Dead Island Definitive Edition for Xbox One review: Zombies in paradise

Don't let that sparkling water fool you. The dead are rising and destroying everything.

You might remember Dead Island as the game that reinvigorated the zombie genre several years ago. Well, it's received a facelift and landed on the Xbox One. It's time to survive the zombie apocalypse on the formerly calm resort island of Banoi. You'll have to locate and help survivors, find weapons to defend yourself with, and try to escape the island with your skin intact.

You can decide to help everyone you come across, or just roll through story missions to find a way off the island. Either way you'll have to figure out what's going on, band together with other survivors, and kill zombies. Keep reading for all the details.

The zombie apocalypse has never been so pretty

When it comes to delivering a gorgeous experience, the Dead Island Definitive Edition knows what it is doing. From breathtaking views of the clear water lapping at the beaches to the gore when a pack of undead charge you hoping for a quick snack, the number of new textures that have been added since the original is astounding.

As you explore the island, you'll be find plenty to feast your eyes on. The way the sunlight can look hazy in the mid afternoon light to help emphasize the heat of the day, or the glare when you walk out of a dark building back into the sunlight is realistic and beautifully rendered.


You'll find dozens of different weapons as you play through, which are handy for dealing with the undead menace that has taken over the island. You can inspect each one, and see the small differences between weapons before picking them up. It's the small attention to detail that help really bring the environment in Dead Island to life.

The extra textures, and increased texture detail, can't quite mask the fact that this is 2011 game repurposed for 2016. It's especially noticeable when taking a look at the faces of other characters. That being said, those textures make a serious difference and add a layer of gorgeous nuance to the images on your screen.

Last night was a party, today it's the apocalypse

The story in the Dead Island Definitive Edition is one that horror fans will be well acquainted. You wake up the morning after an outbreak of zombies having managed to sleep through the initial wave of chaos and bloodshed. There's a bloke on the radio who starts talking to you as you wander through a hotel lit with eerie flickering lights.

You'll be able to pillage through bags, cupboards and other nooks looking for supplies, which are necessary for a variety of things. Items have one of several colors, cycling from white for common, and ending at purple for extremely rare items. You'll find batteries, computer parts, key cards and, of course, money. Items can be used for upgrades, necessary for missions, or traded with survivors for more money.


After you get out of the hotel that you start in, you'll be found by a group of survivors. That's when the real fun starts. It turns out that you appear to be immune to the zombie virus, unlike all the unfortunate tourists. That means you have the unique ability to roam the island, and try to handle this virus before it kills everyone. The survivors need your help, and they'll give you missions on the island.

Completing those missions will move the story forward, and earn you experience to level up. You don't have to take on missions from every survivor you come across, but completing side quests will help you level up a bit quicker. It becomes clear very quickly, that the entire island has pretty much been taken by the dead.


You'll be fighting to try and get yourself, and the survivors you come across, off of this island before it's too late. Thankfully, you won't be on your own forever. There are several other immune survivors, and you'll find them before too long. Together you'll band together to try and survive all the chaos, on what was supposed to be a resort.

Dead Island Riptide picks up almost exactly where the original Dead Island leaves off. You can choose to import your character from Dead Island, or you can start fresh with any of the playable characters. Riptide starts a bit differently, but eventually follows the same basic story as the original game. Collect supplies, kill zombies, escape the island.

It's dangerous to go alone, take this

Dead Island Definitive Edition follows a pretty simple system when it comes to gameplay. You'll explore areas, kill zombies, pick up items, and then complete quests. That breaks the gameplay down into three pretty simple facets that combine to create some fun, if repetitive gameplay. You'll also have to upgrade your weapons, and buy yourself new skills to handle the invasion of dead.

The map in Dead Island is nothing to scoff at. It's pretty large, and absolutely filled with quests, survivors, items, and zombies. While you can easily explore on foot, be prepared to deal with tons of undead coming from any direction. The easier way to safely explore, or get to a quest waypoint is by finding yourself a working vehicle. Using a vehicle you can speed down roads littered with broken down cars, and run over zombies that try to get in your way.

While you definitely don't need a vehicle to get around, it makes things much, much easier — especially in the earlier chapters, when you haven't had a chance to start filling out your skill tree. You can zoom past larger groups of zombies, or jump out and attempt to take them out. Having a working vehicle nearby also makes fulfilling quests much easier.


That's because most quests follow a simple premise; you'll be asked to go and find specific items and bring them back to the quest giver. Thankfully you can accept multiple quests at the same time. The easiest way to earn yourself the most experience means accepting all the quests available, and then fulfilling several before turning them back in.

Completing quests will give you rewards in two ways. First, you'll get experience which will get you closer to going up a level, and earning a new skill point to allot. Some quests rewards will also involve receiving a new weapon from the quest-giver. Since weapons can degrade and break down over time, getting access to new ones is always handy.

Of course, killing zombies is the big draw in Dead Island, right? Well, there are plenty of ways to do this. You'll find weapons just about everywhere. Paddles, sticks, diving knives, and rusty pipes are strewn liberally across the resort just waiting for you to find them. While using weapons will break them down over time, all hope is not lost. Tool benches can be found that will let you repair, upgrade and build new weapons.


Upgrading and repairing your weapons is necessary if you want to destroy zombies as quickly and efficiently as possible. Repairing your weapons costs a little bit of money, but will get them back to 100% usability again. Upgrading your weapons costs a bit more money, but gives you hardier weapons that will do a lot more damage. Once you've find blueprints, and acquired the necessary pieces, you can build new weapons entirely.

The Dead Island Definitive Edition is not without its issues though. The original game was quite buggy, and while some improvements have been made in that arena, there are still some issues. Targeting zombies to attack them with melee weapons can be quite pesky, especially if you're surrounded by a pack of them at once. You'll also occasionally see zombies that get stuck on various pieces of furniture, or who wander away from you when you're a bit too far away.


Dead Island Definitive Edition is a fun romp through an island swarming with zombies and mayhem.


  • Gorgeous graphics
  • Killing zombies is a blast
  • A different kind of spin on the zombie genre


  • Gameplay becomes repetitive
  • Game is still buggy
  • Getting the hang of melee fighting can be pesky

Dead Island Definitive Edition puts a facelift on an old favorite. While it holds up fairly well, Dead Island is definitely starting to show its age. If you're an old fan, or you've never checked it out before it's a fun game until it becomes repetitive. For that reason we've given the Dead Island Definitive Edition, and Dead Island Riptide Definitive Edition, three and a half stars. You can pick up either of these games for $19.99 on the Xbox Store now.

See on the Xbox Store

This review was conducted on Xbox One using a copy provided by the publisher.

Jen Karner

Jen is a contributing writer for WindowsCentral. She's an avid gamer, especially when she gets to kill zombies, craft things, or use a bow. She can often be heard yelling about her chainsaw while playing Gears of War 4. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.