When I was handed a copy of Dead Island: Definitive Edition for the PlayStation 4, I had no idea what to expect. To be quite frank, I had no clue what the game was about, it’s history, and what I would get on this remastered version. I guess that it was just one of those games that slipped by me at the time it came out. However, I am glad that I got a chance to play it because I had a great deal of fun. It wasn’t what I expected. I was thinking it would be the typical zombie-slasher game. Instead, I got a surprisingly fun, open-world Far Cry-like game. There were some gameplay issues, but overall, I would recommend Dead Island: Definitive Edition as a great edition to anyone’s the FPS/open-world/zombie collection.
Dead Island is an open-world survival horror RPG that was originally released in 2011. It was developed by Techland (Polish developer who also did Dying Light), published by Deep Silver, and distributed by Square Enix for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. It got fairly positive reviews when it came out, though there were some negative marks against it, including game glitches. The game was remastered for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One May of this year. There is a sequel “Dead Island 2” that is coming out soon, but there is no release date as of yet. I did not ever get a chance to play the original release of the game, so keep that in mind as I discuss the Definitive Edition.
The premise of the game is that you are one of four protagonist characters (each with their own special abilities and personalities) on the resort island of Banoi (modeled after an island near Papua New Guinea). I happened to play as Xian Mei. After a night of partying, your character wakes up to find that much of the resort has been turned into zombie-like creatures. Your character, though, is immune. You are guided by a mysterious voice over intercoms and whatnot (think BioShock). After meeting up with groups of survivors, you realize that you can’t stay on the island forever and a plan is hatched to leave.
It’s a pretty straight-forward story plot. It’s nothing super special, but I did like the fact that you didn’t have to worry about zombie bites turning you like you would in say, The Last of Us (more on this later). The crown jewel of the game is the setting and the contrast between the gorgeous island scenery and the undead and gore all over the place. I wasn’t expecting such a large map to play around in when I initially started the game. I also enjoyed the pacing and progression of the story as well as some of the side missions, which some of them are actually pretty darned funny.
The gameplay itself is a little disappointing for a standard first-person shooter. You are definitely playing it for the open-world and not a seamless gameplay experience. Jumping, exploring, and combat are all a little stiff with the controllers. I got used to it after a while, but it definitely is not one of my favorite gameplay experiences. Overall, it felt like a Far Cry game with lots of missions, weapons, and vehicles. It’s an action RPG with three skill trees to add points to: Fury, Combat, and Survival. XP is earned through completing missions and killing zombies, and you get points toward the skill try for each level earned. It’s very standard fair for an action RPG.
Dead Island really shines with its reliance on heavy melee combat and its weapon systems. The melee-focused fighting is actually pretty fun. I liked that fact that I didn’t have to worry about being bitten (unlike other zombie games) because my character is immune. I was able to just focus on kicking-butt and killing zombies. The particular style of zombies that Dead Island have are more of the running kind than the slow creepers, so one of my favorite things to do in the game was throw knives at zombies running toward me and watch them splatter.
Weapons degrade after use, so it is vitally important to keep an eye on them and repair or replace as needed, although the higher level of the weapon, the slower it is to degrade. If a weapon degrades too much, it becomes ineffective and will eventually completely fall apart if you try to keep using it. The crafting system was pretty cool, as you can collect items and schematics and use them to build weapons. Weapons can also be modded as well. Though melee weapons are highlighted, there are guns as well.
The graphics are improved from the original release, and they look fairly decent on this current generation of consoles. The tropical scenery is beautiful and a delight to romp around in for a while. Obviously, it is a remastered game from 2011, so there is only so much that can be done. However, I found that it was quite enjoyable on the PlayStation 4.
Overall, I really enjoyed playing Dead Island: Definitive Edition. There are, of course, some things that I have dinged it on, but the pros really outweigh the cons with this one. I would have never picked up this game (mostly due to the title; it sounds a bit silly), but I’m glad that I did. It’s a solid game that I would recommend to anyone looking for a fun, open world FPS.