Publisher: Deep Silver
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: April 23rd, 2013
Though the initial, tear-inducing launch trailer may have misrepresented exactly what 2011′s Dead Island was hoping to accomplish, there’s no doubt that Techland’s first-person, undead-filled RPG presented a flawed but satisfying blend of melee-heavy zombie slaying and loot-hoarding goodness to anyone willing to overlook its obvious shortcomings.
Unsurprisingly, Techland decided to give the sleeper hit series another chance at achieving the sort of acclaim the first installment failed to receive through the release of Dead Island: Riptide: a subtitled sequel introducing not only a brand new tropical location, but also never-before-seen enemy variations and an extra character to decapitate hungry zombies with. However, even with the addition of new features separating this latest entry from its undead-slaughtering predecessor, Dead Island: Riptide may still induce an overwhelming sense of déjà vu upon those who have already experienced all the first game had to offer.
A Glimmer of Hope
Ultimately, the shear fact that Dead Island: Riptide doesn’t veer far from the first installment’s successfully established framework serves as both a blessing and a curse. Thankfully, the series’ iconic, melee-based combat still feels satisfyingly brutal, with every deliberate, limb-separating slice or devastating blow granting you the possibility of achieving a critical hit or slow-motion kill.
[Dead Island's] iconic, melee-based combat still feels satisfyingly brutal
Utilizing modded weaponry constructed via acquired blueprints makes a welcome return as well, and honestly, dispatching zombified adversaries with an electrified katana or a venom-drenched axe is still undeniably empowering. As a result, rendering reanimated corpses lifeless again remains rather addictive as you level up and progress through your chosen character’s skill tree or tackle the seemingly endless hordes of undead with up to three bloodthirsty buddies by your side. It’s also safe to note that Dead Island’s brilliantly implemented, scaled leveling system appears in Dead Island: Riptide right out of the box, allowing both newbies and battle-hardened teammates to play cooperatively against enemies set firmly within their particular level cap. In return, this eliminates the need for time-consuming matchmaking, and makes the series’ loot-hunting, zombie-slaughtering campaign even more co-op-friendly.
Hell in Paradise
While the original Dead Island may have succeeded in delivering relatively engaging solo and cooperative gameplay experiences, it suffered dearly from both a lackluster narrative and a noticeably high reliance on uneventful fetch quests. Unfortunately, Dead Island: Riptide’s attempt isn’t much better.
Taking place directly after the first game’s conclusion, Dead Island: Riptide’s story sees the series’ four immune survivors – accompanied by an additional, fisticuffs-experienced character named John Morgan – shipwrecked on a Banoi-reminiscent, zombie-infested island called Palanai and soon, entangled in a twisting plot that helps deliver a paper-thin explanation as to why the outbreak occurred on the tropical archipelago. Sadly, with most of the story told by sub-par cinematics and hilarious voice acting, Dead Island: Riptide’s narrative ends up playing out more like a low-budget, straight-to-video zombie flick whose faint glimmers of excellence are drastically surpassed by an otherwise laughable presentation.
While story flaws may be excusable given the right circumstances, an abundance of monotonous fetch quests disguised as campaign-progressing missions clearly isn’t, and as it turns out, Dead Island: Riptide comes stocked to the brim with them.
[Dead Island: Riptide's] faint glimmers of excellence are drastically surpassed by an otherwise laughable presentation.
Far too often, you’ll traverse through the waterlogged jungles of Palanai to retrieve quest-specific items or complete simplistic tasks ad nauseum, with compelling campaign missions feeling relatively bare in comparison to the wealth of mindless placeholder errands Dead Island’s latest entry supports. Worst yet, navigating through flooded environments to reach objectives proved rather frustrating even with the inclusion of drivable boats as a new form of transportation. While part of it may be how clumsy the handling was on these sea-traveling vehicles, a lot of the blame can be devoted to how unbelievably fast the series’ new Drowner zombies maneuver through the murky, inland rivers to board your mobile boat – even with your accelerator pushing full-throttle. Unfortunately, these groan-inducing annoyances make water navigation a painful experience unless you are accompanied by some reliable, melee-efficient teammates.
Survive the Zombie Horde
Regardless of the aforementioned lack of intriguing story missions, Techland has sprinkled a fair share of engaging defense-based scenarios into Dead Island: Riptide that drastically help add some much needed variety into the series’ otherwise repetitive, run-and-grab-style objectives. Reminiscent of Call of Duty: Black Ops’ extremely popular Zombies mode or even Gears of War’s own Horde mode, these survival missions task you with fortifying specific safe house locations and manning turrets to overcome limited waves of vicious undead.
…utilizing every weapon in our arsenal to dismember, bludgeon or even blast apart reanimated corpses proved essential in order to survive
During these adrenaline-fueled defense objectives, utilizing every weapon in our arsenal to dismember, bludgeon or even blast apart reanimated corpses proved essential in order to survive, especially against some of Dead Island: Riptide’s new, more formidable foes such as the punishing Wrestler or the paralyzing Screamer. Unfortunately, even these rather promising missions are somewhat tainted by the shear fact that zombie-grappled, non-player characters can only be saved by your own doing, which ultimately could lead to a game over screen if you fail to eliminate the survivor’s undead attacker before their health drains to zero. As a result, this only makes cooperative play even more favorable for those looking to relieve the burden of facing an increasingly violent zombie horde by their lonesome.
Gripes and Groans
Despite the obvious focus on team-based mayhem, Dead Island: Riptide has some surprisingly noticeable shortcomings in the cooperative multiplayer department that simply cannot be overlooked. First and foremost, respawn points frequently revive you in unpredictable locations across the map, oftentimes leaving you to frustratingly backtrack to whichever quest-specific area you died in. As it turns out, even completing quests with some zombie-slaying buddies doesn’t necessarily guarantee they will further your campaign progress once you quit your co-op session. You see, if the host of the session is further into the story than the other joined players, then only character and inventory advancement will carry back over to their respective single-player campaigns. With so many of Dead Island: Riptide’s quest objectives seemingly created from the ground up for cooperative play, it’s a real shame that players outside of the host have so little to invest in when playing together.
Even during the single-player campaign, Dead Island: Riptide presents a fair share of flaws that, unfortunately, significantly hurt the otherwise mindlessly enjoyable experience. For instance, traveling via mini-map to quest locations consistently proved to be rather troublesome due to the shear fact that objective routes would appear and disappear at random during the most inopportune moments. It can also be noted that framerate issues are far more frequent this time around as well, with massive explosions and intense action segments slowing the game to an undead shamble. Amongst all else, perhaps one of the most annoying issues we experienced during our playtime actually caused our most prized, zombie-dismembering weapon – an electrified katana – to mysteriously disappear from our inventory like some sort of cruel vanishing act. Unfortunately, these sorts of unpolished bugs and annoying glitches hinder Dead Island: Riptide from reaching its full potential.
Though Techland has injected a wealth of improvements into the series’ addictive, melee-centric gameplay, it’s hard to ignore Dead Island: Riptide’s numerous, immersion-damaging imperfections – especially when they outnumber those seen in the first entry. In every aspect, Dead Island: Riptide should have redefined the franchise by providing both aficionados and newcomers with a satisfyingly enhanced experience that capitalized on what made Dead Island enjoyable while improving on its minor blemishes. As it turns out, Techland’s anticipated sequel seems more like an extended expansion pack rather than a full-blown, series-defining installment.
BOG’s Dead Island: Riptide Review Score
|6.5||Why so high?
Addictive melee-based gameplay; intimidating enemy additions; engaging defense-based scenarios; enjoyable 4-player co-op
|Why so low?
Sub-par cinematics; clumsy boat navigation; high reliance on fetch quests; inconsistent framerate issues; immersion-hindering bugs