Today we’re taking a closer look at Techland’s second outing of its Dead Island series in the aptly named Dead Island Riptide which follows on the story of the immune heroes from the first game as they escape one island and get stranded and abandoned on another. It’s almost de je vu for the motley crew of misfits, or should we say business as usual as this sequel doesn’t stray too far from its predecessor.
Dead Island Riptide Review text version:
Dead Island Riptide needs little introduction if you played the original game a couple of years ago. Forget the misleading trailer that introduced the series, and focus on the core essence of what is essentially a first person hack and slasher game with minor role playing undertones. Throw in some zombies a la Left for Dead, and you have an semi open world game that primarily works quite well.
From the offset, players choose one of several characters, each skilled in specific areas of combat, although ultimately this doesn’t really matter as any character can use whatever weapons are available, some characters are more proficient than others as their skill tree development reflects this. The game’s story is pretty simplistic as it adopts the exact same premise of the first game where the survivors simply have to find a way off the zombie infested island. En route there are plenty of distractions such as side quests for various survivors and generally the option to explore the island is offered. Yet here lies the game’s biggest problem. For all intents and purposes, the island isn’t very inspiring, and in some ways not as interesting as the original – there’s a kind of seen it done it flavour which doesn’t lend itself to this all new game which possibly started out as an expansion. There’s absolutely no real incentive to explore the island as everything is pretty much laid out before you. Items refresh in the hundreds of containers, so players can stay within comfort zones, and there’s such an abundance of weapons and items there’s no real sense of danger or survival. All the mechanics from the original game are intact which includes weapons upgrades and repair, but for the most part these become standard and not something that needs to be worked on. Players can even purchase new upgraded weapons from fellow survivors at the various base camps making any sort of hunter gathering for new look redundant.
Based on its own merits, the combat is still brutally satisfying and is the best part of the game as zombie heads, arms and legs get decapitated and enemies level up as players do to keep things fresh. The digital and analog control schemes add noticeably varying levels of involvement depending on how you opt to play and makes for either precise of casual offensive moves. However, there’s still no real fear factor involved on the occasions where players are killed, as a percentage of money is lost and the player magically picks up where they left off. In a nutshell, there’s really not much survival in this game and more an action slant.
The action aspect is exemplified when players are forced to defend themselves from the zombie hordes, setting up machine gun emplacements and fences, which only really serves to show how utterly useless the AI companions are. In fact, there’s no love for the AI as lone players don’t form meaningful partnerships outside of camp, and other interactions are with connected players who may or may not simply toss grenades at you and keep killing you accidentally on purpose.
Sadly the solo offering and mission structure is pretty boring and fast becomes repetitive which is a shame as the island looks like offering a lot more scope but never manages to think outside the box. Playing with others can be more fun, but it essentially shows off a game which lacks in any emotive forces to actually work together properly.
Riptide look like a pleasant and smooth running game on PC with no hiccups and a steady framerate throughout which is great, although on consoles the experience is somewhat hampered by poor framerates and other graphically niggles which might hamper the experience. This is definitely the superior game on PC. The island does look fantastic at times, with a real exuberant ambiance that lends itself well to the the theme of abandonment. Audio is also of a high standard with plenty of zombie, bird and monkey sounds to provide a chilling backdrop to proceedings. The voice acting isn’t so great and is perhaps best forgotten, although the Sam B hip hop tracks somewhat make up for it.
Riptide’s campaign and some side questing can weigh in over 12 hours of playtime, and to max out the game will obviously take a lot longer especially if all the collectibles are hunted down. So in terms of content it is good value for money.
Dead Island Riptide is perhaps a victim of its own success as it fails to provide anything new from its predecessor. Whilst certain elements have been tweaked, there’s perhaps too much familiarity with the whole affair which lets it down. It’s an enjoyable game to dip in and out of, but becomes too repetitive for any meaningful playing excursions. If you thought the original was tiring, then you won’t find much improvement or solace here and should avoid. That said, if you enjoy zombie bashing, co-op with friends, a semi open world and lots of weapon choices, then this is well worth checking out.
Dead Island Riptide scores – 7/10 – Review by Robert Cram