Whilst the original releases of both Dead Island, and its pseudo expansion/sequel, Dead Island Riptide were both addictively fun games, they weren’t without their problems. An excellent, if not slightly ‘unrepresentative’ initial trailer for the game ensured strong sales and led to quite the devout following it received. Unfortunately however, technical issues did hold Dead Island back; leading to a rather split opinion on the game depending on whether you could look past its foibles. Let’s hope the newly released, re-mastered version helps get us into the swing of things.
If you’ve never played the originals, they act as a precursor to the excellent Dying Light, and therefore share many key features. Played in first person, Dead Island, and Riptide, focuses heavily on melee combat with the hordes of shambling undead. You’ll have stamina, weapon durability and a myriad of zombie archetypes to contend with on your quest to leave the, once beautiful, island of Banoi. The main narrative was never its real strong point, nor was really anything to do with the dialogue and script either, but that’s beside the point. The real draw comes with its visceral, heavy combat style.
Five years on, and it’s still brutally satisfying to lop limbs off, break and smash appendages and watch zombies jiggle and dance to the tune of your electrified machete. The main joys of the game still revolve around modding your weapons, looting the environment and levelling up your characters. With this joy however, comes a heavy remembrance of that it’s an old game. There’s no way to re-spec your characters skill tree, so if you make a mistake or choose something you come to regret, then you’re stuck with it. This is of course made especially worse when knowing that, for some reason, you can’t acquire all of the skills. Durability on a game is rarely a fun mechanic to stomach; however it fares better here than on Dying Light. You can repair your favourite weapons as many times as you want with it only ever costing money, and as such, comes down to more of an inconvenience than anything.
If it’s content you’re after, then the Definitive Collection almost certainly has you covered, despite the baffling choice to only include the first Dead Island (around 8Gb) on the disc itself, with the rest having to be downloaded. Either way, it comes with all the original DLC, such as the Ryder White campaign, the Bloodbath Arena and the hilarious ‘One Punch’ mode. There’s plenty to see and do, especially considering you could easily get over 20 hours out of each of the two main games. Also included is Dead Island: Retro Revenge, a side scrolling, 16-bit style beat ‘em up with less in common than Streets of Rage, and more with an endless runner/rhythm game. Your Jack Black sound-alike can switch between three lanes, utilising combos and different attacks depending on the upcoming enemy types. It’s a fun distraction with its allure of leaderboards and high scores, but it will invariably get repetitive after a while.
Whilst both the originals ran at a less than savoury frame rate, the remastered versions both hold a steady 30fps. A consistent frame rate is of course always welcome, but if I’m honest, I can’t see the PS4 struggling to handle 60fps, especially on a last gen game. Despite the UI, weapon wheel and the menus showing their age, the locales and environment have been spruced up with new lighting, shadows, textures and the engine from Dying Light. Characters, zombies and NPC’s haven’t progressed at the same rate however. Lip synching and facial movements won’t exactly be giving L.A. Noire a run for its money, nor will the aged animations of the playable characters. Hands don’t fully grasp ladders, you’ll revolve on the spot without moving your legs, and the sharp weapon specialist Xian Mei, might as well use her dagger shaped shoes over a kukri.
Thankfully, the truly game breaking bugs, such as the infamous auto-save disaster have been dealt with, yet there are still issues from the original’s that haven’t been seen too, for example being able to clip through certain doorways and generally getting out of the playable bounds.
I loved Dead Island when it first came out, I thoroughly enjoyed Riptide too. Playing through them both again on the PS4 with a couple of friends was not only fantastic fun, but a great nostalgia trip too. It’s a shame that some of the aspects I didn’t enjoy from the past, still unfortunately rear their heads today. The slightly wonky networking issues combined with not being able to join a friend that’s further through the plot than you, can feel like another unnecessary barrier; in the end, I found it easier, and quicker to join through the PS4’s party system.
In the end, Dead Island’s Definitive Collection is still the same fantastically addictive blast it used to be. It runs at a higher resolution, sticks to a stable frame rate and looks a lot better than it once did too, especially so with Riptide. Some things that might’ve irked you before, unfortunately still remain however, so if you weren’t a fan five years ago, then this collection is unlikely to change your mind. Still, it’s a great excuse to dust off your kanabo, grab some friends, and have a little look for Anne’s beloved teddy bear.