Remaster, Resell, Repeat.
Dead Island Definitive Edition – You Give Zombies a Bad Name
The remastered textures are nice and frankly I wouldn’t expect any less of something graphically enhanced for current-gen consoles but that is simply not enough to detract from the fact that this is Dead Island—a game where the narrative depth is as brain-dead as the zombies you are killing. Slapping a fresh coat of paint on a bent bumper doesn’t change the fact that it still needs to be fixed. While I appreciate the upgraded graphics, it’s nothing players can’t get from the PC version of the game, which is probably a better platform to play it on, especially due to the availability of modded content.
While the developers did add “Punch Mode,” derived from a popular PC mod, which allows you to one-hit enemies or kick them into oblivion sending body parts flying everywhere, it still isn’t enough to make Dead Island worth replaying if you’ve experienced it before. Maybe a new audience will find joy in the multiplayer again for a few months after release but with a wider selection of multiplayer titles out now, why do we even need this?
Upgraded graphics do not make up for the numerous issues that the game still has with tracking quests, loading checkpoints, and the ridiculous fact that while driving the camera is not centered on the windshield. All of these things and more could have been fixed, so I am surprised they weren’t. All the new modes and gory graphic upgrades in the world can’t make up for that misstep. Punch Mode wasn’t even really that useful during the Ryder White campaign either that just felt like a poorly executed warm-up to what Dying Light became. It is oversaturated with enemies, overly difficult, and not interesting. Not to mention the fact that every time Ryder speaks during that story his voice sounds like it is coming through a walkie-talkie despite the fact that you are playing as Ryder White.
Dead Island has always been a game that capitalized on the audience's overwhelming obsession with the zombie apocalypse. I wanted this Definitive Edition to be more than just a remastering given the original's flaws, but it simply doesn't. (2.5/5)
Dead Island Riptide Definitive Edition – More of Less
Not different enough to be a sequel yet long enough not to be DLC, Dead Island Riptide finds the same four heroes from the first game stranded yet again after the military aircraft carrier they found crashes into the island of Palanai, not that far off from Banoi. While there are attempts to incorporate more narrative for the main characters within this new story, it still falls flat. Like Dead Island Definitive Edition, this version of Riptide has received graphical upgrades, Punch Mode, and not a whole lot else.
The most compelling parts of this (non-sequel) sequel are the tower-defense portions. You are given the ability to setup defenses around the encampments you come across in the game, set traps, and complete side quests for allies to boost their resiliency in battle. The only thing you are not given the chance to do is connect on any human level with the characters within the game. As soon as you enter a safe zone, you are flooded by repetitive NPC banter oftentimes one line over another, again and again. From off-hand encounters with stranded NPCs who remain in the completely exposed area you find them in, to an increase in the number of zombies that can knock you to the ground with one punch or one-hit kill you with a knife or melee weapon, not to mention out-of-place “Dead Zones,” Riptide is still a clutter of inconsistent game elements.
The worst part of it all is that I can see the potential in Dead Island and Dead Island Riptide. Even in games like Left 4 Dead where the only character development you get is the banter between characters throughout missions, you are left feeling more connected to them. Purna, Sam, Xian, Logan, and John are hollow, wasted shells of protagonists. However, the same cannot be said for Dead Island Retro Revenge. (2.5/5)
Dead Island Retro Revenge: A Great, Little Game
Out of all the games within the Dead Island Definitive Collection, this is the only one worth playing, yet it is only included as a bonus for buying the tired unoriginal entries. Perhaps Deep Silver knew they couldn’t peddle this redundant heap of zombie-smashing mindlessness without more than an additional mode that was derived from a PC mode without something else to sweeten the deal. Retro Revenge is the cherry on top, and frankly, it’s all you should eat.
Dead Island Retro Revenge is an endless side-scrolling beat-'em-up game featuring Max and his cat, Rick Furry. In the minute or so it takes for the intro to establish this retro fantasy where Max has to rescue his furry friend from the clutches of some evil dudes, braving an undead shit-fest of a world to do so, the game already wins at being more creative, compelling, and worth your time than the other two previously released console titles. This is, without any dialogue, just kickass artwork and amazing retro inspired tunes and gameplay.
If anything, this made me far more excited for Dead Island 2, a game I have been greatly anticipating since I previewed it at E3 in 2014. It was sidelined during the release of Dying Light, a time period in which the game switched development over to Yager Studios. Will there be a plot in Dead Island 2 where Max actually has his cat stolen from him and you have to help him get him back? Hopefully. If not, it still provides us with more character development than what we got from Dead Island and Dead Island Riptide combined.
Each stage in Dead Island Retro Revenge is like a puzzle. Although you are given a special ability—you can charge up by killing enemies and perform one magic attack per level—you must use them wisely. At times special attacks and magic powers are the only possible way to get past a group of enemies. Every time you are hit by an enemy, you’ll lose one of your three HP points and with it your score multiplier, which is needed to charge your special power, a weed wacker which you use to mow down enemies in one hit.
Some enemies also act as barriers as they are capable of killing you with one hit. You have to figure out ways to avoid them or use other enemies or objects to defeat them. If you use the right melee attack on a Thug, his head will go shooting down the lane and instantly kill whatever enemy is coming up next. This is just one example of how to use enemies against each other, a feature that Dead Island 2 promised to bring us initially before its first release date.
You get four different melee attacks that includes one attack that can hit enemies approaching from behind, something I would have loved to have had during my Streets of Rage days. Each melee attack also has a range of effectiveness that varies depending on which enemy type you’re facing, forcing the player to strategize which attack is best on the fly. This detail really struck me because it adds far more to the tactical approach of the game, because you can’t just button-mash your way to victory. It’s refreshing, fun, and just as difficult as it should be.
When you die in Retro Revenge and restart the stage over, there’s no feeling of “what the fuck happened?” You know what happened, you know how to get passed it on the replay, and you try again. That’s the game. I am going to be playing much more of it before Dead Island 2 comes out. I can barely stop saying more about it than the previous Dead Island games.
I don’t normally like to say whether you should purchase something directly in a review but I strongly urge you not to buy the definitive editions of the two Dead Island games, especially if you have already played them. Out of the three games offered, Dead Island: Retro Revenge is the only one worth your time and money, and ultimately it’s not what they are trying to sell in this bundle. I recommend waiting for it to become available for purchase separately, which is how I believe it should be purchased, severed from the source material whence it came. (4/5)