Dead Island took the gaming community by storm with the downright emotional reveal trailer. However, the final product was far from a compelling and an emotional experience. It simply ended up being a game similar to Borderlands that featured up-close and personal combat and zombies. That actually ended up being OK with the gaming community however, as the game sold over three million copies and has now become a franchise name in Deep Silver’s line-up of published titles. Dead Island: Riptide does little to advance itself, but is a step above the original in the technical department.
The original Dead Island was one of the more addictive games I’ve played in recent years. For one, I love zombie games, so an open world experience with melee combat as a focus sounded like a match made in heaven, after the plethora of zombie games that focused on guns as the primary source of defense. Secondly, the game’s setting was a very refreshing experience. Gone were the dark corridors of hospitals and abandoned cites, and replaced by a tropical jungle full of surprises. These are the aspects that made Dead Island a good game.
Riptide takes place on a new island called Palanai, and stars the same four characters from the original game, while introducing a new fifth playable character. Starting off right after the ending of Dead Island, Riptide throws you right into the action no more than five minutes after the game’s initial cutscene. You’ll instantly notice that the game doesn’t look marginally different from its predecessor. The island is meticulously detailed with beautiful vistas, drenching waterfalls, marshes and lush jungles. However, as pretty as all that may sound, the island is covered with the dead and undead. The mix of paradise and dismay leaves you with a great atmosphere and mood that sets in while exploring and fighting off the undead.
The presentation is one of Riptide’s highlight features, with zombies making blood-curdling screams from off in the distance, always keeping you aware of the dangerous situation on the island. The sounds of the waves on the beach, trees blowing in the wind, and drenching rain created by the new dynamic weather system all add some great ambiance to the disturbing silence of a once bustling island full of tourists and natives.
The main reason for playing Riptide is to, well, you probably already guessed it, kill zombies up close and personal on a tropical island rather than a city or other apocalyptic setting. The main plot-line of the game is a bit more structured this time and has a few interesting twists, but is still largely uninteresting and uninspired. There isn’t much to praise in the voice acting area either and a lot of the dialogue consists of unnecessary curse words and pointless dialogue that tries to give the characters their own identity. Most of the missions still consist of go rescue this person or go fetch this and bring it back scenarios. Thankfully, the unique combat found in Dead Island games keeps you from getting too comfortable and bored with the repetitive missions.
The variety of weapons and the mods that you can make to them have been ramped up in the follow-up. Players can use almost anything they find, whether It be a wooden stick or a rare samurai sword. The weapons can then be modified, provided you have the right materials to make the modification. My weapon of choice during the early portion of my playthrough was a fully upgraded machete with poison on the blade, causing the undead to puke their guts out when struck and leave an opening to be attacked. Guns also received a slight improvement making them a bit more usable in Riptide than the original.
The biggest change from the first game is the inclusion of water logged areas where you can travel by boat through the jungles, as a Typhoon early on in the game floods the island with torrential rains. The boating segments don’t add a whole lot to the gameplay however, and are really just an extra vehicle for transportation. Zombies can be run over with the boat as they try to get on board, which can get quite tense in situations where you’re being attacked by a horde. One other notable addition is the basic base building elements. There are some survival missions in the game where you have to fortify the location you’re companions are currently residing in by setting up fences at marked points and creating some defenses of your own by placing mines and other materials outside the base to slow down the horde. On paper it sounds great, but with the lack of customizable options for your defenses other than upgrading fences etc, it’s a very lackluster feature found in the game.
Dead Island Riptide can be played solo, which is the way I played the game and had plenty fun in doing so. However, if you have the co-op feature turned on, random players can jump in and out of your game as often as they want provided you’re in the same proximity in the game world. I got annoyed a few times when a player would jump into my game, and then kick me from it, but luckily that doesn’t affect your progress or cause a loading screen etc. The game is meant for co-op play though, and if you have friends to communicate with while playing, the game can be a blast.
While the game was never really dubbed a full on sequel by Techland or Deep Silver, Riptide manages to improve on the faults of the original game. Unfortunately for us single players, gameplay and presentation reign supreme, instead of presenting the compelling narrative that we’ve been crying out for in zombie games. If you played the original Dead Island, you won’t be surprised by anything Riptide has to offer. But, if Riptide is your first foray into the franchise, get ready for some brutal up close and personal combat and a lot of respawns.
(Reviewed on Xbox 360. Review code supplied by Deep Silver. Thank you.)
ONLY SINGLE PLAYER SCORE
Gameplay/Design – 8/10
Visuals – 8/10
Sound – 7/10
Lasting Appeal – 10/10
Overall – 7.5/10
(Not an average)
Platforms: PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Publisher: Deep Silver
Ratings: M (ESRB), 18 (PEGI)