The first Dead Island set the gaming world ablaze with its glitzy debut trailer and cheeky in-game rap song, building the soon-to-be released zombie smasher toward unspeakable levels of hype. The final product proved that gameplay could stand above the mess surrounding, striding in what most gamers seek in a game. And like its predecessor, Dead Island Riptide counters with the same approach again, only not as glamorous nor innovative.
Now we’ve got to get this out of the way first, but Dead Island Riptide is not a sequel. Let us quell that perception and set the precedent, so don’t expect an overhaul and revamping of the original. Notice the $40-$50 price tag and realize Dead Island Riptide is merely an expansion, a half-step, and an abundance of telling signs and symptoms of “Sequelitis.”
Set after the events of the first, the immune four land on a carrier to only become detained for sake of being experimented on. And then, we’re back to square zero, attempting to figure out how to get off another island. Once again, don’t expect a coherent plot, interesting characters, or logic. The story ultimately boiled down to being dead serious and tiresome, trending the border of ironic hilarity and an emotion-evoking journey.
Where Sam B takes advantage of blunt objects, John Morgan, the new playable survivor, strives with his military-trained fists. Much of Morgan’s fighting style relies on his devastating unarmed attacks, playing swift and agile. Morgan’s ninja-like attacks go nicely with new weapons of the claws (akin to brass knuckles) and a staff, which he pulls out for his temporary rage power.
Dead Island Riptide ups the level cap to 70, allowing you to import your original character in full form (yes you can start Riptide at 50). Newcomers or those branching out to a new persona have it a bit easier this time around. Players can now start a new character at level 17 with either three preset sets or grant you to completely customize your three skill trees and work on from there. In addition, the more you use of a category of weapons (Bladed, Blunt, Firearms, and Fists), the more statistical goodies you’ll get for using them. An increased XP gain here, a reduced stamina there, it’ll soon pile up for a much more effective fighter.
Vehicles, land and sea, both provide zippier travel through a vast area, although you’ll never feel like you’ll use them enough.The inclusion of the motorboat in Dead Island Riptide does this exactly. It allows you to skim the shallow waters and knock leagues of undead without the fear of losing your vehicle to degradation, yet the paths are so narrow and select it’s rough to get a good feel.
Within this 15 hour expansion, a couple of new enemies appear atop of the colorful cast carried over. The screamer disables physical actions and slows movement as she pierces eardrums, the wrestler pathetically saunters and pounds the ground with their oversized arm, and the grenadier hurls exploding organs Stubbs the Zombie style. However, one thing is criminally absent from the formula, the humans. The polar opposite of the enemy majority, looters and soldiers were once combatants that countered your ranged abilities with more damning attacks of gunfire. They added a much needed variety to up close and personal brain eaters seen time and time again.
The fortifying quests tasks you to hunker down in an area, set up fences, turrets, and traps to protect your traveling band of survivors. You’d think this may prove to be an enticing draw, yet the horde breaks the defense and you’re left to bounce between one survivor in need of assistance to another. Few and far between as these are, you won’t feel like these tower-defense-esque quests get adequate support or fulfilling moments. It may be better with more users, done by one person, bulking defenses becomes useless after a certain point. Not to say leave your barricaded-gates open, there’s enough bomb placing and barrier lacing before the ensuing crowds to give some tactical satisfaction.
Quests don’t differ from the first as well, devolving into more fetch quests in remote areas of the map, which can be nice to explore a place otherwise left unkempt. While some side quests removes the middle man of travel for a quick encounter with a random survivor asking for help (killing the local zombies). A select few stood out, helping a narcissistic filmmaker recover his equipment from his undead crew and later finish his movie, and aiding a dying old man by getting his medications to only return to his animated corpse. Both provided a realistic and grim charm to the zombified populous, which often fell thru the cracks in the main plot where everyone has no characterization or depth.
One thing Techland did improve on is the evisceration of the escort missions, attempting to protect an aimless NPC, while struggling to keep yourself in check as well are thankfully gone. No more lost weapons due to wandering and dying AI, which by the way, that fatal bug in the first with thrown weapons, they took care it.
Expect a sizable patch. Dead Island Riptide is on the same level, if not more, of broken and unfinished as the first was. Sure, we’ve come to expect frame rate drops, ugly character models, and texture popups, but one glaring misstep bursts into the scene. A pure slapdash effort to create a dynamic environment is the weather. The island of Palanai shifts weather occasionally, sliding to a raging storm from a bright and sunny landscape creating a cloudy and shady environment around you.
However, the problem arises with the transitions between sunny and storms. No overcast, no visual indication to an emerging weather change, just painfully sudden changes. Especially in the opening area of the greater Palanai jungle, you’ll be walking along the riverbed and with one slight motion forward, pop goes the shift in weather. It can be frivolous complaint. But consider imagining laying by the beaches of Hawaii, tanning and what not, to then be transported to a hellish wind storm and gusted off your feet from the funnel cloud about to touch down.
Co-op is more freeform in Riptide. With the ability to drop-in/drop-out of co-op without being confined to the chapter you’re in or awaiting a friend to reach a certain chapter to hop on. Delightfully, varying levels where a level 56 Purna could easily dominate in their friend’s level 20 world blends. No matter what, the enemies and quest rewards adjust to your playing field compared to staying constant with the host’s. Almost as if it’s this meta encounter where you’re visiting someone else’s universe, but not actually fully transported into their world.
One thing that remains consistent with the series, aside from bugs, is the addicting gameplay. Every encounter can be unpredictable, the odds of landing a life-saving blow to the uncertainty of the whereabouts of the enemy as they howl at your presence. Weapon crafting still forces us to look for random refuse and hand money to a workbench. Modded equipment again leaves us weighting the pros and cons of each weapon.
And we mustn’t forget the Analog fighting, a very underused control scheme where the motion of your swing depends on your analog sticks, rather than leaving It up to the right trigger (or mouse click). Finally, no other game has combined Dead Rising’s degrading weapons, Dead Space’s strategic limb removing, Left 4 Dead’s melee stamina, and Borderlands streamlined RPG and leveling system. While not entirely enjoyable as the first, powering through waves of undead felt great again.
Dead Island Riptide placates on the notion of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and bets on its unique gameplay to carry out another Island-dwelling romp. That said there’s little that makes Dead Island Riptide differ from its late 2011 predecessor. Besides being of shorter length, smaller Island, and overall less visually and thematically entrancing to play, the baseline entertainment of zombie killing remains as cathartic and enjoyable as the first.