Dead Island: Riptide

Back in 2011, I spent a significant amount of time on a beautiful, tropical island off the coast of Papua New Guinea. Walking along deserted coastlines, exploring the outback, and bludgeoning the locals with a variety of hand crafted weapons. Of course this was during a zombie apocalypse and took place in the world of Dead Island. This gory, free-roaming marvel was a bit of a mish-mash in styles, taking lots of very obvious influences but presenting them in a bloody little package that was still fun to play.

Since completing the original I, along with many other fans of the game, have been excited at the prospect of a sequel. Two years later, we are being sucked back into the world of surviving against the undead with Sam B, Purna, Xian, and Logan in Dead Island: Riptide, for PC, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3.

It all looks so scenic, apart from the washed up boat of death and the infected lurking in the bushes...
It all looks so scenic, apart from the washed up boat of death and the infected lurking in the bushes…

So, where are we? The end of Dead Island saw our survivors escaping the island of Banoi on a chopper. After finding a ship, and sailing in the opposite direction from the undead, the gang hit a storm. Needless to say the boat ship-wrecks on yet another zombie infested island within the local archipelago, from which you have to escape. It doesn’t win any originality awards, but lets stay optimistic here.

My hands-on stint in the new location of Palanai (essentially the zombie equivalent of Tenerife) began by being washed up on a shoreline in the company of Harlow, a young woman from a small, nearby camp. As she attends to your compatriots, you head to the base to find it’s currently under attack from brain-hungry residents. And so the battles begin. Having picked Xian as my character, I had a predetermined affinity with blade weapons; unfortunately I don’t think my flimsy home-made knife was going to do any real damage, regardless of my skill set.

Eyes in the back of your head is what you need, lad!
Eyes in the back of your head is what you need, lad!

Combat is surprisingly familiar, with attack, knock and swipe moves all true to form. The only addition I found relatively quickly was the new jump attack (think Crysis ‘ground stomp’) and that was only by accident while pressing the search button. As always, weapons are assigned via a dial for quick and easy equipping, while the weapons themselves can be found, upgraded, created on a workbench from scavenged items, or bought/traded from survivors.

After saving the day, naturally, you are asked to help reinforce the camp perimeters before the infected make another appearance. Once they do, the first really new feature kicks in with a horde styled attack. As waves of zombies attack the camp you must wrestle them off of other survivors, reinforce the camp and, of course, stay alive. In the right scenario this could, and undoubtedly will, be deadly for any group of players.

I really appreciated just how much time and effort went into making this feel like a believable place

From here on in the game once again starts to play on old turf, with missions unlocked either on a main story or optional stance, allowing gamers to pick and choose how they want to explore the island. Unfortunately as exciting as it is to have new missions at your gaming fingertips, it all so quickly becomes more of the same.

The characters are the same, the maps, HUD and menus work the same, the work benches, weapons, and scavenging items are the same… you get my point, right? There are a number of graphical glitches still rearing their head, although as a preview you have to give the benefit of the doubt that these may still be ironed out. Most annoyingly its movement-triggered motion sickness is still a friend of mine; those that suffered first time around will want to slow down the camera sensitivity and play in bursts to avoid a stomach-churning session.

Within the first 20 minutes, I started to feel like I was playing an expansion DLC rather than a whole new game, simply because there isn’t enough change for it to really warrant its own release. While I appreciate that a whole new island, survivors, plot and mission strands are far too complex to fit into a reasonable sized download, you have to question whether it’s all a bit too (hopes she doesn’t live to regret saying this)… lazy? Considering there has been two years since the original game, and over a year since a DLC release, couldn’t they have taken it a little further?

On the flip-side, the landscape of the island is as beautiful as ever, and while playing it on PC as opposed to my original venture on Xbox 360, I really appreciated just how much time and effort went into making this feel like a believable place, because it really does! Limbs and skulls still implode and detach with the same bloody styled joy, and even display a nice little slow mo effect for extra ‘eww factor’, leaving it one x ray shot away from Mortal Kombat finishing moves! The game play is still incredibly fun, a factor which is multiplied by the number of human players on your team, especially during horde moments. There are the new addition of boats which can be used to reach parts of the island that would normally not be accessible; needless to say these are deadly if taken on solo and can easily leave you wanting to jump overboard or face having your skin ripped off as you try to float away.

Locations that require travel by boat will become a pain in the rudder!

The plot promises interesting but predictable (can you say ‘army’ and ‘nuke’?) twists that will no doubt leave you running to all parts of the island in your attempt to escape, but the effectiveness of this remains to be seen in the limited time I’ve had to explore. Ultimately, many titles have played the same card once or twice, so it’s hard to really criticise developers Techland for offering more of the same. While it could have really done with a bit more originality and progression of its own, it is still incredibly fun to go exploring the landscape and hacking things to their second death.

It’s certainly not going to win over those who already have a negative opinion on the series, but Dead Island:Riptide will certainly appease those that enjoyed the first title with another scoop more. With a few new zombies thrown into the mix, a new island to explore, and undoubtedly more two-faced characters to meet and rip into pieces, it’s sure to appeal to those who mastered their time on Banoi. In the pool of gaming titles however, Dead Island:Riptide might just have to settle with making ripples rather than waves.







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