Dead Island: Definitive Edition – Review

pic from Dead Island

Zombies! Millions of them. Hordes of the bastards, lurching and staggering into every god damn video game in existence.

From the latest consoles through to mobile, the undead plague has spread across the whole games industry. Stuck for an idea? Throw zombies at it. Kids’ll lap it up. Need to kill something uncontroversial? Make it a zombie and even the most rabid tabloid journalist won’t bat an eyelid.

Zombies are the new space invaders. The new red shirts from Star Trek. They’re the video game equivalent of spiders and nazis. A protagonist you can kill in every game, in every way and every genre.

It could have been so different… Back in 2011, a new game was announced which looked like it could change the plight of zombie-kind. Dead Island had a beautiful slo-motion, cinematic trailer, complete with classical soundtrack. It was presented in reverse chronological order, running backwards, to show a couple battling the undead to save their daughter. Like the zombie apocalypse, it went a bit viral. Since it was released it’s been viewed over 15 million times on YouTube.

It looked glorious. It promised something different to the countless lurching hordes of zombie games. It promised drama, it promised emotion, it promised more than the usual run/kill/repeat formula.

It lied.

Dead Island: Definitive Edition brings together the original 2011 game, along with 2013 sequel, Riptide. The games have been remastered with full high definition graphics, so every beheading, every evisceration can be appreciated in even more photo-realistic detail.

Dead Island turned out to be another zombie survival game. Players can roam freely around an admittedly beautifully rendered tropical paradise to mutilate, maim and murder the, um, differently living residents and tourists.

It’s brutal, it’s violent, it’s all about killing zombies with whatever comes to hand.

This is not necessarily a bad thing.

There’s a lot of blood. And heads. All of Dead Island’s zombies can be dismembered which can be rather entertaining and quite cathartic after a long day at work, or a difficult commute.

A special mention has to be made for the game’s playable characters which make the smiley face icon in Minesweeper look engaging and deep. Dead Island offers players the choice of a washed-up NFL quarterback with a drug problem, a Chinese banker’s daughter who wants to be a cop, a former cop turned mercenary, or a struggling gangsta rapper. Still, it makes the more or less inevitable death by zombie far less harrowing when you can actually enjoy watching the annoying bastards have their faces eaten.

The biggest problems with Dead Island, and Riptide is that they are pretty much entirely forgettable. There’s no real imagination in the bulk of the quests, which are all either involve collecting stuff or – for a really wild adventure – going to a location to turn on a switch.

If you like killing zombies with a variety of hardware and enjoy rotting body parts, there’s a lot to like. It’s just that, in a world where we have The Walking Dead (the comic, the TV series and the games), the zombie genre as a whole is capable of so much more than a swanky 1080p facelift can offer.