The original Dead Island game released back on Xbox 360 in 2011 and was developed by Techland and published by Deep Silver. Dead Island and the sequel, Dead Island Riptide, are now available in a remastered version for Xbox One, PS4 and PC in the Dead Island Definitive Collection. This collection also contains an extra side scrolling beat ‘em up game called Dead Island Retro Revenge. The remastered games can be purchased separately from the online store but you only get Dead Island Retro Revenge if you buy the complete bundle.
This is the first review of the three games included in this package and I will start with the original game in the franchise. I have fond memories playing the original Dead Island game despite mixed reviews and some technical issues. While the gameplay has stayed the same as always the remaster has implemented some changes to the visuals and graphical quality of the game. The game is now rendered in 1080p and has various other improved visuals like lighting, higher quality textures, physically based shading, improved models and geometry assets and motion blur effects. The first thing you will notice about this remaster is how much better it looks compared to the original. It’s not quite as impressive as other current gen open world games but it has certainly improved.
Dead Island is a role-playing survival horror game, full of fast paced action and nerve shredding terror around every corner (or palm tree). The game takes place on the island of
Banoi, which was once a beautiful tropical paradise, that has now been infested with zombies. The four main characters in the game are a mixed bunch to say the least and I actually enjoyed the characters despite them feeling slightly cheesy, as it adds to the tone and ridiculous atmosphere of the game. You have a rapper known as Sam B, hotel receptionist and spy for the Chinese government Xian Mei, ex football-star Logan Carter, and ex police officer Purna.
The game was originally critisized for its lack of story and technical issues, but I actually think that the setting, characters and world is enough to create an entertaining experience. Sure a story with more structure or depth would have gone a long way but the unadulterated and quite frankly brutal combat makes up for it. At the time it very much felt like a game that people either loved or hated and I personally lent more on the positive side. I can see how this game inspired games like Dying Light, which has now gone on to be a massive success.
The main focus in Dead Island is the exploration, character progression and the RPG style upgrades systems. Sure the game has its issues but the nerve shredding tension and attention to detail makes it a fun world to explore. Exploring the island can be tricky, especially when the GPS is a tad unreliable at times, sending you in circles, but for the most part I like exploring the world around me. I also want to mention how simple and effective the opening to the game is. You basically wake up in the hotel you have been staying at on the island of Banoi, where you stumble out to find that things aren’t right. Abandoned suitcases are sprawled open in hallways, windows are smashed and blood is splashed and smeared across walls and doors. The opening really reminded me of the start of the film 28 Days Later, but instead of being set in London it takes place on a tropical island. You then hear a mysterious voice on a distant radio call talking about a way to escape. It then becomes your primary goal to find out where he is located and somehow reach him, without being pulled apart by the hordes of terrifying zombies patrolling the island.
The open world here was impressive the first time I played and looks even better now. The game is played from a first person perspective and you can run and use weapons to smash your way through crowds of zombies. Each character you can play as have their own skill tree and abilities known as “Fury”. Like most RPG style games, you slowly improve and upgrade your character by completing missions and killing zombies. The main goal is to become strong enough so that you can venture deeper into the island, find other survivors and find a way to escape.
The way missions work in Dead Island is simple, which I enjoyed as it didn’t bog the gameplay down. Like most RPG games, even games like The Witcher 3, these missions come down to doing things like gathering items, travelling to certain locations, or escorting a NPC to safety. These missions are reasonably fun and give good reason to explore other parts of the world and the world is so good-looking that you will want to explore. The game looks realistic and has a serious setting but I liked the tongue in cheek moments scattered throughout, even if some of the voice acting and characters are awful at times.
Another massive aspect to the game is scrounging for items, money and loot. You can find all sorts of weapons littered throughout the world, like oars, bats, crowbars and other melee weapons that can be used to batter enemies. What I love about the weapons in this game is the ability to change their properties and add damage by introducing new elements like nails in a bat or electrified knives. You upgrade and modify weapons at the work benches found in the world and you need the required blueprints, parts and money to do so. I love how you have to scavenge for bits and pieces in trash cans and other places as it adds to the sense that things are truly desperate. Weapons do weaken as you use them, so you will find you are constantly having to switch weapons. This works well and also gives you a reason to try out different items.
The zombie enemies are varied and designed well, which makes killing them even more satisfying. The combat feels brutal and fast paced and I always felt like I was mere moments away from meeting my fate. It always felt like a desperate sprint from one area of safety to another whilst splattering the world with blood as I did so.
Overall Dead Island is a fun game that still plays reasonably well and with this remastered version it looks even better. The combat and looting in the game is very satisfying and I really enjoyed exploring the island and smashing a path through hundreds of zombies. I can see how people have critisized the plot but I actually like the unsettling and mysterious tone of the game. It’s a game that’s meant to be about uncertainty, which allows the fear to seep in. This is certainly not a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination but I love a game with diversity in weapons, a gorgeous world to explore and plenty of loot to collect. There’s tonnes to do and see in this game and its only the first. If you’re looking for a game that you can sink plenty of hours into, that looks better than ever and satisfying gameplay, then its worth checking out. That being said if you weren’t a fan of the gameplay the first time around nothing has changed on that side of things.
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