By Steve Wright
This review easily could have been the fastest I’ve ever written. After all, it seems like Techland has copied and pasted Dead Island at almost a 1:1 ratio to make Dead Island: Riptide, so why couldn't I just do that for this piece?
For the record, I haven’t done that, and that’s because I love you, dear readers. You deserve more.
Sadly, Dead Island was a bit of a letdown. Its gameplay mechanics weren’t too bad, but in the end, the game turned into a grindy quest-fest. It probably didn’t help that Dead Island had one of the greatest reveal trailers of all time… that unfortunately had little to with the game itself. This time around, Techland was smart enough to avoid misrepresentative advertising; it’s a shame they too avoided improving the gameplay elements that were heavily criticised in their original game.
In a continuation of the original story – and you can bring along your levelled characters from Dead Island, I should add – you get shipwrecked off the coast of a new island, meet a new main character and jump head-first into zombie slaughtering. All the elements from the original game are there: you level up with exploration and kills, you can upgrade your equipment and you can choose to go at it alone or via 4-person co-op.
New zombies in the title include the Screamer – who stops you dead in your tracks if you’re caught in its scream (which is very Left 4 Dead, no?) – and the Drowner, which fakes dead (undead?) in the water only to surprise you with teeth. And biting. The new character, John Morgan, is ridiculously overpowered and should always be played as, just so you can do his WWE-like kick move.
Taking a move from a patch released for the original Dead Island, enemies in co-op scale to your personal level. That means you can be beating up level 20 zombies as a level 20 player in co-op alongside a level 1 friend taking on level 1 zombies. It’s a good move which means you don’t have to grind out bits in the game to be social.
A lack of refinement from the original Dead Island means quests are still long, repetitive, and unoriginal. It means that the game’s story is almost non-existent and is accompanied by dialog that is extremely subpar. It means the game suffers from excessive texture pop-ins, which is a shame, because if you stand very still and look out over the island of Palanai, it’s really quite beautiful. Most of all, it means you’re going to be playing Riptide World of Warcraft-style, with obsessive levelling and looting.
If you can look past the quest system, Riptide has the potential to be a great game for blowing off steam. Turn off the brain, grab a machete, and rip (pun intended) through the undead. There’s not a lot of story that you need to concern yourself with, so you literally can lose yourself in the island.
Dead Island: Riptide isn’t bad; it’s just that it’s not great. It’s wholly average, yet had the potential to be so much more. If you’re into zombies, questing and looting, this game is a no-brainer (again, pun intended). If you’re looking for a bit of a story, there are much better games out there; hell, even Far Cry 3, which didn’t have much of a (decent) plot, can claim superiority over Riptide. Just like our readers deserved a proper review of Dead Island: Riptide, we deserved some proper refinement with this sequel. Hopefully Techland can get it right in the inevitable Dead Island 3.