Dead Island Definitive Collection Review
Great value- two games for the price of one
Retro Revenge is a nice bonus
Noticeable graphical improvement
Extensive weapon mod system is still one of the best
Dead Island formula still works
Frame rate issues
Some assets are not graphically upgraded
Riptide is more of the same
Bugs and glitches still largely present
Platform(s) available: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Platform reviewed: PS4
Back in 2011 the internet was driven crazy by a (now famous) teaser for a brand new zombie game; Dead Island. This teaser was emotional, dark and stuck in the minds of everyone who watched it, a stark contrast to the game itself, which involved zombie body parts flying in all direction. In a time where zombie games hadn’t been done to death and with such a profound trailer, many people expected Dead Island to be the definitive zombie experience. Whilst it didn’t make the impact that many hoped for, the game was certainly popular enough to spawn a franchise. Now, five years later, Deep Silver has released a 1080p remaster of the first two games in the series Dead Island and Dead Island Riptide, bundled with a new ‘retro’ minigame; Retro Revenge. Is this collection the best way to play one of the sunniest zombie killing franchises?
The original Dead Island is clearly the focus of the collection, with the most footage of it being used in the advertising. This is understandable considering the attention that it originally received compared to the less popular Riptide. The most striking difference in the whole collection is the graphical upgrade that has been applied to both titles. Every HD remaster has this to varying degrees of success but Dead Island Definitive Collection is truly impressive in this regard. The character models are more detailed than before, the sea shimmers against the sun and the palm trees sway in the wind realistically. Graphically, Dead Island was never breathtaking but this remaster generally makes everything look a lot better, although some models have ended up looking a little plastic-y. One of the more unique aspects of Dead Island is the fact that it takes place in a tropical location; something that this new look gives credit to greatly. The whole atmosphere of Dead Island is better than it ever has been and this alone makes it worth a revisit. Despite the graphical upgrades, frame rate problems are still present in the console versions. Most remasters tend to run at 60 frames per second but Dead Island usually lumbers around at 30, sometimes even less when the action is increasing and this is present across both Dead Island and Dead Island Riptide. Unfortunately, this does sully the presentation as it makes the whole game feel very slow in comparison to newer titles, a problem that always plagued Dead Island. Bugs and glitches are also present in both titles, although this isn’t surprising considering that they were present in the original releases.
Everything else about Dead Island is more or less the same as you remember it. The gameplay hasn’t been changed in the transition to 1080p with all of the core elements still present. You’ll still be exploring the island resort, the sewers and the jungle in your travels and you’ll still be encountering a wide variety of zombies in each locale. One of the core reasons to keep playing Dead Island is the search for better weapons and equipment, something which is captured greatly in the first entry. The only bad part of these weapons is that they can feel somewhat samey, especially when considering the variety of other zombie games like Dead Rising, not helped by the fact that they degrade with each hit. This often makes it feel like you need to hold off on using your best weapons as the cost of repairing them is often too high, preventing players from truly experimenting with their arsenal. Another key aspect to these weapons is the ability to mod and upgrade them with different elements and parts. This is where Dead Island’s weapons shine, with a normal machete having the ability to inflict fire damage or zap zombies with electrical power. The robust system is more advanced than most games as every weapon has more than one mod that can be applied to it.
Surprisingly, Dead Island also has light RPG features, allowing each character you choose to earn new skills and abilities. This ties in to the fact that each character is more proficient in one area than others. For example, Sam B is the best choice for blunt weapons whilst Purna excels in gun combat. Allowing the player to choose their character is good on paper but means that some have a clear disadvantage from the start. Sam B will be laughing all the way to the bank with the abundance of melee weapons present at the start, whilst Purna will only ever hit her stride towards the end of the game. The lack of guns is also quite unique for a zombie game, despite the large number of human enemies that carry them it’s very rare that you’ll have the ammo to use these guns. The emphasis on melee weapons is one of Dead Island’s strengths as it heavily increases the difficulty of the game, especially when even more zombie types are introduced as the game goes on. It means that guns are treated as special, which definitely fits into the zombie apocalypse.
Dead Island Riptide is the 2013 successor to Dead Island and whilst it didn’t break much new ground, it was still considered good enough to include on the collection and receive its own graphical upgrade. Much like the original Dead Island, this is the strength of each game, with the graphics genuinely being quite impressive, especially with the focus on stormy weather in this title making a good juxtaposition to the original. Unfortunately, Dead Island Riptide is definitely the lesser of the two games, despite the things that it introduces it ends up feeling like too much of the same thing. A new character named John is now playable, focusing on hand to hand combat, but he feels like a lesser Sam B and doesn’t have anything that makes him feel truly unique. Boats are also introduced but feel slow and end up restricting how the player gets around the world. The same Dead Island formula still rings true here and ended up hooking me till the finish line but it definitely makes a less profound impact on the player. The final feature of the package is a ‘retro’ auto runner game called Dead Island Retro Revenge. Despite being a smaller budget game, it still has its enjoyable moments and is surprisingly addictive for what it is despite the repetition, but definitely shouldn’t be the reason that you pick this collection up.
The strength of Dead Island comes from the atmosphere, the tropical resort locale and the focus on melee combat and weapon mods. Combined with co-op and a levelling system that feels like you always have something to work towards and the game is definitely a lot of fun for zombie fans. Riptide is generally more of the same and can wear thin if playing in succession of the first but still has the general enjoyment of killing zombies, despite feeling too similar to be truly considered a sequel. Both games suffer from technical hiccups, with the worst being an unsteady frame rate but the overall graphical upgrade is still impressive to say the least. Retro Revenge isn’t anything special but can be good, if repetitive, fun. This collection is a fantastic deal for fans of the franchise and those looking to get into it for the first time, ensuring hours upon hours of zombie killing mayhem with friends. Has it toppled Dying Light for the best first person zombie slaying game? Not really; but it has charm that is entirely its own.