Dead Island: Riptide Review

Developer: Techland

Publisher: Deep Silver

Release Date: April 23rd, 2013

Available on: PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360

Reviewer’s note: I played this game on the Playstation 3. There may be differences between versions.

Dead Island: Riptide is best seen as an expansion pack to the original Dead Island. It doesn’t add any kind of crazy new content or gameplay devices, but it does take what the original game did, adds a few new features, a new setting, and got released at a cheaper than usual price. I’ll just say it right now: If you didn’t like the original Dead Island then Riptide does absolutely nothing that will bring you back. Fans of the original games may find something worth looking at though.

Dead Island: Riptide picks up right where Dead Island leaves off. Immune characters Sam, Logan, Xian Mei, and Purna, along with Charon and Yerema, manage to escape the prison with a helicopter and land on a military ship. Here they’re thrown into the brig and meet a fifth immune person named John. Things aren’t looking good when the ship is suddenly full of zombies and they crash into neighboring island Palanai. Here they meet up with a group of survivors as they begin trying to work their way to the town across the lagoon and eventually off the island. It’s a good enough premise, but similar to the original game the story doesn’t really serve as much other than an excuse to go from point A to point B and kill zombies the whole way. Most dramatic moments are kind of hampered by the character’s weird flailing about they do anytime they talk during a cutscene. In the end I got little from the plot.

The game plays almost exactly the same as the original. You’ll play as one of the immune survivors and get dumped in the open world of Palanai. Dead Island is a first person RPG, so you’ll find yourself collecting and comparing many weapons. The majority of the game actually focuses on melee combat with firearms only really becoming an option later into the game. Each weapon has its own stats and you can often apply mods to buff them more. For example, near the end of the game I found a mace and gave it a shock mod which caused it to electrocute enemies it hit. To build mods you find parts that are often hidden in containers and on zombies. As for the zombies: where and when you swing is very important. Each part of the zombie takes different amounts of damage, and you can’t keep swinging wildly because your stamina meter will eventually run out leaving you tired and vulnerable.

Of course you won’t just be taking on regular zombies. The game has all kinds of special enemies to throw at you. Some of them are simple: Thugs are basically just big heavy hitting zombies. Later on you’ll see new enemies like the Screamer, which produces a loud scream that both stuns you and summons more enemies. Drowners will wait under water until you get close then ambush you, while Wrestlers can use their huge arms to produce deadly shockwave attacks. To combat these new enemies there’s a new playable character named John. John specializes in fist weapons, which is probably good since that’s the only weapon class someone didn’t specialize in the first game. Chainsaws are also now available in the game, something that’s hilariously awesome. Their durability is constantly draining when you have them out, but they can often instantly kill a zombie with little effort.

The new setting does also provide a new way to travel in the form of boats. Unlike cars, you can’t just run over an enemy and expect them to die. Instead you have to use a limited turbo boost or you’ll do no damage. Worse, zombies can jump onto boats and force you into a quick time even that, if you fail, gets you knocked out. In the end I found boats to be a kind of shitty way to travel around and almost always wanted to just stick to walking. Took longer, but was worth it. Cars still appear, but when you get to the city in the second half you’ll no longer see any. New to Riptide is defense objectives. You’ll find yourself having to hold down the fort, assisting other survivors and setting up defensive barricades to hold off a zombie swarm until you’ve successfully managed to survive. You can do quests to collect items and improve the other survivor’s fighting skills, but they’re never going to be as effective as you’d hope. At best they’re distractions to whittle a zombie’s health down until you get over their to bail them out of whatever brawl they got themselves involved in. At least they can’t die.

Dead Island: Riptide’s main quest last me a solid 25 – 30 hours, which is a nice length, especially for a budget priced RPG. You can also play the game with up to four other players, which makes everything more fun of course. If you go into this one with some friends you’ll probably enjoy it far more than if you went in alone.

But as I said before: Dead Island: Riptide is really just more Dead Island. The same glitches are present, the same weird quirks are present, and the same game play is present. If you did not like Dead Island, then just move on.

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