Chances are, if you’ve never played Dead Island, you’ve probably seen the uber-popular trailer for the game that played in a reverse way back in 2011. If that’s been your only exposure to Dead Island – that’s a shame. Dead Island is a crazy over-the-top zombie survival RPG with lots of content, entertaining missions and fun co-op, to boot. The Definitive Collection not only packs the original Dead Island but its sequel Dead Island: Riptide, too. Neither game is perfect, but if you’re looking for a great time and a lot of bang for your buck – this is a solid pick up.
Dead Island takes place on – you guessed it – an island. After a wild night of partying, your character (which you can choose from four different characters – more on that later) wakes up in the Island’s resort which has been completely overrun by zombies. You eventually come across a small group of survivors in a supply hut and work your way to getting better shelter and to hopefully find a way off the island. Dead Island: Riptide takes place right after the original, so I won’t delve into that story to avoid spoilers.
Dead Island’s combat is frantic in the best way possible. While it has an arcadey feel at its core, by no means does that make combat a walk in the park. Although your weapons may be powerful, getting overwhelmed can kill you quickly. Your character has a stamina bar that is used for sprinting, jumping and swinging your weapon. If you find yourself low on stamina, you can only walk and you’ll barely be able to swing your weapon. Getting hit while having low stamina can knock you down and make you even more vulnerable. Other than swinging around whatever blunt and sharp objects you can find, you can also use your bare hands to punch zombies to death and also kick them for a stun that you can lead into a combo or interrupt a horde from overwhelming you.
Dead Island allows you to pick from four playable characters that have their own special abilities. These abilities don’t affect gameplay too drastically, but they can cater to what kind of combat you prefer. I chose the ex-football player who specializes in throwing weapons (how could I not?). Characters have a rage meter that they can activate to use a special attack. My character busts out some throwing knives and can take down most enemies in less than three hits. Outside of the special attack, you’ll also be able to level up the specialty that your character has, like making your special last longer or have more attack, among other things.
Weapon customization isn’t terribly deep, but it’s still a lot of fun to turn something like a machete into an electric machete with wires and batteries you find on the island. New mods can be found during missions that can add toxic damage over time effects or more weight to a weapon to stagger enemies more.
Speaking of weapons, Dead Island focuses a lot on melee weapons. In fact, I didn’t receive my first gun until I was about 10 hours into the main story. I loved the focus on melee weapons and that it felt like a natural occurrence when I got my gun. I was tasked with taking out some armed bandits that had some hostages, so when I stealth killed one bandit and took his gun, I felt like I earned it and it opened up a long range attack (besides throwing my melee weapons) that I severely lacked. Being forced to use melee and learn the mechanics of fighting zombies up close made the combat much more rewarding.
What ends up biting the Dead Island games in the ass is the dull mission structure that doesn’t vary up the gameplay enough. Usually, you’re either saving some survivors, clearing out zombies or getting supplies from point A to point B. For a couple of hours, this is really fun, But once you get deep into the game and have sunk in over 35 hours, it loses the luster it once had. Doing fetch quest after fetch quest makes the RPG element more into an MMORPG grind. Instead of exploring unique scenarios it feels like the game is going through the motions.
Using vehicles in Dead Island feels off. Not only are the vehicle choices sparse, but the area to drive around is incredibly tight and hard to navigate through. Driving feels floaty and the first person view certainly makes precise driving a nuisance. Driving certainly makes getting around the island faster – but expect to get frustrated when you slightly clip another stationary car or get stuck over a little bump.
The Definitive Collection also includes a new game called Dead Island: Retro Revenge. It’s your basic 2D side scroller beat ‘em up that’s a fun little addition but won’t warrant a purchase for Dead Island fans looking for something worthwhile.
The original Dead Island wasn’t a pretty game back in 2011, Riptide wasn’t in 2013, either, and the Definitive Collection isn’t a pretty game now. Even with the minor upgrade that’s been done to the visuals, it’s still one of the least impressive looking remaster/definitive/whatever the next thing we call it’s around. Environments are fine, but character models are dreadfully outdated even when considering this is a five-year-old game, now. There’s a lot of texture pop in that rears its ugly head, though the game has minimal framerate drops.
Dead Island and Riptide are both fun, yet flawed games. The flaws are still there in this collection, but there’s a lot of good content to digest that helps distract from the bad. 40 bucks for two solid games is a steal, and anyone looking to bash in some zombie skulls won’t regret picking this up.
This review is based on a review copy of the PlayStation 4 version of Dead Island: Definitive Collection by Techland. Review copy provided by Deep Silver.
- Enjoyable combat
- Insane amount of content for $40
- Visuals were outdated then - still outdated now
- Repetitive structure