Dead Island: Riptide – intro
Dead Island was one of the surprise hits of 2011. It might have been as ropey as a zombie’s skincare regime in places, but it made up for it somewhat by offering a brutal and atmospheric open-world survival horror romp set on a tropical resort island. So has developer Techland fixed those flaws and delivered on the series’ huge potential this second time around?
Dead Island: Riptide – story
Riptide picks up where the last game left off. The surviving characters have escaped the undead-infested hell of Banoi only to end up stranded on another zombie hot spot - the waterway riddled island of Panalai. The goal is the same: survive and escape by killing zombies, crafting elaborate weapons out of junk, and developing the skills of your character.
Also unchanged from the original is the story, which is still pointless and appallingly delivered. Non-player characters dish out missions with bad Australian accents and so little emotion that it feels like Riptide’s makers hired Antipodean zombies to do the voices.
Dead Island: Riptide – gameplay
The cack-handed story does at least fit into the b-movie feel of the game, and since almost every quest is about fetching something or defending a base there’s little need to pay attention. The core gameplay of travelling around by foot, car or boat and whacking zombies is engaging, if repetitive at times.
The real appeal remains the ability to craft new and bizarre weaponry from the tat you collect, with each workbench offering a chance to combine the likes of crowbars and machetes with barbed wire and electricity. And now your weapons are more durable and less likely to break, so that baseball bat you’ve attached a circular blade to can be your partner in zombie-mutilation for the duration of the adventure.
Dead Island: Riptide – zombies
So far, so familiar, but Riptide does throw in some new types of zombies to keep players on their toes. There are obese zombies that spray players with vomit, aquatic zombies that lurk in the water like bipedal piranha, exploding Suiciders and more. The increased variety of zombies forces a bit more thought into how to deal with them but more often than not it comes down to simply beating them into bloody pieces. Riptide isn’t shy on the gore front, either, never missing a chance to throw blood, bone, brains and limbs around.
Dead Island: Riptide – inventories
Progressing through Riptide involves collecting tons of items, quests and skill-enhancing experience points so it’s a major disappointment the interface and inventory management system is still as clunky as in the original game. Instead of making it easy to compare items and manage the overwhelming volume of odds and ends that pile up, the game makes it into a chore. The fussy interface was just about forgivable first time around, but the fact that Techland hasn’t bothered to improve it for the sequel is hard to swallow.
Dead Island: Riptide – visuals and audio
Riptide seems free of the major bugs that peppered the pre-patch original, but that doesn’t mean it’s glitch-free. And while the island’s scenery and the new rain effects are great, the characters look dated and the game is prone to slow down. At its worst the action turns into a series of disconnected snapshots that grind along as if your console is about to explode under the pressure. The audio is more impressive – a constantly unnerving soundtrack riddled with snatches of animal noises and jarring static.
Dead Island: Riptide – multiplayer
Despite the flaws Riptide is enjoyable as a single player experience, but its open-world survival horror experience really comes alive with friends. As in the original, the online co-op mode lets up to four pals play together, and as a team Riptide is funny, exciting and less predictable. The comradeship of being part of a tiny team working together to escape the undead makes up for a lot of the game’s flaws. So much so that you could add another star to the rating below if you’re planning to play this with friends.
Fans of the first game will also be pleased to hear that they can import their character from the first game, although that does mean missing out on new character John Morgan, a hand-to-hand specialist with a devastating and occasionally hilarious comic-book dropkick that can be used to send the undead flying.
Dead Island: Riptide – verdict
Riptide might throw in a few new features but it’s really just more of the same. Many of the original game’s flaws are still there making for a game that is as shambolic as a zombie’s shuffle, but once again its open-world b-movie thrills manage to compensate. That’s still a big disappointment, though: with just a bit more effort Dead Island could be truly fantastic – Far Cry 3 with zombies – but Techland seems to have been happy to simply plonk the original game onto a new island. Here’s hoping that if a third Dead Island game gets the green light it also gets the investment it needs to finally deliver on all that promise.
Reviewed on PS3.