Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Reviewed by William Mabin
Deep Silver and Techland’s phenomenal zombie apocalypse RPG is back and it turns out Riptide is not just an expansion pack either. It’s a full blown sequel with promises of a new map to explore and new playable characters. On closer inspection, however, will Dead Island: Riptide be able to keep its head above the waves?
At the beginning, we are reunited with the four protagonists from Dead Island, as they finally reach what they think is refuge on board a navy vessel. Yet, soon they become the spectacle of scientific study because of their amazing immunity to the infection causing the zombie outbreak. This initially only really serves to introduce them to the newest member of the crew, an aptly-named Captain John Morgan. I say aptly-named because of the nature of the blood and gore, hack-and-smash- while- on- a- pleasant drunken- vacation theme that prevails in the series so far. The majority of the story takes place on another island in the fictional Banoi archipelago.
As in the first chapter, there is very little plot beyond that it is the zombie apocalypse and because you are immune to the disease, it is simply a holiday that’s leisure takes the form of bludgeoning every tourist from Australia northwards. When I put it that way, it sounds centered around gratifying Freud’s primal needs. Well if this comes as a surprise to you, then you clearly missed the controversy surrounding the severed female torso figurines that were sold as a promo to the game. Overall the story is an excuse to keep the violence going and if you’re not purely driven by these urges in video games you might lose out. However, if you are just passing time by, as you await the zombie onslaught then the average story is just enough to keep you swinging your bent machete.
Flip the box around to the back and it reads: ‘Get ready to return to zombie infected shores. Can you survive the impossible?’ Anyone that whines about this title being too difficult clearly didn’t read this line. It certainly is tough. Probably even more so if you import your character from Dead Island, meaning that you will have to face zombies at a relative skill level to your own. Either way, right from the start, you will have to face the Ogre class, the belching Floater class and thugs. In addition to cars (that you still can’t enter from the right) there are boats that you must navigate around swarming zombie mobs, lest they drag you ashore. Honestly avoiding zombies is not too bad once you get over the somewhat confusing and cluttered mini-map. As long as you keep your weapons sharp and upgraded you stand somewhat of a fair chance. Although, sometimes zombies just fly out of nowhere and take you out in a couple of shots which is frustrating because you can’t really avoid it.
Disappointingly, Riptide doesn’t really add anything new to the gameplay. It feels more like an expansion than a whole new game, but if you’re as keen on the idea of zombie-shooting-paradise as I am then you’re in for heaps of fun. You and your buddies can play alone or in co-op, dropping in and out of one another’s games which I must say is still a lot of fun. The demanding difficulty level seems insistent on multiplayer which is a bit of a deterrent for those that want a fair single player challenge, but guess what? You have unlimited lives, so it isn’t that bad really.
If Dead Island is at its strongest because it has unlocked the secret formula to insanely addictive RPG, zombie-slaughtering mania then graphically it is at its weakest. It does feel like a horribly nasty cheat when a bunch of game developers say that you’re going to be playing a sequel, when all you are playing is more of the same as before. Don’t get me wrong the premise is still sound and Riptide is still something that I struggle to put down, but rival engines have improved by leaps and bounds and Dead Island: Riptide has not only stayed the same as its predecessor , but Deep Silver is also gaining a reputation for not fixing well known bugs.
As is Dead Island we are faced with running zombies who get stuck in mid-pose on a stair banister, out-dated textured characters and I witnessed a companion beat a zombie to death with a short, blunt weapon from the safety of steps, while the cretin was virtually below them.
The biggest glitch I encountered was that the sound and music completely cut out during Gamplay. In order to fix this, I had to reset my console and so far everything has worked fine, although the zombie grunts and growls feel a bit recycled as well. Although they are still pretty creepy, especially when you don’t know exactly where they are coming from.
Online co-op and multiplayer is still pretty fun. Riptide includes the concept that you face zombies at your own skill level, regardless of your companions. This means if you’re 16 you will fight level 16 zombies while your level 32 companion has to fight level 32 walkers. Of course this relative leveling system means that you never really become superior to your foes, which means the game never becomes easier. This is great for the not so timid though and you get some cool skills to inflict some damage on those undead although again, nothing really that new.
I am a huge advocate of Dead Island and Dead Island: Riptide. For me, it’s what a zombie RPG should be all about: Being swamped with hordes of zombies, while you try to salvage and forge weapons to help you survive. What makes it even better is that it’s a sandbox FPS that has drop-in co-op and vehicles to mow down the walking dead with. The major problem with Riptide is that it’s just more of the same. The new map is awesome and it’s fun, but the story is tired and the graphics suffer from bugs that it was diagnosed with ages ago. Ultimately, it feels more like an expansion of the original game than a sequel. In fact, it feels like the same game. Insignificant, boring cutscenes also hamper the experience (these can be skipped though). Luckily, the marvelous recipe for gameplay keeps this one afloat, although it is springing a lot of holes.
Lasting Appeal: 6.5/10
Predominantly reviewed on the Xbox 360.