Dead Island 2 adds new zombies variants in SoLA expansion available today

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Dead Island 2 adds new zombies variants in SoLA expansion available today

Find out how the new Whipper and Clotter zombies were created.

Dead Island 2’s new SoLA expansion introduces players – sorry, Slayers – to a whole new side of Hell-A: an all-American festival where the stage is set for some of the game’s most gruesome zombie slaughter yet. The crowds of rotting, shambling festivalgoers will provide endless zombie-slaying hits, but where would any festival be without its headline acts?

Dead Island 2 adds new zombies variants in SoLA expansion available today

Enter the Whipper and the Clotter, two brand new, powerful Apex Variants designed to give even the most experienced Slayers some serious frights and fights.

On the one hand, you have the Whipper, an undead bohemian that’s swapped festival glam for guts.  In fact, she’ll flail you with her intestines or try to blind you with a handful of thrown entrails.

On the other you have the Clotter, a brutal zombie that can decompose and recompose at will. This big guy can effectively teleport in and out of the player’s space, making it hard to maintain visibility and control.  

“The starting point was always the mechanics of the two new archetypes,” says Dambuster Studio’s Associate Character Art Director, Richard Smith. “They both offer completely new behaviors never seen before in the Dead Island enemy roster.”

Whippers are fast-moving, mid-ranged enemies with powerful attacks and special abilities that can stop Slayers using their own Fury powers. Clotters hound the Slayer, keeping them under constant pressure and unable to dominate one position.

Putting flesh on the bones

To create the new enemies for the expansion, the team started out with a range of zombie concepts, then whittled them down to the final two. The basic concepts were fleshed out into concept art, always making sure that the new zombies would fit into the Dead Island universe and feel plausible within its blood-splattered, body horror aesthetic.

“In the case of the Whipper,” says Smith, “we had the call out that they would be self-mutilating intestine wielders. Filled with frustration at the zombie infection within, they’ve attempted to remove it, gouging out their own innards and becoming entangled in their own intestines, which are used to extend their attacking reach like an organic web.”

To tie the Whipper in with the expansion’s festival style, the team looked to the social media imagery associated with big American festivals, and the boho chic fashion styles you’d find on the festival ground. “We’re focusing on the visual storytelling and signposting the enemy,” Smith explains, “and we want to ground the player in the location and make sure it fits in with the vibe.”

As the art development progressed, new ideas emerged, which also fed back into the design. “For example, we wanted the Whipper to thrash around violently and indiscriminately,” Smith adds. “To add to the torment, we gave the character hands that are frozen in a rigor mortis, so they’re almost forced to thresh around.”

Slayers get a new nightmare

Meanwhile, the Clotter let the studio push what could be done with Dead Island 2’s F.L.E.S.H. system – the super-gory technology that allows Slayers to break zombies down into bloody chunks of flesh and bone. The team knew they wanted a teleporting zombie, but wanted to avoid any sci-fi stuff that wouldn’t fit in with the game’s more grounded style.

F.L.E.S.H. provided the answer. “We really wanted to find a way to use these features, to make the Clotter completely disintegrate in front of the player’s eyes and then reassemble from a puddle of meaty goo,” Smith explains.

As this enemy needed to move fast, the team steered clear of over-elaborate effects. “We were able to squeeze in a glimpse of the skeleton falling to pieces and the gloopy flesh turning into liquid around the bones, but it takes a lot of work back and forth to balance it – to make sure it all happens at the right place for the gameplay.”

The Clotterleans into the storyline at the heart of the new expansion. “And the festival background is an ideal location for it,” adds Smith, “in terms of the quantities of gore and body parts that are lying around, waiting to be reanimated.”

There are always some ideas that don’t fit in with Dead Island 2’s zombie-first focus, or with the personality of its slapstick splatter. “It’s tough, but we love the challenge,” says Smith. “We like creating things for the game that you won’t have ever seen before.”

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