2011 was a year for many great titles, but one that quickly stood out amongst the best was Dead Island, the open world action RPG zombie game from Polish developer Techland and published by German studio Deep Silver. First announced at E3 2006, Dead Island was caught up with a lengthy delay before finally coming in September of 2011.
The game takes place on the fictional island of Banoi, a tropical holiday island located off the coast of Papa New Guinea. The plot of the game sees the player take control of one of four protagonists the morning after a high profile party. The characters wake up to find an infection has spread across the island and they need to evacuate. Not long after, they are saved by the local lifeguard John Sinamoi, and from here on out the players help Sinamoi to recover supplies whilst establishing a way to contact help from outside the Island.
Dead Island released to critical success with the series but it was not without a few issues. These mainly focusing on the clunky play and the multitude of boring fetch quests – something which require the player to go to a certain location and pick up an item. There are indeed plenty of them throughout each of the main Dead Island titles, but despite this it didn’t take long for Techland to release more from the successful zombie series. In 2013 came the stand-alone expansion, Dead Island Riptide.
Riptide released to mixed opinions from critics with the game continuing the story from where the first left off, with the protagonists following a similar story through the slightly different fictional island of Palanai. However, with no notable differences from the original, Dead Island Riptide quickly started to receive negative press with many players stating that it did nothing to fix the bug and glitch issues suffered by its predecessor. Others meanwhile went on to say it served as a great extension to an already impressive game.
With both games proving a bit of a success it was no surprise to see that Techland have returned to their bestselling I.P with the Dead Island Definitive Collection. This remastered collection brings together the main games from the series with Dead Island Definitive Edition, Dead Island Riptide Definitive Edition and all the accompanying DLC as well as a new title called Dead Island: Retro Revenge, an 16-bit side scrolling platform beat-em-up made to go alongside the collection.
Upon starting my return to the island of Banoi, my first look had me feeling generally very pleased. One thing I had previously disliked when playing through the original games was that they didn’t quite deliver on the visuals. Despite the tropical island setting proving a delightful view and a nice change to what is often seen in other horror games, the game’s new setting simply looked rather rough and edgy during play, while simple movements, if made too quick, could result in screen tearing. I was therefore pleased to see the game simply looking much smoother, with screen tearing no longer an issue and everything looking like it should have the first time round. The new lighting and shadow effects play along really nicely in the darker parts of the island and after playing the originals to completion many times it is something that really makes the game stand out. It feels much more “alive” this time around…or not depending on how you look at it.
However, something quite striking that I noticed as early as killing my first few zombies – and something which has been evident throughout my playthrough – is that although many of the bugs and glitches that plagued the games upon their original release back in 2011 and 2013 respectively have now been fixed, it seems between the games being ported to the new engine used by Techland and the remastering of the titles, new glitches and bugs have taken the place of the old ones. Within ten minutes of my release into the open world of Banoi I was met with limbs I had sliced off of enemies wobbling around on the floor until they had reached a position they wanted to be in. With this happening nearly immediately, it really started to take all the seriousness out of what was going on. It doesn’t seem to be a rare occurrence either with different limbs jumping around in a frantic fit so much so that it was hard to focus on my objective. As much as I didn’t want to stop and stare at each defeated enemy just to see which body parts would roll about most, I really couldn’t help myself.
Unfortunately, the new issues don’t stop there, another bug I was faced with throughout would see many enemies blood appearing as a silver metallic liquid, causing the enemies to look more like a zombified Silver Surfer rather than a typical blood covered zombie. The biggest issue with this is that most zombies in the game already have body parts missing, or at the very least are covered in blood, so more often than not I would simply see a reflective mess instead of the carefully designed intestines that were supposed to be on show. With one of the major complaints the games received first time round revolving around glitches and bugs, it is really surprising that the Definitive Collection was able to move past testing without any of these issues being ironed out first. If you can look past these issues however then they are by no means bad games and the gameplay is certainly smoother than it originally was. In fact, they generally feel like games that should be on the Xbox One.
Content pieces are the other new addition in the Dead Island Definitive Collection as well and indeed there is no short supply of it. Not only have Techland included all previously released DLC for the games which include an extra short campaign story along with a new playable character and four wave based zombie arenas that give players an extra challenge with progression raising the difficulty bar with each round survived, but there is also a nice collection of bonus weapons and character outfits for those that enjoy cosmetic additions.
The extra content that makes the biggest difference however is the included 16-bit title Dead Island Retro Revenge. The game is styled as a side scrolling beat-em-up in which the player goes in hunt of the protagonists beloved cat – one which is taken away from him in an RV at the start of the game. This is done by striking your way through various enemies until the player manages to reach the end of the stage. Early on this isn’t too challenging as the player is able to swap between lanes on screen to either avoid enemies completely or to jump into the oncoming path of whatever creature is next, all whilst helping boost the score with some well-placed combo moves. Realistically there isn’t too much for anyone to sink their teeth into here, but as an extra with the bundle this title is more than worth a look and offers a slightly different approach to the zombie outbreak than what players are used too.
Overall then and the Dead Island Definitive Collection is a decent revival of Techlands best-selling I.P and a welcome addition to Xbox One. However, with bugs and glitches still noticeable early on it must be said that a longer development cycle would have given great benefit to these games and enabled them to shine properly. Nevertheless, those looking for a great zombie experience once more should need to look no further with smooth and fluid gameplay, an interesting story, and a great twist keeping players wanting more. It provides more than enough to keep players going until the arrival of Dead Island 2.