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Dead Island 2’s Amazon Alexa voice commands are novel, but limited

I’ve always found myself interested in new technologies that could possibly enhance how we play or experience games. Whether it’s a computing innovation like cloud gaming or new controller features like the DualSense’s Haptic Feedback and Adaptive Triggers, I love testing those things out. That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to try Alexa Game Control during my recent hands-on preview experience with Dead Island 2.

When Dambuster Studios and Deep Silver’s Dead Island 2 finally launches on April 21, it will be the first game to support Alexa Game Control. By connecting one’s Amazon account to the game, players can use the voice-recognition capabilities of Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa to perform in-game actions like taunting zombies or equipping their best weapons. I was curious to see just how deep this went, but after some hands-on time, this first implementation of it proved to be little more than a novelty.

Dead Island 2 zombies

Hey, Alexa

Dead Island 2 players can toggle Alexa Game Control on when they first show up in Bel-Air after the game’s opening. It has a dedicated tab in the Options Menu where players can choose to enable or disable it, choose whether they want it to work automatically or with push to talk, set the voice capture threshold, and decide which microphone they wish to use.

After enabling Alexa Game Control, I immediately noticed a ring at the bottom-left corner of the screen. When I spoke, this lit up with blue and teal colors, like the top ring on an Alexa device, and text confirming whether it could do the action or not would appear. Not having to say “Hey, Alexa” also means it implemented itself into the game smoothly. At first, I tried to see if voice commands would work for basic things like walking, jumping, and dodging, to no avail. After this, I hopped to a save I had placed later in the game and opened its tutorial menu to see what Alexa Game Control could really do.

Reading its tutorials and lists of commands, the limits of Alexa Game Control became clear. It mainly provides quick shortcuts to save you a button press or two in the middle of playing. In Dead Island 2, Alexa Game Control has four main uses: setting waypoints, taunting enemies, triggering emotes, and switching weapons. The tutorial menus give a complete list of commands that work, although each wildly varies in its usefulness.

Oi, zombie!

The funniest use of this voice technology in Dead Island 2 is taunting zombies. Shouting something like “Hey, dude” or “Oi, zombie” to get the attention of enemies that hadn’t detected me always made me chuckle. It’s also occasionally useful; at one point, I got a bunch of zombies to walk into a large pool of acid and die after taunting them. While it takes the same amount of time as walking up to the zombie to get their attention, I see the potential in voice technology that lets you interact with the world like this.

Dead Island 2 screenshot of zombies surrounding the character's pov.

In cases where there weren’t giant pools of acid between my enemies and me, a fight broke out. These situations allowed me to test the commands for switching weapons. This is the headlining feature of Dead Island 2’s voice commands, as players can call out specific weapons and damage types that best suit a situation. Players can also tell the game to equip their “Best” weapon at all times, although I found this command flawed.

At one point, I was using my best weapon, and it broke. I said, “give me my best weapon,” thinking it would go to the next most powerful one in my inventory. Instead, I got a response telling me I already had the weapon equipped. Even after manually switching to another weapon, asking to equip my best weapon would bring up my character’s fists, as my “best weapon” no longer existed.

Intriguing, but limited 

What worked nearly flawlessly was being able to set waypoints with voice commands. I could ask Alexa to mark workbenches, fast travel points, and safe houses, and it would automatically mark what I asked for. As this feature is a couple of menus deep in the actual game, I see how this will save players a lot of time. Less appealing to me was the ability to trigger emotes with Alexa Game Control. I question the praticality of shouting commands to trigger emotes while also talking to friends.

Dani lights a cigarette as zombies attack her from behind in Dead Island 2 key art.

While I was mostly disappointed by how limited voice controls in Dead Island 2 are, I was shocked to learn that Alexa also works normally while you’re playing it. I asked it the time, told it to set a working timer, and could have even ordered pizza while playing if I wanted to. For players that don’t have an Alexa device in their game room, but still want to know these things, Alexa Game Control gives them a new, if highly specific, way to do so.

Although there was fun to be had in testing out Alexa Game Control with Dead Island 2, I came away somewhat underwhelmed by its first implementations. There are a couple of specific situations where these voice commands could be helpful, but I also quickly noticed their limits. I’ll probably turn it on when playing the final game if I want to set a waypoint quickly, forget if I have a specific weapon, or need a reminder of the time. I don’t see this revolutionizing how we play games anytime soon, though.

Dead Island 2 launches for PC, PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X on April 21.

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