Silver

Surprise! Dead Island 2 is now available to download on Xbox Game Pass. Didn’t know it was coming to the subscription service? Neither did we! The title developed by Dambuster Studios and published by Deep Silver stealth-dropped on Game Pass today, just in time for a weekend of zombie-bashing in paradise with your Xbox friends.

“With the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate version, you’ll have unlimited access to the base game on Xbox, including co-op functionality,” reads a blog post on the game’s website. “So, there’s no need to go it alone – gather your squad and take on the horde together in thrilling co-op action!”

In our write-up of the game last year, Den of Geek called Dead Island 2the Return of the Living Dead of zombie games,” a very high compliment if you’re up to speed on that horror comedy classic from 1985. We also lauded Dead Island 2‘s FLESH combat system, which allows players to take down the undead in some very interesting and…gruesome ways, although we did feel the game could’ve leaned even further into the absurdity of its concept and depended less on the oft-used tropes of the zombie genre. Still, for players looking for a less serious take on zombies that isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself once in a while, this is definitely one to download or stream through the cloud this weekend, especially if you have online friends to team up with.

That said, things weren’t always so rosy for Dead Island 2, a sequel to the hit 2011 game from Techland. In fact, the title spent over a decade in development hell, which saw the project move from one developer to the next until finally it landed at UK-based studio Dambuster in 2019 after several delays and restarts.

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The sequel was initially set to be developed by Techland before the Polish studio switched gears to work on Dying Light with WB Games. Deep Silver then tapped German studio Yager Development, the team behind first-person shooter cult classic Spec Ops: The Line, to take on the project in 2012, with Deep Silver officially announcing the game at Sony’s E3 2014 presentation. (Yeah, this project is so old that PlayStation hadn’t backed out of E3 yet, which also no longer exists.) We actually attended Dead Island 2‘s first E3 appearance and sat for a hands-off preview that showed off its California setting and campier tone. That version of the game was also set to have eight-player co-op, which sounded like a grand idea. Yager’s Dead Island 2 was slated for a 2015 release.

Then things went quiet. In July 2015, Deep Silver confirmed that it had taken the project away from Yager and would move forward with a different studio.

“The team worked with enthusiasm to take Dead Island 2 to a new level of quality. However, Yager and Deep Silver’s respective visions of the project fell out of alignment, which led to the decision that has been made,” Yager head Timo Ullman explained at the time in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz.

In March 2016, Deep Silver announced that the project was now with Sumo Digital, which would go on to ship Crackdown 3 and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. But by 2019, the game was at Dambuster, which introduced its version of the game to Gamescom 2022 ahead of its April 2023 release. That’s the iteration of Dead Island 2 you’ll get to play on Xbox Game Pass.

In 2020, fans curious about what the Yager’s version of the game looked like got a deeper look, thanks to leaked footage that made its way online, showing what its ambitious co-op functionality would have looked like as well as some of the locations featured in its sunny California map. Much of the footage has been taken down, but you’re likely to find something if you know where to look!

Besides Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One, Dead Island 2 is also available on PlayStation 5 and 4 as well as PC.

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