I really enjoyed the first Dead Island when it came out. I was addicted to it, really. An open world with loads of zombies, an arsenal of weapons, and the ability to develop your character as you see fit? I was sold from the get-go, and sank hours upon hours into the game, despite encountering the occasional bug, flaw, or flimsy gameplay mechanic. It was a great game that many unfortunately didn’t get a chance to play.
Dead Island Riptide
Developed by Techland / Published by Deep Silver
Available on the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. Reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Now a sequel is finally out in the form of Dead Island Riptide. Does it build up on the greatness of the first and improve its flaws, or is it an unplayable mess?
Dead Island Riptide continues directly where the first one left off. After the team defeats baddie Ryder White, they are transported to an aircraft led by Colonel Sam Hardy and a mysterious man named Frank Serpo. Things go south almost immediately and the ship is taken over by legions of the undead, who cause the ship to crash into the neighboring island of Palanai. Now the survivors must band together with new survivors in order to escape their newest predicament.
Right from the get-go you’ll notice that Dead Island Riptide doesn’t look or play like something new. Instead, it feels more like a full-blown expansion rather than a sequel, adding more missions and stages to the systems present in the first game.
Sure, there are some new features here and there, like a new character called John Morgan and a cleaned up menu interface, but everything remains relatively the same.
Let me go into more detail. Upon starting up the game, players choose from the same pool of characters, and can start from scratch or import their characters. If imported, player characters bring their stats, XP, and all the skills acquired from the skill trees. No new skills here, instead you play with the same character you played with in the first game. This isn’t necessarily bad, as you get to keep all your hard-earned abilities, but you’ve seen all the characters had to offer the first time around (except John, of course). They all have the same strengths and weaknesses, same costumes, same everything.
The same goes for the bulk of the gameplay. Palanai may be a new island, but it looks just like Banoi. The graphics are even the same, and everything looks like it was just cut and pasted from the first title, except the occasional new environment here and there.
Players still explore the vast island and pick up missions from NPCs, and then proceed to travel to the destination on foot or via vehicle. Hundreds of items still litter the world, ranging from items that can be exchanged for cash, health items, weapons of different varieties, and blueprints that allow players to modify their weapons in new ways and make them stronger.
Combat remains untouched, with players engaging foes with hand-to-hand weapons or firearms that wear out with each use. The front kick, which pushes zombies away, still remains one of the most important tools in a player’s arsenal. Players can also still strategically dismember foes to make things easier for them. Finally, the game still plays like an RPG, with enemies scaling in level and offering up XP when they die, which can then be applied to the aforementioned skill trees.
While the game is very much the same game you played back in 2011, it doesn’t mean it’s any less fun. Chopping and bashing your way through zombies is still pretty great and bloody, and being helpless amongst a mob of them leads to some truly terrifying moments. Missions may occasionally be repetitive (especially if you played the first one) with the predominate one being the fetch quest, but there are some great moments here and there throughout the campaign if you stick to it.
Unfortunately, being an expansion more than a sequel, the game brings back some of the problems of the original. Movement and aiming can be a bit wonky at times, leading to missed shots and abilities. Occasionally actions don’t seem to register as well, so you might find yourself pressing the buttons more than you should to get things to respond. Driving around the island is still a chore, and there are graphical glitches that sprout out from time to time.
In the end, Dead Island Riptide should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s not a proper sequel and it doesn’t fix every problem that plagued the original, but it’s still a fun game that will keep you smiling every time you bash a zombie’s brains in. If you loved Dead Island, Riptide is a no-brainer.