Punching, kicking, striking and stabbing zombies on an island paradise is an attractive concept, and even with Techland refining this experience for Dying Light, their original outing with Dead Island still holds some appeal. However, it’s still a victim of bugs and other issues, making it less enticing than it could be.
The island itself is the most appealing part of Dead Island, and it looks great with its Definitive Collection polish. The increased anti-aliasing has smoothed out the majority of the jagged edges, meanwhile the new lighting engine and vibrant colour pallet makes everything looks stunningly bright, wet, decayed and shiny. It’s a great looking title on the face of it. Unfortunately, character models are less convincing. Whilst the zombies look menacing and gruesome, the NPCs look more detailed but still wooden and emotionless. Their lack of lip sync certainly doesn’t help, with characters flapping their mouths when they speak to no rhythm or accuracy. Furthermore, a new motion blur effect completely pulls you out of the experience.
Fortunately the majority of Dead Island is spent exploring the island and engaging zombies in melee combat, and this still proves thoroughly entertaining. Finding health pickups to keep you going and gathering materials to craft make-shift weapons, or using whatever you happen to find lying around as an immediate weapon, offers a satisfying feeling of desperation, exploration and varied combat. Weapons will break with relative ease, forcing you to use whatever you can find in order to survive, and this encourages you to experiment with what you pick up, preventing the combat from ever feeling stale.
Additionally, the quests on offer are also varied and interesting. The main missions steer you towards ensuring the survival of you and the uninfected denizens of the island, pointing you towards more survivors that need rescuing, provisions that need securing, and locations that need to be made safe. The side missions vary wildly, from emotional journeys where an NPC will ask you to put their infected family out of their misery, to requests for you to find personal items. Moreover, you can approach these missions at your own pace, concentrating on side missions over the main ones, or ignoring all of it to explore the island yourself. It’s terrifically open once the prologue is over and it’s easy to get caught up in your own emergent story.
Unfortunately, as enjoyable as the core experience can be, and as lovely as the new visuals are, old issues are still present under the surface. Bugs that cause zombies to float in the air or fall through the ground are fairly frequent, as are moments where you get stuck in doorways and geometry. The vehicles are still unresponsive and the first-person platforming is clumsy. It simply hasn’t received the gameplay tweaks it really needed.
Riptide, Dead Island’s standalone expansion, is also included with the Definitive Collection, adding a few new perks and weapons, but ultimately offering more of the same in a different but far too similar environment. Bringing your Dead Island character over to Riptide is now easier than ever, but the expansion’s re-tread of the original’s experience makes it feel rather tedious. The Definitive Collection also includes Dead Island Retro Revenge, however, it’s currently locked until August.
Being able to play cooperatively with up to 3 additional players is still a great feature, and one that helps elevate any of the issues present. Here is certainly where Dead Island shines, and it’s supremely enjoyable slaying zombies and completing missions as a crew as opposed to alone.
Dead Island Definitive Collection provides a great looking zombie slaying title, but one with many of the same flaws of the original. Engaging zombies in melee combat is still entertaining and the bursts of adrenaline you get when zombies attack from all angles and you barely have a chance to ready your weapon is frighteningly fun. However, Dying Light does it all better, making this a difficult recommendation overall.
Thanks to Xbox and Deep Silver for supporting TiX