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Shouting at the Dead with Alexa Game Control in Dead Island 2

Voice commands get another shot in this open-world zombie game sequel.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
3 min read
a podcast-style microphone next to a laptop showing Dead Island 2
Dan Ackerman/CNET

Amazon is launching its latest game integration with Alexa Game Control support built into Dead Island 2, an upcoming open-world zombie game expected in late April. I got to play around with a preview version of the game, using a headset mic to issue commands and taunt zombies. 

Alexa Game Control doesn't require an Amazon Echo device. Instead you use a desktop mic, your PC's built-in mic, or a headset, although you have to link the game and your Amazon account. Setup, via a QR code, was simple, and you can set up voice commands to work as push-to-talk, tap once to talk or just leave the mic hot full time. I went with the simple push-to-talk option, which uses the B key by default. Besides PCs, Xbox will also be supported. 

This isn't my first shot at voice-powered gaming. I recall being floored by the potential of a 2002 game called Star Trek Bridge Commander, which promised gamers the chance to issue verbal commands to the crew of your ship. After buying a headset mic and hooking it up to my 2002-era PC, the novelty wore off quickly. Voice commands worked, but it ended up being much easier to use keyboard commands instead. 

a screenshot from the game Dead Island 2; zombies approach the player, who is holding a wrench
Deep Silver

In 2023, the situation feels similar. I tried Dead Island 2 with Alexa's voice commands and found a few useful cases, but was often stymied by the restrictive language needed. By far the best use case was drawing an idle zombie toward you by saying, "Hey zombie!" or something similar out loud. That way, I could pick off zombies one at a time from a larger group, instead of getting surrounded and chomped every time I turned a corner. 

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Locating and adding waypoints to map highlights, like workbenches and traders, is another option, but I found it much easier to just look at the in-game map to navigate. Weapon selection can also be done via voice, but the terminology is awkward. One useful tool is asking the game to auto-select your best current weapon, which keeps you from having to open a menu and compare stats. The final game will also have online co-op multiplayer, and voice commands can be used to trigger generic replies or moves like a dance or a thumbs up. 

After several hours, I can say that Dead Island 2 looks and plays pretty great overall. It takes place in Los Angeles, so the Island part is a bit of a misnomer, but I enjoyed the satirical take on Hollywood cliches and all the in-jokes and sight gags. For the most part, the Alexa Game Control features didn't add a ton of extra playability to the game, and I'm not sure I'd leave it on for the entire game. That said, the "Hey zombie!" command was very useful, and the voice command I used far more than any other. 

Dead Island 2 is expected on April 21 for PC and consoles. It's the first game supporting this new Alexa Game Command initiative, but Amazon says there are "more games to follow."