Review: Dead Island: Riptide brings little innovation, yet loads of satisfaction
Dead Island was one of those titles that lived and died (mostly) by its infamous trailer. You know, the one that plays backwards as we see a family get brutally murdered by zombies. Oh, and a little girl dies in it. Yeah, that one. And while the game certainly didn't live up to the trailer, it still offered a grim survival horror story set on a tropical paradise. The story didn't end there for our four protagonists though, as Dead Island: Riptide continues the adventure. Does it fix the problems of the first game to deliver an even better tropical zombie apocalypse?
Riptide picks off right where you left off. Your four zombie-immune survivors make their way to a ship where they meet newcomer John Morgan, a fifth character who specializes in hand-to-hand combat. Of course, the ship crashes on a nearby island and, well, you can guess the events that follow.
You can import your saved character from the previous game, which will include his or her amassed levels, as well as any previously unlocked skills. Starting from scratch, however, puts you at a fairly comfortable 15th level, which allows you to unlock some pretty useful skills right off the bat. You'll certainly feel the effects of your levels immediately, and you won't feel as helpless as you did in the first Dead Island when you started out.
The island of Palanai is a much more exciting setting to explore, mainly due to its heavier focus on water. Rivers and inlets are a source for new zombies, ones that initially float like dead bodies but then jump up to grab you. In general though, the tropical paradise setting compliments the zombie outbreak theme in a way that makes players feel uneasy. The fact that I can get consistently creeped out by zombies appearing behind me while the sun is reflecting off a blue ocean is a testament to the developers' skill at creating a setting that is as beautiful as it is dangerous.
You can rest easy knowing that, once again, you don't have to face the zombie apocalypse alone. You can bring up to three friends with you, which makes the experience that much better. Trust me, you'll want your friends along for the ride.
So what's new in Dead Island: Riptide? Turns out, not much. At least not on the surface. Riptide is very similar to Dead Island in almost every way. You'll still be hacking away at zombie appendages, repairing and upgrading the various colored loot you find, running around and completing random side missions that amount to little more than fetch quests, and furthering the story through a fairly long main quest line.
Zombies still respawn almost immediately when you return to a previous area, which makes backtracking a little less fun than it should be. Textures pop in at random times. Random objects get stuck in NPCs. Difficulty spikes are quite frequent. It's a list that seems to extend from the first game right over to Riptide.
Glitches like this aren't extremely common, but are extremely hilarious
And yet, regardless of these flaws, Riptide is still a lot of fun. Though there's no shortage of games that attempt to bring forth a believable zombie apocalypse, the Dead Island games certainly do it the best (right next to ZombiU). Even though the "immune humans" premise is silly, the threat of always being able to be attacked from any side by a hungry zombie certainly makes the game more thrilling and creepy. Also, it is worth noting that despite a few graphical glitches, the game does look much better overall than its predecessor.
One of the new features is the defense mechanic, which has you scavenging for tools and fences to barricade a certain area. You then defend this area and the people within it, all while trying to rebuild broken-down structures and decapitating flesh-hungry zombies. It's a welcome mechanic, but it doesn't change the game much, nor does it really add or take away anything from the experience. The NPCs that you save also allow you to partake in various supply quests that in turn raise their capability of defending themselves against the horde.
If you want more Dead Island, you're getting more and then some with Riptide, as, mechanically, it's the same game. The amount of content in the game is somewhat staggering when you take all the sidequests in mind, and that's never a bad thing. However, those that left the original feeling rather unimpressed should probably steer clear of Riptide.
[Reviewed on PC]