GAME NAME: Dead Island: Riptide
DEVELOPER(S): Deep Silver
PUBLISHER(S): Deep Silver
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (reviewed), PC
GENRE(S): Action Adventure, RPG
RELEASE DATE(S): 4/23/13
It is impossible to explain what Dead Island: Riptide is, without first explaining what the original Dead Island was, and how Riptide has improved upon it. Dead Island was a game with quite a reputation. The original trailer released had gamers pumped for something the Dead Island simply was not. The game was filled with glitches, fetch quests, and a story that made Land of the Dead feel like the next great American novel
What Dead Island did have going for it was combat and beauty. Not only the beautiful greenery, but the way zombie flesh was rent to pieces by an oh-so-satisfying blow from a wrench, or comparable flesh rending item. If you ignored the repetitive missions and just wandered around Banoi, then Dead Island was an enjoyable enough romp around the zombie apocalypse. These things are important to keep in mind when playing Dead Island: Riptide because the small changes made to the formula have greatly increased the appeal of this series.
The combat though, remains largely unchanged. You still use a mix of household weapons and katanas to smash zombie skulls to bits. There is a crafting system that allows you to upgrade your weapons, usually by adding spikes or setting them aflame. And when all is said and done, it still feels great to pop a skull wide open with a baseball bat. Getting swarmed near the beginning of Riptide can be overwhelming and more than a little frustrating. But by midway through the game though only the “special” infected will even make you bat an eye.
That is, until you are placed in one of the new fortify missions. There are several throughout the game and all revolve around the same trope: something is attracting the zombies and you have to hold them off while a meter drains to zero. Before the mission starts you can place up gates, lay down a few mines, and occasionally move around some turrets. You are going to need these items – especially in single player – because you are the only one with a brain. During this raid the NPCs will pretty deftly protect themselves, but seem almost incapable of caring for others. For example: in my playthrough, several times a zombie had an NPC in a grapple, while another NPC would walk by them to either return to their area, or stop another undead. It only takes one good smack to free one of your buds and as soon as they are liberated, they can wail on zombies, quite proficiently, again. But if you do not properly steel your castle against the attack, you will spend most of the fight running from character to character, kicking zombies off them before their time runs out.
However, if you have set up your defenses in advance, the onslaught can be quite enjoyable. Riptide’s main campaign lends itself well to baiting just a few zombies to dispose of at a time. In the fortify mission, the zombies drain in from all sides forcing you to play very aggressively to survive. This is a welcome change of pace and can lead some adrenaline filled moments where you are just hanging on by mere threads against the flesh eating odds.
Another improvement over the original game is a sense of actually being somewhere. Areas fell less like direct copies of other chunks, and more alive. The island of Palanai is smaller than the original Banoi island, and less desolate because of that. Gone are the endless treks through another bland hillside; in their stead are loads of side missions and little offshoots, some that have no discernible connection to anything, that will, at the very least, give you some rare crafting items.
Riptide is actually crammed with content. If you are in no hurry to finish the campaign, then just wander around for a while and you are sure to encounter some. They may be as simple as killing a few zombies encroaching on their prey, or as silly as helping a superhero find his shoes. Most of them do involve helping to find/kill/activate something, but the amusing dialog is enough to remove the taste of “defeating 3 Morlocks” yet again.
The sidequests are where the best writing lies, but the main story is not half bad either. It is not going to win a Pulitzer, but like most b-horror films, there are a few ideas that stand out, even if the characters do not. People are one dimensional and the ever present “surprise betrayals” do nothing to inspire the player to punch zombies any harder. But taken at face value, it is a straight forward tale about zombies, that is much more digestible than its predecessor, and on occasion, good.
The one thing that Riptide does share with Dead Island is the bugs. While not quite as buggy, Riptide still has an almost amusing level of jank. Zombies clip through things, giving items to people sometimes makes the item simply vanish, and weapons like the chainsaw just fail to hit on occasion. One time there was a bug that forced me into an area where I could not kill my objective and I had to reset from the last checkpoint. Thankfully, not all the glitches are the egregious, and most are little more than a momentary inconvenience that do not affect the main game that badly. Unlike Dead Island, I never fell through the world, and key items never vanished from my inventory.
Some of the most exciting changes Riptide has are on the back-end and menu driven elements. You start the game off at level fifteen, unless you import your character, and consistently gain levels from that point. The ability to rapidly trounce to the next level provides a much needed sense of progression and accomplishment. You are not grinding for ages just to get that Dopamine hit, it comes frequently and rapidly, and makes just roaming around more enjoyable since killing zombies no longer feels like a waste of your time versus your experience.
Another huge improvement, that is actually such a small thing, is the way you open bags, boxes, crates, etc. The original game made you open the bag, then a sort of “ducking down” animation would play, and then you could take what was inside. You always wanted what was in the bag, but this half-a-second animation made going through stacks of them more time consuming than it was worth. Riptide has done away with this and you can just mash Square to get everything you want very quickly. Why is this change huge? Because most of these bags contain money, and money is used to repair your equipment, and you need that equipment to kill zombies. There were multiple times in the original game where my weapons would wear out and I did not have the money to fix them. In Riptide, there was always enough money to not only repair things, but buy anything I wanted. This makes Riptide much easier, and a great deal more enjoyable.
Many changes may seem minor, and in fact, you may never even notice some. But Riptide is a much better game because of them. Major things, like the fortify missions, are an obvious improvement, but smaller things, like the superfluous houses filled with rare loot, add to an overall total, greater than the sum of its parts. Much like the b-movie story, the game is not phenomenal, but it is good, and is worth your time, even if it not the best thing on the market.
Finished the main story in 15 hours. Had done several of the side missions as well as some frivolous exploration.
There is a “New Game +” once you beat the main game.
This game was reviewed on the PS3.
The game hardlocked on me 3 separate times during one playthrough. One time was in between moving to another person’s game. The other two were apparently random. Do with that as you will.
There was a moment that was an extreme change of pace that was very enjoyable. I had just acquired the Torch Mod and had made a baseball bat into one. I then entered the tunnels for the first time and my torch shone against the walls directly around me, but nothing else. My flashlight was unreliable, as it did not last very long, but the torch was always lit. This created a very spooky atmosphere that was so different from the rest of the game. I am not sure if it was because I chose to use the torch, or if this part was created to be so spooky, but it had an amazing atmosphere and I loved it very much.