Dead Island

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Dead Island Definitive Edition on Steam

MSRP: $19.99

Platforms: Win, Mac, Linux, XBox 360, XBox One, PS3, PS4

Release: 9/9/11


NOTE: This review is based on the original Dead Island, not the Definitive Edition. The original version is no longer available on Steam, but is still available for consoles, and can be purchased on PC on Amazon.  Do not buy a used version of this title as it will not work, but new boxed copies can still be activated on Steam without issue.


I had played several hours worth of Dead Island a couple of years ago; I don’t often get in the mood to mindlessly slaughter things, but I have a handful of games on standby just in case I do. The recent release of a Definitive Edition for both Dead Island and Dead Island: Riptide brought the game to my attention once more.  I remembered the game looking pretty decent overall, and decided not to repurchase the remaster, but going back to it now, almost five years after release, I’m not finding a whole lot to complain about.

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You can choose to play as one of a handful of premade characters (sorry, no character creation going on here), and I chose Purna. For some reason that I don’t think is every really explained, the player character seems to be immune to the zombie infection, which leads to absolutely everyone wanting you to kill the walking dead. Since zombie slaying is pretty much Dead Islands raison d’être, I can’t really complain. 

After a short introductory chapter that also serves as your tutorial, your career as a bad-ass errand girl (or guy) begins. I feel as if Dead Island is more quest oriented than a lot of similar games in the genre, but I also admit to a limited experience with first person shooters and hack and slash games. Pretty much anyone who is still alive is going to ask you to do something, or find someone, or get something for them.  You always have the option to say no to quests, but I pretty much just agree to everything, and beat the heck of out every zombie I see on the way.

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The game is set on a resort island, so prepare to kill a lot of undead wearing bikinis and bermuda shorts. You will also want to pick up any weapons you find early on, no matter how terrible they may seem, because your weapons will break, and they’ll break often, and even though attempting to punch and kick zombies to death is kind of amusing, it’s not great for your health bar. You will occasionally find things like medkits and bandages that you can use to heal, but the most reliable method of restoring health is to drink energy drinks you will find scattered pretty much everywhere.  You will consume them instantly upon looting, so if you’re already feeling pretty good, leave them be.  More than once I’ve had to backtrack out of a fight to find the nearest energy drink I hadn’t needed a couple of minutes before.

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As you level up, you’re given skill points you can use to improve your character.  As Purna, I found that I kept running into issues with stamina, so I put points into skills that help with that early on.  There is a level cap of 50, so you won’t even come close to filling out the skill trees, and there is no in-game mechanic for resetting your skills, so it’s wise to come up with a plan early on for what you consider to be must-have skills.

All of this make Dead Island feel like an open-world action RPG with zombies, which is a combination I quite like, if I’m being honest. I haven’t had a chance to play too much with the crafting system, although I did sink quite a bit of the cash that every dead thing seems to be carrying into improving and repairing the first good weapon I acquired.

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From everything I’ve read, Dead Island really shines in co-op play, however, with the recent release of the Definitive Edition, I have no idea if you can still play co-op with the different game versions, although I would hope that is something the developers would have taken into account.  Personally, I see no real reason to spend again if you already own the game (and missed out on the deep discount on the Definitive Editions when they were first released).  Although I’ve seen a lot of complaints about bugs and technical issues with both versions of the game, I haven’t experienced any in either of my playthroughs.

You can expect to get anywhere from 15 – 45 hours of play out of Dead Island’s single player campaign, depending on how much you like to wander and explore. If you can get your hands on a copy of the original, you’re likely to get quite a bit of entertainment value per dollar out of it.  If you’re expecting a game that’s going to change your life, though, this isn’t it.  It’s a beat-em-up, shoot-em-up, zombie slaughterfest against a really pretty tropical island background. For me, that’s enough.

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