I was a huge fan of the original Dead Island when it hit back in 2011. It was my most anticipated game and my game of the year. I even chose it over the intensely popular Skyrim. Needless to say, I put countless hours into it, and fell in love with the entire package. Cut to two years later and now Dead Island Riptide has been released.
Riptide takes place directly after the events of the first game. In fact, it picks up right after the ending. The survivors land on a military aircraft carrier that inevitably has its crew infected, and forces the game’s cast to flee onto the shore of yet another zombie infested island.
Riptide carries over most aspects of the first game into the sequel. Players find and create weapons to take out the hoards of undead while completing quests and leveling up. For those that never played the first game, Riptide plays in first-person and has a large emphasis on melee combat. Later on, firearms become available, but players must utilize blunt and bladed weapons until then. If players are looking for a little company, there is also full four player online co-op.
Much like the first game, crafting new weapons is pivotal for survival. Finding blueprints around the environments allows players to mod their weapons with elemental, bleeding and poison damage. Players must collect materials for these modified weapons. They can be found pretty much anywhere. Strapping a circular saw blade to a baseball bat and having the blade spin with a large battery is as ridiculous as the amount of damage it does to a zombie’s head.
The combat remains mostly the same. Swinging weapons still feels sluggish at times and the movement when attacking combined with the motion blur is downright disorienting. It takes some getting used to. When only taking on one or two zombies, I would resort to using my kick to knock them down, then run up and bash its brains in. That tried-and-true formula seemed highly effective, as well as monotonous after a few hours. Still, many will find themselves surrounded by the undead, using the rage meter to activate fury mode will dispose of a herd quickly while raking in the experience points.
Leveling up is handled just like the first game. Players gain one new skill point to place into three trees. Many skills are carried over from the first game which is a disappointment, but starting a new character gave incentive to unlock them all again. Some skills offer up new special attacks that can be use for certain situations.
While much remains the same with Riptide, there is some new content in the package. First, an all new character named John joins the narrative. He specializes in hand-to-hand combat and utilizes brass knuckles and claw weapons the best. But never has to stick to one single type of weapon. In fact, the game encourages players to try different types by increasing the rank of proficiencies. A higher rank will offer up better stats and potentials for the type of weapon.
Another new addition to Riptide are the “area defense” portions,these have players defending a location while a hoard meter depletes with every enemy killed. During many of these missions, players can set up defensive walls, throw down traps and help out NPCs if they ever get into trouble. That last bit will occur often due to the AI of NPCs being completely useless.
New enemies make an appearance in Riptide as well. Most are a modified version of pre-existing enemies from the original, but there are a few new ones that required me to change up my strategy in order to succeed.
Since the monsoon hit at the end of Dead Island, the island of Palanai is flooded to the point that boats are needed to get to certain places quickly. This felt like it got in the way more than it gave a new strategy.
Players with an original Dead Island save can import their character over to Riptide. Keep in mind, weapons and mods do not carry over. Even if players don’t import, new characters begin with skill points available and start at level 15.
The drop in, drop out co-op returns and again those playing solo that are around the same level and chapter of the story, can see others doing the same quests and hop right into their game. It’s a nice feature, but it has one serious flaw; I couldn’t join friends or anyone else that has progressed to a later chapter. That means if my friend is in chapter eight and I have only made it to chapter five, I can’t join them.
There seems to be a bigger emphasis on story this time around. While it might not be the most well-written, it does serve its purpose and kept me playing just to see what would happen next. There are also audio logs spread across the island that give a back story to the location. These seem to have more life to them than the actual narrative. I still can’t cheer on the main characters. With the exception of Xian and John, they all come off as mean-spirited bullies.
The PC version looks very nice. Character models may look bland at times, but the environments and draw distance is amazing. The music is another. I even like the pause menu track. It sets the mood and can offer up tension when roaming the zombie-infested caves and tunnels of Palanai.
Even though not much has changed from the first game, Riptide was still an addiction for me. It may not be as large in scale as the original, but it can still provide over double-digit hours to players wanting to explore all it has to offer. The combat can get tiresome at times, especially when backtracking to previous areas, but the new enemies can pose a different threat and obtaining new weapons can mix it up a great deal. People that loved the first game will more than likely enjoy Riptide. It may not be revolutionary, but Dead Island Riptide is still an addictive game.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.