Review: Dead Island: Definitive Collection (PS4)

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Title: Dead Island: Definitive Collection
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (14.59 GB)
Release Date: May 31, 2016
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Techland
Original MSRP: $39.99 (US), €39.99 (EU), £29.99 (UK) – Or $19.99/£14.99 each
ESRB Rating: M
Dead Island: Definitive Collection is also available on Xbox One and PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Techland captivated many a gamer with their memorable trailer for Dead Island. The game came close to expectations but its online mode and engine struggled on the PlayStation 3 as screen tearing and pop-in hampered an otherwise enjoyable experience.

The developers have rebuilt the main game, Dead Island and its expansion, Riptide in a new engine and have apparently given it a significant performance and graphical overhaul.

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Gameplay:
None of the story or gameplay elements has changed. Scavenging for weapons and money is still present. The many missions and side quests are still here, and yet it all plays much better now, mostly due to the visual improvements.

It is even noticeable in the introductory cutscene where you see through the eyes of a drunken letch who is eventually escorted to their room after some commotion on the dance floor. You catch glimpses of the carnage beginning to unfold in the idyllic holiday resort of Banoi whilst in your drunken stupor.

After waking in your room, things have quickly gone from bad to worse and the thumping hangover is the least of your problems. The zombie outbreak is in full swing and with the very limited help of a few survivors you try to make your way off the island.

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Controls are still the same but feel slightly more responsive now, that could be due to the DualShock 4. Sadly, there are no faster ways of picking up items and you will spend a significant time doing just that. It wouldn’t have been hard – says the reviewer – to implement an automatic pickup of the items scattered around the island.

Building up the skill tree and constructing devastating weapons is just as fun as it always was. Make sure to check their durability levels so you don’t end up with a useless weapon halfway through an onslaught of the undead.

… a nice addition to mess around with …
I opted for one of the female characters called Xian Mei, a bladed weapons expert who turns out to be the hardest character to use thanks to her extremely low health. So far I seem to be coping well enough, throwing most of the blades at the zombies even before they are close enough to attack is usually enough to kill them in one hit.

I keep forgetting to make use of Xian’s frenzy attack, even though her meter fills up quicker than the other characters. Her frenzied skill uses a shiv to dispatch as many zombies as possible before the anger dissipates.

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One of the unofficial mods made it into this game. One Punch Mode is just that, your fists are ridiculously powerful and even deal out fire and electric strikes too. It’s a nice addition to mess around with once the main experience is over.

Like the first game, Dead Island: Riptide has also seen the same improvements and plays better because of it. I didn’t like the addition of the base defence part of the game when it released. It wasn’t that its implementation was bad, I just didn’t find it fun.

… a welcome part of the collection …
You can import your character from Dead Island: Definitive Edition into Riptide and continue their progress, but don’t expect to have an overpowered zombie killing machine as the undead level up too. As you might have guessed you didn’t get that happy ending you had been hoping for.

Still, the Riptide installment is a welcome part of the collection and worth playing. It would have been nice to see a few of the things the developer has learnt since these games first came out appear in this collection, but we can’t have everything can we.

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Dead Island: Retro Revenge is a nice little free game that’s included if you got the Collection. At first glance, it seems like a simple infinite runner type game but after the first go you will realise it has more depth and can be very addictive. You have a high, middle, low, and rear attack as well as two different specials.

Certain zombies are immune to one or two particular strikes so knowing your enemy is key to success. One such opponent has his chest exposed, the innards become a tangled mess that a mid attack gets caught up in. A few enemies are vulnerable to a button combo that causes their head to pop off, which in turn sends it hurtling across the screen taking out any zombies in its path.

… a classic old school arcade look …
You can perform perfect hits by lining up the zombie with a small circle in front of your player. Each perfect builds up the multiplier and awards larger scores. You can return to any completed level and go for better scores in the hope to climb the worldwide or friend’s leaderboards.

It has a classic old school arcade look to it, even down to the optional curved CRT screen and scan lines. It also retains the familiar gore from Dead Island, with blood and guts often coating the streets and 80s themed shop windows. Speaking of visuals, this sounds like a good time to mention the improvements to the proper Dead Island games.

Visuals:
If you had played or seen the original games then you will notice a difference. The graphics look a lot nicer now. The Vaseline smeared look to the originals has been wiped away and the lighting is much better. Shadows feel more natural too and for the most part, look better.

There is a marked improvement to the NPC’s as well. And while they don’t quite reach the quality of today’s standards, the difference is noticeable. I think there are a few comparison videos and screens floating around the internet.

Due to the latest iteration of the Chrome Engine, the game’s models and objects act in a more realistic way, although severed limbs sometimes look and sound like a fish out of water. It was only after investigating the noise, that I saw an arm slapping and rolling around on the ground.

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Audio:
There isn’t much in the way of music as you traverse the tropical island. Aside from the typical sounds that you would associate with the setting, oh and of course, a ton of zombie screams, grunts, and groans. What is there is good and apart from the odd voice actor, most of the speech is pleasant enough.

Online/Multiplayer:
You can have up to three people join you in an online cooperative mode. All you have to do is pick either a public, friends, or invite only game type before loading a new or current game. In the older versions, I found it to be a troublesome endeavour to join a game and more often than not, gave up trying.

… the best way to play these titles …
I was very happy to find the entire process much easier and quicker now with hardly any issues. One such game with Stoffinator, had zero issues and only two small instances of his character teleporting.

This is where the two games excel, playing with friends. Some of the humdrum quests become an unintentionally humorous jaunt in a gruesome world. Covering one another’s back as they tighten a valve or rummage through a container is what it’s all about.

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Conclusion:
The Dead Island: Definitive Collection is a difficult game to score. There have been many improvements to the look and stability of the games. Gone are the screen tearing issues and the Vaseline smeared lens. The online problems that plagued the originals seem to have been sorted.

What it boils down to is this: the Definitive Collection is just that, the best way to play these titles and you get a fun little diversion with the retro arcade game. Some of the tedium and issues at annoyed me all that time ago are still here, but so too are the things that made the games enjoyable.

I highly recommend this collection for anyone interested in trying out these classic games or wanting to relive some co-op fun with their friends, especially as the online mode works so well now.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • Glad they did a good job with this port. It is still a lot of fun to play. But it is a co op game true and through.