Dead Island Definitive Edition is a perfect example of how bribery can turn a disinterested customer into a willing participant. Given my massive backlog of games to play and write about, I would normally have no interest in buying Dead Island again. On the other hand, owning both games on Steam meant bringing the price down to a measly $3 apiece. That I can get behind.
It’s been five years since Dead Island first emerged on PC and consoles, and I find it hard to believe that the gaming community has been clamoring for an HD remake. Dead Island and Riptide were a decent product that most of us played and moved on from, spending a bit of time in Escape From Dead Island and wholly ignoring the dumpster fire that was the Dead Island MOBA.
At this stage, remaking the original two games is likely just to satiate the base’s hunger while we wait for the perpetually delayed Dead Island 2.
If you want to sum up Dead Island in one sentence, imagine Borderlands and Far Cry had a love child. You play as one of several characters, each with their own weapon specialty, as they try to survive a zombie apocalypse on a tropical island. You’ll find and upgrade weapons, take missions, earn experience, and level up to put points into a skill tree.
If you like your games unfairly difficult, Dead Island is right up your alley. No matter how much you level up in Dead Island, your character always feels underpowered and ill-equipped. Weapons have the shelf life of a fruit fly, breaking constantly even after fully upgrading them and investing in perks that extend durability. Stamina, no matter how far you level up, is constantly an issue and will result in countless frustrating moments of being knocked to the ground and sitting through the painful process of waiting to stand back up.
The first person nature of Dead Island also plays poorly as a game that requires depth perception in order to properly survive. That, coupled with the fact that the game has clear issues with hit detection, can make it impossible to tell if you’re standing too far away to kick a zombie or if they are simply walking through your foot, because poor programming makes both an equal culprit.
Despite these complaints, Dead Island has its moments of greatness. The zombies themselves are still some of the best in the industry, disgusting creatures with various chunks of flesh ripped out of their bodies, exposing all sorts of organs. The shrieks that some of the zombies emit can be downright terrifying.
There is also a lot of humor to pull from Dead Island, whether intentional or not. Enemies knocked to the ground have a tendency to break limbs, and often their own necks, dying instantly and in rather silly fashion. In one moment, I threw my machete which embedded itself in the head of an approaching zombie. The zombie awkwardly fell, breaking his arm and killing him instantly.
The characters themselves are one-liner spewing robots, inconsiderate of their surroundings. In one mission, a man virtually on his death bed asked me to find and take care of his brother, a diabetic who desperately needed insulin. As I hit the “accept” button, Sam let out a loud and enthusiastic “well shit, why not?”
Weapons, when they are functioning as intended, are immensely satisfying. Sharp weapons have the ability to chop off limbs/decapitate while blunt weapons can break limbs. You’ll find blueprints and rare weapon drops that craft and wield melee weapons that can inflict elemental damage on zombies.
The difficulty hits the underdog gene that many gamers will identify, when the perceived lack of fairness is what motivates you to keep going, rather than to call your investment a loss and go back to whatever you were playing before.
Dead Island does suffer from death spiral, with every death siphoning a fair amount of money from your coffers. Considering how expensive everything in the game is, including the money sink to constantly repair your best weapons, a bad play session coupled with some unfair deaths is all it takes to drain both your in-game wallet and your desire to keep playing.
Ultimate, Dead Island Definitive Edition is a positive if mediocre experience. With all of its flaws, there is still a fair amount of fun to be had and I do not regret the $3 that I dropped on both titles. Leveling is ancillary to the zombie killing and trash weapons are constantly dropping to supplant the other items you use once your one or two decent items need to be repaired.
I would have liked to see more of Dead Island’s technical issues fixed in the remake, problems that feel like they could have been cleared in the original release with a couple more months of development. Several years later, the notion that Deep Silver worked on and re-released both titles without addressing those flaws is disappointing to say the least.
If you own Dead Island and Riptide on Steam, you have until August 1st to pick up the definitive editions of both titles for $3 apiece.
Rating: C – Mediocre