Oh Dead Island; I had such hopes for you.
Released in September 2011, there were high expectations for the original Dead Island following the emotional trailer released in February of the same year. Depicting a family trapped in a hellish zombie attack, the highly praised trailer was developed completely separately from the game, and as such was seen by many as grossly misrepresentative of the finished product. Rather than the expected look at the emotional impact of the apocalypse, what came forward was a first-person, open-world zombie slasher, which, whilst praised for it’s multi-player experience, had a mixture of often weak voice-acting, story and quest design, clunky combat, aged graphics and more bugs than the inside of an ant-hill. However, what was obvious was the potential for the franchise to, in future iterations, become something great. After all, the concept of surviving a horrific zombie apocalypse amid a beautiful setting has always been a promising concept, full of contrasts and such.
So upon the announcement of Dead Island: Riptide, there were high hopes that the problems from the first would be fixed. Yet again, the game’s marketing has caused controversy with a disembodied, sexualised statue of a female torso up for grabs in a special edition, but regardless, only one question needs to be asked; is Riptide the game Dead Island should have been?
It starts off well enough; directly continuing from the first, the player, taking on the role of either one of the original cast or new character John Morgan, finds themselves on a military ship fighting off zombie soldiers.
No qualms about it, the beginning is pretty bad-ass. As you are introduced to the mechanics it’s pretty fun, with set enemies and good pacing. The linear nature lends itself well to the game-play and the engaging desperation to survive gives high hopes to the ensuing experience.
Unfortunately, bad and ass is exactly what the rest of the game becomes. Dumped onto an island that feels almost identical to that of the original, Riptide is just more of the same. Despite the fantastic intro, during the first real quests the monotony soon sets in. For me, it was during a run to a destroyed village when I realised that every quest I had started involved hiking somewhere and fetching something. Even worse, after finally finding my loot I was asked to go to another part of the village to find something else to fix the original thing I came to find.
Indeed, almost every main and side quest is some sort of drawn-out favour for an uninspired NPC with no personality. With very little in terms of rewards to draw continued attention aside from weapon upgrades, it often feels pointless.
In a game in which the focus is killing zombies with melee weapons, you would expect that that the combat would be responsive and fun at the least, especially with the ability to improve based on criticisms from the first game. Wrong. Still clunky and wildly inaccurate, every weapon swing just feels wrong. Common sense does not apply, with seemingly obvious hits not registering with certain weapons and others causing ridiculous amounts of damage for no reason. The combat is not even improved by the unlock-able skills and such, which often feel pointless. Often the only useful ones are ability-based and ridiculous; an electrifying uppercut, stupidly powerful kick and magically returning throwables as examples.
Whilst they arguably don’t fit the world, these attacks are a bright side to an otherwise lacklustre system. Another bright side is the actual variety of weapons available. With an extended selection of things to pick up and hit corpses with, and extended things to stick to them, there is a wide array of options to play with.
However, as mentioned before, these options are useless if it isn’t actually fun to hit things.
Plot-wise…there isn’t much to see. Whilst attempting to include Resident Evil-esque plot elements, actual character development is none-existent with several “twists” obvious from the start.
Whilst the main plot is weak however, there are glimmers of hope within the mess. Audio diaries, reminiscent of Bioshock, are well executed and tie together a variety of different side-plots, engaging the player with the occasionally narrative environment.Riptide is NOT a true sequel, no matter what others say. It is the same game, in the same engine, with the same mechanics and graphics which are in no way improved from the original.
The only real differences are the additional character, who plays slightly different from the others, a few extra weapons and upgrades, base defence sections and a lot of Boating. The addition of the Boats for me signals a step backwards, adding literally no benefits or extra engagement and proving themselves as little more than plot-based annoyances, and frankly the less said about the defence sections the better.
It’s a massive disappointment really. It’s almost as though instead of taking what was said on the original and improving the sore points, Techland have ignored it. There are still many of the same bugs and glitches, and a severe lack of new content.Even worse, the game attempts to take itself far too seriously, which severely clashes with some of the new content. When you’ve been kicking zombies across the room so hard that they comedically smash against the wall, it’s hard to take serious, clichéd plotlines seriously in any way, shape or form. Whilst co-op again allows a less serious edge, there is little to keep you playing aside from a good group of friends who would probably enjoy something else much more.
In conclusion, unless you are a dedicated fan of the original or absolutely determined to try it out, you’d do well to avoid Riptide. Whilst not completely terrible and again showing promise, until the developers begin to care about the quality of the content they release, the series will continue to be worse than the sum of it’s parts.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.