Scream at the dead with Alexa Game Control in Dead Island 2
Amazon is rolling out its latest game integration with Alexa Game Control support built into Dead Island 2, an upcoming open-world zombie game due in late April. I was able to play with a preview version of the game, using a headset to issue commands and provoke zombies.
Alexa Game Control does not require an Amazon Echo device. Instead, you use a desktop mic, your PC’s built-in mic, or a headset, though you have to link the game and your Amazon account. Setup, via a QR code, was simple and you can configure the voice commands to work as push-to-talk, press once to talk or just leave the mic warm full time. I went with the simple push-to-talk option, which uses the B key by default. Besides PC, Xbox will also be supported.
This is not my first attempt at voice-activated games. I remember being bowled over by the potential of a 2002 game called Star Trek Bridge Commander, which promised players the ability to issue verbal commands to your ship’s crew. After buying a headset and plugging it into my 2002 PC, the novelty quickly wore off. Voice commands worked, but it was much easier to use keyboard commands instead.
In 2023, the situation looks similar. I tried Dead Island 2 with Alexa voice commands and found a few useful instances, but was often held back by the restrictive language needed. By far the best use case was to lure an idle zombie towards you by saying, “Hey zombie!” or something similar out loud. This way I could take out zombies one at a time from a larger group, instead of being surrounded and bitten 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 by voice, but the terminology is clunky. A useful tool instructs the game to automatically select your current best weapon, saving you the hassle of opening a menu and comparing stats. The final game will also have online cooperative multiplayer, and voice commands can be used to trigger generic responses or movements like a dance or a thumbs up.
After several hours I can say that Dead Island 2 looks and plays quite well overall. It’s set in LA, so the island part is a bit of a misnomer, but I enjoyed the satirical take on Hollywood clichés and all the 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 left it on for the entire game. That said, the “Hey zombie!” command was very helpful, and the voice command I used far more than any other.
Dead Island 2 is due April 21 on PC and consoles. It’s the first game to support this new Alexa Game Command initiative, but Amazon says there are “more games to follow.”
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