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Dead Island Definitive Collection

Score: 75%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Techland Software
Media: Download/1
Players: 1; 2 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Action/ RPG/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Dead Island was, if nothing else, a cautionary tale about cinematic trailers. Those three minutes were intense, gripping, and kind of hard to watch. By the time the title card dropped, it wasnít unreasonable to think that the finished product would turn out to be a dark, tragic take on the zombie apocalypse. After all, it came from Techland, the developer behind strong story-based shooters such as Call of Juarez and its first sequel, Bound in Blood. And then the game came out, delivering an unrepentantly trashy, grindhouse experience. Granted, thatís not a bad thing, as the game turned out to be a decent enough open-world romp. But then Dead Island: Riptide came out and set the bar for just how little can be expected from an expansion, standalone or no. Somewhere in development purgatory is Dead Island 2, which hasnít been seen since 2014ís Electronic Entertainment Expo. But while you wait, Deep Silver has decided to go the way of countless other publishers and offer an updated, next-gen version of their successful series. Dead Island Definitive Collection is certainly a more deserving name than Game of the Year Edition, as it is indeed a collection and also the definitive versions of the games featured therein.

Itís possible that my brain is still in vacation mode and the rest of my body is simply responding to any stimuli that suggest a getaway, but I can definitely notice improvements in the visual department. This is most apparent in the character models Ė both friendly and hostile. I never called the original games out for lack of realism, but Iíd be lying if I said these added touches werenít welcome. Overall, I recall Dead Island being unimpressive yet inoffensive at the same time, but I found myself enjoying the sights Banoi had to offer this time around. Both Dead Island and Dead Island: Riptide are at their best when they are allowed to be colorful. Itís when you end up in dull brownish gray urban landscapes that it starts bringing you down. While a sense of oppression is to be expected in games about cities besieged by the undead, it doesnít have to extend this far.

Dead Island Definitive Collection is hit or miss when it comes to sound. Letís start with the good. Combat sounds awesome for the most part; this is hugely important, as this gameís combat is melee-focused. Striking flesh and bone with solid objects actually creates a positive feedback loop Ė what does that say about us as a species? Jokes aside, Techland somehow came up with appropriate sounds to pair with "blade grinds through muscle," "hammer caves in skull," and "organs rupture." Itís disgusting stuff, and if it wasnít, the developer would have failed. Voice work is less impressive, and part of that comes from how bad most of the dialogue is. Perhaps this is in keeping with the schlocky themes of the overall experience, and itís probably realistic to begin with, but nothing anyone says makes me want to ensure their continued survival. All the bitterness and swearing kind of makes me want to go hang out with the Infected. At least theyíll play with me.


Gameplay:

After a deeply unpleasant opening cinematic (just skip it, itís terrible) ends, you choose a pre-made character and wake up in a vacation resort on the tropical island of Banoi. Nearly everyone is either dead or transformed into a shambling, mindless cannibal. But a shocking turn of events reveals that you are immune to whatever contagion is causing this. Naturally, this puts you on a pedestal for the survivors, all of whom are in desperate need. Thereís a story behind all of it, but itís neither very good nor important to the game as a whole. It simply exists to shuttle you across every quadrant of the island.

Dead Island: Riptideís story is essentially a retread. While your survivors have successfully made it off Banoi, the voyage home is a miserable failure and everyone ends up shipwrecked on PalanaiÖ another island infested with zombies.

Dead Island and Dead Island: Riptide know their place in the pantheon of zombie games. Left 4 Dead is the zombie game with guns, Dead Rising was the zombie game with weird sh*t, and Techlandís contribution to the subgenre is known for its melee combat. Zombie bodies are squishy, and they yearn to be crushed and sliced rather than shot and exploded.


Difficulty:

Dead Island Definitive CollectionĎs difficulty level is telegraphed, a clear cribbing from role-playing games. Your effectiveness in combat isnít exactly proportionate to your skills with the controller. There are numbers being crunched under the hood that determine exactly how things pan out. If youíre not at the adequate level and your equipment is weak or broken, you will have a very difficult time of it. Provided you regularly maintain your killing implements, the only thing youíll really need to watch out for is the level of your enemies. As is the case with most other role-playing games, you can fairly easily take down enemies that are a bit higher than you, and these kills generally net more experience than wimpy zombies. However, push it too far and not even your fancy new flaming sword will save you.

The dynamic inevitably changes when you incorporate cooperative play, a headlining feature of this series since the beginning. As your numbers increase, so does the difficulty. However, more people means more tactics at your disposal. More eyes to keep combat awareness at a maximum. More angles from which to tear the undead limb from rotting limb. Naturally, the game is at its best when played as a team.


Game Mechanics:

Combat is the cornerstone of Dead Island Definitive Collection, and given the focus on melee combat over gunplay, itís easy to see where developer Techland might have gone wrong. Thankfully, combat is manageable at worst and delightful at best. Getting up close and personal is what zombies do, so itís nice to take a page from their playbook. However, you have to manage your resources smartly when getting into the thick of things; the infected donít much care if your nail-studded baseball bat is in a state of disrepair. To them, youíll taste fine either way. The same goes for your health and stamina, naturally. You can only sprint for so long or swing away with your crowbar until your body puts the metaphorical foot down, survival-odds-be-damned.

When it comes to the first person melee combat, donít expect the nuance of the Riddick games. What you can expect is a flexible system that places the emphasis on staggering enemies with kicks and striking at their soft bits with whatever blunt or sharp object you have on hand.

Dead Island would be doing it wrong if it didnít have a survival element. Whatís here is functional but extremely rudimentary. Loot can be found all over Banoi/Palanai, and while most of it is in the form of personal effects and random items, the game instantly converts all of it into cold, hard cash. Indeed, money makes the world go round, even after the world has ended. Money is still an accepted currency in the zombie apocalypse, and strangely enough, it has a bizarrely literal application in weapon repair. Donít ask questions Ė just go with it. You can also create weapons of your own by combining base items with designated parts. It's neat.

Dead Island Definitive Collection is exactly what it advertises: it is the definitive version of two decent but flawed open world action role-playing games. I donít quite see the logic behind its release, given the fact that its superior spiritual successor Dying Light recently received the same treatment. However, if you enjoyed these games when they first launched last gen and could see yourself returning to these hedonistic hellscapes, you probably have a good idea of what youíre getting into. If you havenít played these games, it might be wise to do so before going all out with this release.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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