Zombies are gaming’s new Nazis, and have been for quite some time. They’re unsettling, scary, gory and adaptable, and can be fit into just about any post-apocalyptic or outbreak gone bad storyline. Let’s be honest, though: It’s how fun they are to kill that we like so much about them. After all, we’ve done just about everything imaginable to them, including breaking their decaying bones, chopping them into bits, setting them on fire, riddling their corpses with bullets and hitting golf balls at them.
I’ll admit it: I’m a zombie-loving gamer, and a horror movie fan to boot. I love a great tale featuring the walking dead, and thoroughly enjoy facing off against them in many different video games, from Left 4 Dead to Dead Rising to Fallout. Also falling into that group is Dead Island and its expansion, Dead Island: Riptide — two technically middling games that are simply fun to play in a mindless sort of way. They’re not for everyone, but they are for me, and that’s why the news of the Dead Island: Definitive Collection excited me so much.
If you’re new to the fold, what you need to know is that these two mainline Dead Island titles are essentially ‘Fallout light,’ with zombies instead of mutants and radiated deformities. Their settings are rather unique, too, as the games’ outbreaks take place on exotic tropical islands. The first — that being Banoi — actually housed a very popular tourist resort, before the shit hit the fan and all of the vacationers turned into brain-eating corpses.
Of course, as with any post-apocalyptic RPG, there are good guys and bad guys, including your chosen character and the other seemingly immune survivors who are also available for usage. This is, after all, a four-player co-operative RPG at heart.
The original Dead Island is all about the initial outbreak, and practically begins right when things go south. What starts with confusion leads into more of a good-versus-evil plot, but that’s to be expected. Things then shift to a new island for the lengthy expansion that is Dead Island: Riptide, which begins with the immune protagonists attempting to escape from Banoi on board a military vessel.
Of course, Dead Island: Definitive Collection isn’t something you’ll buy for an Oscar-worthy story, let alone a very memorable plot. The reason it exists is gory fun, as though both Dead Island and Dead Island: Riptide were met with mixed reception, they sold relatively well because they were enjoyable to play. Sure, some hated them, and those people are entitled to their opinion, as well as their belief that such a remaster project needn’t exist. However, for those of us who find these games fun, it’s nice to be able to go back to them on newer hardware.
As someone who’s loved Fallout and other Western RPGs for quite some time, Dead Island ticks a lot of boxes for me. It’s large, open, full of quests and isn’t shy when it comes to level-ups and perks. I get a high from killing a bunch of zombies with blunt or edged weapons, seeing my experience bar grow, then watching as it all leads to a level-up. It’s one of my favourite things in gaming and this series definitely delivers it in spades.
Of course, even though I consider myself to be a fan of these games, I would never call them perfect. They’re cheesy, have bad voice acting and questionable writing, and are far from flawless on a technical level. Hell, Dead Island opens with a rap concert featuring one of its main characters (Sam B., the blunt weapons specialist whom I tend to choose) and his one-hit wonder song, “Who Do You Voodoo, Bitch?” I do, however, like that they give you the option of choosing your character based on their (blunt, edged, ranged, etc.) specialties, and that they’re simple, if not mindless, fun.
It also needs to be said that, with the budget-priced Dead Island: Definitive Collection, you’ll get quite a bit of content for your money. Not only are the two base games included, but so is all of their applicable DLC, including the middling Ryder White DLC campaign, as well as the fan favourite power fists mod. On top of that, there’s an all-new, digital game called Dead Island: Retro Revenge, which is an endless runner that features a cat-loving Jack Black clone.
The box’s bullet points promise things like higher quality textures, photorealistic lighting systems, anti-aliasing and physically-based shading, alongside other improvements like an updated user interface. Those changes all seem to be in place, and do make the games look noticeably better; however, issues like an overuse of blur, too much bloom lighting and strange visual hiccups still persist. Also, given that these titles were never the cream of the visual crop to begin with, one shouldn’t go in expecting something jaw dropping. They did a pretty good job with the remastering process, but this is still a somewhat dated looking affair which has its limitations.
Truth be told, I don’t remember the menu system being as ugly as it is, but it’s almost to the point of being hideous. The text is hard to read — even on a large HD screen — and the colours are putrid looking. That’s on top of it being clunky, like the whole inventory system and its related weapon wheel happen to be. Granted, like other aspects of these experiences, this is partially just a case of the UI showing its age.
At the end of the day, whether or not this set is worth purchasing is incredibly subjective. More-so than the average game, in fact, because these titles were so divisive at launch. If you’re looking for something fun and can live with middling production values and gameplay that doesn’t strive to be anything more than it is, then Dead Island: Definitive Collection is definitely worth checking out. However, if you’ve played these games before and didn’t fall in love the first time, this new release isn’t going to change your mind.
This review is based on the PS4 version of the game, which we were provided with.
Dead Island: Definitive Collection presents a lot of fun, albeit dated and repetitive gameplay for an affordable price. As a remaster, it's not perfect, but that's almost part of these games' charm.