Deep Silver and Techland’s second outing in the Dead Island universe will have you raging against the infected undead in a battle of survival; despite being part of the immune group your life hangs in the balance as you come against hordes of flesh-eating Zombies as you ready-up to survive the impossible! Having never played the original Dead Island, I am unaware of the differences, improvements or lack-of there-in, but within Riptide your journey begins on the island of Palanai – a completely new island to explore filled with deadly quests and terrorising evil from every corner, as a new island there are no requirements to have played the original to get the gist of the objective.
Basically, all you have to do is survive it!
“Hope is drowning…” the message of penance portrayed as your arrival on the island follows from being immersed into the ocean after embracing your sinking ship. Your immediate need and basic instinct to survive is tested against your exploration skills whilst using weapons and objects scattered throughout the environment to your advantage. If it has a sharp edge, you can be sure it cuts a mean arm off the shoulders of your enemies. However, it is not until you hit the infected shores of Palanai that your quests begin as your protect yourself, aid others and explore the island in search of objects to keep the Zombies at bay. Part of your missions can include finding fences, collecting batteries and cables to produce electrified fortifications, tracking down engines to power boats as well as additional side missions that include finding the friends and families of other survivors or equipment and food supplies to get through just another day!
The island should have perhaps been better called a country due to the scale of its surface area! The complete location of Palanai is very substantial and opens up further into different areas to explore the deeper you delve into gameplay. Although much of the exploration is on foot, at certain parts you will find boats and cars that can be controlled to make travelling from one location to another further part of the island a whole lot quicker – as well as being able to squash a few Zombies under the wheels for added enjoyment. Although Dead Country Riptide wouldn’t have been a great title, I think that the scale of the locations in gameplay combined with the hundreds of overall quests to complete make this a really decent ride despite nothing about its story being any bit memorable. It’s a very simplistic game that consists of three basic necessities – explore the island, kill Zombies, build or collect, and then repeat that all over again and again and again in different parts of Palanai until it becomes a winning formula and you have successfully survived for a little bit longer. It’s a slow starter I have to say, but by the time you reach the second chapter you realise that ‘hey this isn’t all that bad actually’ and it’s quite compelling after all. It may not be as complex as Ubisoft’s island get-a-way in Far Cry 3, or as outstanding as Crystal Dynamics Tomb Raider mystery, but Dead Island Riptide is extremely enjoyable. It’s not faultless, but I can’t deny the fun involved in my efforts to slay Zombies and help the team.
Team work is not an essential element of the game as when going Solo you can ‘just’ about survive anything – afterall you’re immune so you have an infinite life within the game. When a Zombie horde has knocked you off your feet and looks like its noshing you off, you don’t die and start from a million miles away or have to restart the objective, but instead a timed recovery screen appears to appear that you re-heal and recover from the incident. Dead Island Riptide does feel like it is ideally suited for co-operative gameplay having drop in, drop out multiplayer with the option of joining someone elses game from within your own if there are players online nearby. It’s a great addition, if not a much needed choice because with the lack of a great story, it’s better to actually ignore that it sort of has one by playing a decent Zombie beat-em-up with a few mates for the fun of it! Co-op play supports up to four over Xbox LIVE, and with an island the size of Palanai the more the merrier who can join you! Dead Island Riptide feels like a Zombie novelty title, nothing that should be taken over-seriously, but a great co-operative game that is a blast. A big ass island with a ton of infected Zombies, so what’s not to like by smashing them all to bits?
The gameplay as previously stated above is rather simplistic and I can only assume it’s rather similar to the original Dead Island where the whole point is about surviving, collecting, killing Zombies – but it does have a ‘point’ and something to work towards – Levelling Up! Yeah, that’s right the better you perform, the more XP you rack up alongside cash that you loot will have you sporting the best looking Machete’s, Guns, Batons, Knives, Wrench’s, Crow-bars and all other dangerous objects used for a good beating to the brain. Weapons can be repaired, bought, sold, upgraded, modified and made from scratch with blueprints. I mostly found that you will tend to find one decent weapon that will suit you and you’ll likely stick with it. Weapons are batched into categories of Blunts, Blades, Hand-to-Hand and Firearms; some are left lying around the environment whilst the majority can be picked up after killing its previous owner. With levelling-up brings the option of choice to your Skills Tree by unlocking items that improve your combat and survival skills such as increasing your damage strikes, learning new attacks, better stamina, bigger ammo counts among many other items that improve your gameplay options and once more – help you survive that little bit longer! All of the Zombies within the game can be battered, ripped and torn apart with blood splattering everywhere, body parts hanging and it is perfectly displayed before your very own eyes in all its glory. They also come in many shapes, sizes and forms with their own threat level and weak points which can impact gameplay depending upon your skill level and the threat level of the location you’re playing in. Some feel like Boss-level beasts especially when part of a quest, so although you will see the same types of Zombies scattered through-out, wondering around, running toward you, feasting on dead humans – there are also some seriously hard to beat ones lurking around that seem particularly difficult in Solo. The benefit to team work is that you don’t have to face them all on your own!
Visually, Dead Island Riptide has made Palanai look a really amazing island with sandy beaches, bright blue seas, beaming sunshine and palm trees. It packs a lot of detail into every location of the island, but sadly suffers a few noticeable draw-backs in that it heavily re-uses game assets giving it a samey look through-out each chapter. Textures seem to pop-in, the frame-rate appears a bit ‘off’ at times (played via a HDMI cable 720p) and as nice and inviting as the environment looks, being over repeated can make some chapters feel repetitive – as said, but the level of gore is really quite awesome. Every Zombie is wonderfully detailed and its decapitation or head stomp is a good spectacle to witness; having not played the original (said that a few times now, have you got the message?) I am not aware if the Zombies are just a copy & paste of the previous Dead Island.
Despite some seriously shit cut-scenes, often not in-sync voice overs, noticeable pop-ins, I quite liked Dead Island Riptide because all flaws aside I was having fun! You might have too much fun to even notice or care, but due to a lack of perfected design and presentation this has to be reflected in score value. If you’ve never played the original Dead Island, I would take a stab in the dark that you are likely to enjoy this a smidgen more than those who already have; for those who played the original this could just be more of the same, but different island. Dead Island Riptide is a fun novelty game best enjoyed co-operatively with others. As a solo experience it could become a little bit tedious…
…on your own head be-it!