Slaughter on the main stage: Second Dead Island 2 expansion opens up a festival of zombie-slaying fun

The second story expansion for Dead Island 2 is on its way and will be released April 17th! It’s putting gore-splattered zombie slapstick where it belongs: on the main stage. Following on from last Novembers intense and immersive Haus, SoLA takes us to the sunny fields and stages of the ultimate Californian music festival, where LA’s beautiful bohemian set strive to save the planet, one rave at a time.

Only this year things are very different. The mosh pits are awash with blood and body parts, while the festival goers have turned nasty. Tacos, sushi and organic smoothies are out, while human flesh and brains are going down a storm. And to make things worse, the site of this festival couldn’t be worse: ancient grounds where the veil between worlds grows thin, and a malevolent presence lurks behind the psychedelic Beat.

Luckily, Hell-A’s finest slayers are coming primed to party, armed with new weapons, perks and curveballs with which to tackle the ferocious festival goers. When the zombie crowd goes crazy or new undead horrors shamble into view, it’s up to you to put on the show of your life. Apex zombies like the decomposing Clotter and the mutilated Whipper guarantee an epic line-up, and with the new Sawblade Launcher and Ripper -  circular saw meets baseball bat - you’ve got everything you need to bring the noise.

So, why the festival setting? ‘Our new DLC was really created in contrast to Haus’ explains Dambusters Art Director, Adam Olson. ‘With Haus we wanted to create an intimate, unnerving experience. With SoLA, we wanted to build a large, sunny playground for our slayers, and it really started out when we realised that we couldn’t find any other media that had done zombies in a festival space. It’s the perfect peanut-and-jelly combination.’

The setting gave the team the chance to create one of its biggest and most open arenas of destruction yet, and contrast the personality and sunshine aesthetic of the all-American summer festival with the splatter movie mayhem that makes Dead Island so much fun. The result is a loving satire of the classic Californian festival amalgamating everything from Splash House and BottleRock to the legendary Coachella, only here the shambling hordes are after your blood and brains, not water and a spot near the main stage.

That doesn’t just mean the fields, stalls, stages and VIP areas you’d expect, but also a clutch of strange new characters, plus some fiendish festival goers that should give slayers their toughest battles yet. ‘We wanted the zombies attending the festival to match the aesthetic of the ideal festival goer’ says lead character artist, Richard Smith. ‘Not just normal people, but people who reflect that beautiful culture. They’re loud and colourful. They’re wearing face glitter and have flowers in their hair - the whole vibe of festival goers. We wanted to really nail the atmosphere in place and give you the impression of who and where they were at the moment when they turned.’

Smith and Olson are particularly looking forward to introducing slayers to an all new zombie archetype, the whipper. ‘We started with this idea that we wanted to have an enemy with a whip-like attack, but we wanted to do this without giving our zombies intelligence or tools’ explains Olson. ‘The way we try to cement this in body horror and the zombie aesthetic is that we have a zombie that has just scratched its body open then started to dig in, and now it has its own intestines wrapped up in its arms so that it can then use them as a whip.’

Fearsome up close and at range, this brand new horror still fits into the boho festival style, creating another memorable monster in a game that’s already crawling with malignant, rotting critters.

The festival vibe isn’t just skin deep, with the team working hard to create an interconnected world behind the stages, where you can see the band members, slay the band members and explore where they’ve stayed and played. The aesthetic soaks into every aspect of the game, from some choice new weapons to the art on the Curveball cards.

As Olson puts it, ‘I always say that we’re not the black mirror held up to show the fall of man. We’re simply a good time killing zombies in a beautiful location, and with SoLA we’re going for the full gory glory. Beyond the zombies and the weapons we’re going to have some standout moments where we’ll see how far we can push things. I think that players are going to have a lot of fun.’